China, this Wednesday, has threatened to send their warships into United States territorial waters.
The Global Times asked for the PLA Navy warships to go to the “U.S. military bases inside the Asia-Pacific area and coastlines of American allies to hold close-in reconnaissance moves and declare freedom of movement.” The editorial said that “the United States will definitely see the PLA show up at its doorstep soon.”f
This is not simple ranting neither. The Global Times works under the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Director Yang Jiechi. Its comments represent a real threat.
Why is China so angry?
It laments that the “naked provocation” of a United States Navy destroyer’s movement, this Wednesday, within 12 miles of an artificial island owned by China. Yang’s unofficial mouthpiece warns that “only by making the United States get a taste of its own medicine can we get to the nerves of the United States and its allies, and change the Western world’s understanding of United States bullying in the South China Sea.”
This assessment has little connection to reality. China’s claims of owning the South China Sea are a geographical absurdity and are politically imperialist. Instead, China is increasing its militarization of this sea for two reasons. First, to make the waters safe for Chinese resource extraction. Second, to get political concessions from other countries in return for sea access. China’s leverage is the $3.5 trillion-$4 trillion in annual trade that goes through the South China Sea.
The Trump and Biden White Houses have resisted China’s actions with United States naval actions such as what happened on Wednesday. They see the Chinese threat to trade and sovereign government, and a crucial principle of the U.S.-led global order: free movement. But while America’s EU allies have been unwilling to have this same style of transits that so angered China, countries like Australia, Japan, India and Vietnam are moving nearer to the United States position. China thus sees it might face a more difficult multilateral challenge.
Regardless, United States Navy movements of international waters are one thing. PLA movements within 12 miles of United States coasts would be a much different issue. And one much more dangerous.
Author: Blake Ambrose