For the last few decades of its rise as an economic giant, China has adopted a low profile in its relations with its neighbours other than trade and economics. It was always a meek giant, allowing little countries to bully its people. Its fishermen have been arrested by South Korea and Japan, chased away by Japanese coastguards from the Diaoyu group of islands, and Vietnam and the Philippines had on many occasions arrested Chinese fishing men and boats in the Spratleys and the Paracels. Some of the fishing boats were hauled all the way to Manila like little thieves. It was a grand display of power, and humiliating to China.
In spite of all these provocations and harassments, China kept a very low profile, not even diplomatic protest. It refrained from engaging in any military conflict or confrontation with its neighbours’ hostility. This was be interpreted by some cocky neighbours as a sign of weakness, that China was unable to defend its interests or protect its people. It was also seen as military weakness, that China feared an open conflict with the US. And as long as the US is in the picture, the little pesky countries could run circles against this toothless giant. They aggressively challenged and claimed islands that were historically founded by the China.
All of these are changing. The most dreaded US 7th Fleet is no longer a factor in a naval conflict in the East and South China Seas. They have been neutralized by the commissioning of anti ship missiles in China. The playing field is more level and China would no longer hold back to provocations by little pests. Any more signs of weaknesses could see its claims to the South China Sea islands ended under the control of the Americans through their proxies. Also, weakness will only invite war and heighten the risk of war.
China has to stand up as a major military power and shaft its stick up the asses of little pesky countries that think they could rely on the Americans to take on China. It is unavoidable that a conflict with the Americans will come to a head. It is only a matter of time as the US is moving its military machine from the Middle East to the region. In fact taking a strong and firm stand and whipping the asses of the pesky countries would reduce the risk of war with the Americans. Once the little countries know that China will kick their asses and willing to take on the Americans, the nonsense will stop.
China has just done that by authorizing its naval police ships to board and arrest foreign ships violating its territorial integrity. Looks like the first ship to be boarded and haul to Hainan will be the biggest battleship in the Filipino Navy. Let’s see how gungho the Pinoys are to provoke the Chinese and attempt to arrest Chinese fishing boats again.
China will no longer tolerate the aggressive provocations of little countries and must whip them if it is to be taken seriously. There is no other way. The earlier style of diplomacy and appeasement, of avoiding trouble even when her fishing boats and fishermen were harassed and arrested by little countries is over. The little countries must take note of this new position of China. It is only doing what is needed to protect its territories and people like what any country will do. The trouble makers have set fire in China’s courtyards and it must act or get its house burnt.
In Syria the Americans are contemplating on escalating the fight by direct involvement of American forces, just like in Libya. This is how friendly big powers behave and gain respect, and fear. China has to emulate the big powers like the US and tell the little countries not to trifle with her interests and they will get a wallop in the face. Kindness and refrain from retaliation is a bad policy and will be misunderstood for weaknesses and will invite a continuous string of provocations and aggression. China’s tough stand in the South China Sea is to defend its territories from foreign encroachments, to ward off unfriendly and hostile overtures by silly little countries. It is not an act of aggression like what the Americans are doing in the Middle East and contemplating to do in Syria. It is an act of self defence.
The tougher stand will ruffle a lot of feathers as the little countries are used to a submissive giant that would turn the other face. After the initial grumbling they will understand the meaning of correct and proper diplomacy and what is being polite to a gentle giant. Do not cross the line.