China’s Power Play
The nuclear tendencies of North Korea have heightened tensions in the region to an intensity comparable to the Cold War. As the United States contemplates exiting the Korean Peninsula militarily, China has begun to perceive itself as the key to stability.
Sporting the largest military in the world and one of the fastest-growing economies, China has much to offer in the way of enforcing regional stability, although, in terms of seaborne firepower, Japan is far superior.
According to Asia Times, May 10, one of China’s three major goals is “to preserve regional peace and stability to safeguard continued rapid economic development.”
As the largest remaining Communist nation, ideologically China feels a moral obligation to lead the region. However, as North Korea threatens every nation in its vicinity, Japan is beginning to take matters into its own hands. It is already speaking of a preemptive strike on North Korea if the situation gets desperate enough. As Japan begins to build up its defensive and offensive military might, China fears the past. China feels a duty to create an anti-venom should the Japanese sting as they did during World War ii.
The U.S. sees a potential Chinese-dominated East Asia. After all, it is the Chinese economy that is largely keeping the Asian financial market afloat. Asia Timesquoted one Asian diplomat: “We aren’t hearing a lot being said publicly, but I have no doubt the Bush administration views China as the greatest long-term danger to its economic and strategic interests, certainly within Asia and maybe even from the global perspective” (May 15; emphasis ours throughout). According to the Bush administration’s U.S.-China Security Review Commission, China is “in direct competition with us [the U.S.] for influence in Asia and beyond” (ibid., May 9).
As China continues to shove its weight around in Asia, the U.S. is finding itself “booed” out of the region by Japan and South Korea. Should Washington leave the Korean fiasco to the control of the nations of that region, the inevitable result would be direct competition between China and Japan to dominate the region.