Tonio Andrade writes: China is increasingly asserting itself as a great power, and nowhere is its rise more likely to lead to war than in the South China Sea. This vital seaway not only is filled with shipping lanes, but also contains rich fishing grounds and oil and gas deposits, and China claims vast swaths of it. Neighboring countries have reacted angrily to its assertions, and China has responded by ratcheting up air and naval patrols and building artificial islands with airstrips and barracks.
These tensions are likely only to increase in the wake of the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling Tuesday undermining China’s claims and bolstering those of the Philippines, one of the closest U.S. allies in the region. China has rejected the ruling; its state-controlled media outlets call the court a “law-abusing tribunal.” The United States, for its part, is determined to enforce the ruling and has stepped up naval patrols in the region in anticipation of China’s negative reaction.
This is a dangerous game. China is more prepared for a confrontation than Western experts may expect. We are, quite literally, in perilous waters. U.S. leaders would do well to understand China’s military past, a history far more warlike and bellicose than has long been assumed. [Continue reading…]