Since the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague ruled against China’s nine-dash line in the South China Sea, there has been a marked increase in rumblings of the unimaginable: War in the Pacific between China, it’s neighbours, and their ally, the US.
China had given signs that it had no intention to respect the Hague’s ruling, but lately rhetoric has been stepped up a notch, with the AFP reporting that a Beijing minister urged preparations for a “people’s war at sea.”
In fact, China’s state-run media has been awash with bluster on the subject of their military and sovereignty. China’s Global Times went as far as to challenge Australia directly, saying: “If Australia steps into the South China Sea waters, it will be an ideal target for China to warn and strike.”
On Weibo, a state-regulated blogging site, Lian Fang, a professor at the military-run National Defence University said that, “The Chinese military will step up and fight hard and China will never submit to any country on matters of sovereignty,” Reuters reports.
Beijing has even gone as far as to unilaterally announce a “no sail zone” in international waters, which directly violates international maritime laws and courtesy.
Usually, regional powers are deterred from making power plays on international waters and shipping lanes by the deterrent factor of the US’s massive military, but Beijing seems emboldened by both their own rapidly advancing military might as well as the US’s preoccupation with the presidential election.
“The People’s Liberation Army is ready,” one source with ties to the military told Reuters.
“We should go in and give them a bloody nose like Deng Xiaoping did to Vietnam in 1979,” the unnamed source continued, making reference to China’s brief invasion of Vietnam to punish Hanoi.
But despite China’s impressive ballistic and cruise missile programs, the country’s military is largely untested in modern warfare. Conversely, the US navy is stretched thin seeing to interests around the globe, and they would face huge difficulties in abandoning their posts worldwide to focus on China.
A war between China and it’s neighbours also has the dangerous possibility to divide the world. The US will no doubt come to the aide of it’s allies, and China and Russia have increased military ties which could further complicate the scenario.
The fact is a war between the world’s two largest economies, who are both nuclear-armed naval powers, would be a full on disaster with the brunt of that damage being felt by civilians in the Pacific and the world at large.
One unnamed Chinese source seemed especially aware of the potential for catastrophe in the military posturing in a statement to Reuters: “Our navy cannot take on the Americans. We do not have that level of technology yet. The only people who would suffer would be ordinary Chinese”
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