In this very interesting episode, Matthew Hipple talks with Dean Cheng, a Senior Research Fellow at the Asian Studies Center at the The Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy at The Heritage Foundation. Cheng is specialized in China’s military and foreign policy, in particular its relationship with the rest of Asia and with the United States. He has detailed knowledge of China’s military and space capabilities and has written extensively on China’s military doctrine, technological implications of its space program and “dual use” issues associated with the communist nation’s industrial and scientific infrastructure.
According to Cheng, China sees itself as a status quo power, but they define it very differently than the US does. The influence of the US in Asia spans about the last 250 years, when China has its weakest period of the last thousand years – also known as the “Century of humiliation“. On the other hand, China defines his status quo power over the last 4’500 years, during which China has been always the centre of Asia. Understandably, China seeks to gain back its influence in Asia and to expand its borders, including outer Mongolia and the territory seized by Russia, Taiwan, southern Tibet, the various islands of the South China Sea and probably more in the long term (see Geoff Wade, “China’s six wars in the next 50 years“, The Strategist, 26.11.2013). But this doesn’t mean that a war is imminent between China and the neighbouring countries. China has no imperialistic attitude – it tries to reach its goals in an indirect way by influencing and intimidating their neighbours and through their salami-slice strategy in the South China Sea.Dealing with China requires another view on International Relations. From the European and US-American perspective, International Relations often has something to do with “Balance of Power“, but in Asia it’s more about “Bandwagoning“. Accordingly, China’s neighbours are reacting differently, but not really hostile. For example the Philippines sued China at the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which leaved China unimpressed. There were also multiple ramming incidences between Vietnamese and Chinese vessels, but both countries are not interested to escalate these skirmishes.
The US is exploiting the disaffection of the Chinese neighbours by building an alliance structure to contain China. This is seen by China as a fundamental problem, which they like to get rid of it. Additional, the US conduct recognition operations along the Chinese coast, publish annually DOD’s report to Congress about China and sell arms to Taiwan. All these actions are antagonising China. Even China will not go to war about these disputes, it sees the US-American influence in Asia as the core of the problem. Should these disputes escalate to a question about the dominance over Asia in the 21th century, China could see itself forced to take up arms.
Should the situation escalate, China’s economic center of gravity lies at the coastlines, which they protect with an anti-access-aerial-deny strategy. Cheng lines out that the US, most likely, will not find the solution to an escalated situation by military means. Relating to submarine tactics of the US and their allies, he criticizes vehemently the Chinese participation at RIMPAC 2014.
During the podcast, Cheng speaks about the Chinese “status quo”, about the South China Sea, India, Pakistan, the use of crises as policy tools and about a lot more, which gives you a look behind the headlines.
Listen to episode #41 immediately
- Dean Cheng, “Winning Without Fighting: Chinese Public Opinion Warfare and the Need for a Robust American Response“, The Heritage Foundation, 26.11.2012.
- David Axe, “China Thinks It Can Defeat America in Battle – But Beijing doesn’t seem to take into account U.S. submarines“, War is Boring, 31.01.2014
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