The quality of commentary on the internet has slid off the scale into a puddle near the drain along with spilled beer, urine and cigarette butts. Our brilliant commentators have basically ignored China’s aggressive behavior in the South China Sea, with some making excuses for the country with whom we waged two proxy wars (Korea and Vietnam).
Two factors should guide this decision: first, we should understand Chinese aims, and second, question whether China is the quasi-superpower we wish to have hegemony over any part of the world.
China is currently building artificial islands among the tiny bits of coral reef called (optimistically) the Spratly Islands. Several nations claim this territory, which is 400 miles from China and on a key shipping route; if China is able to assert dominance in the area, it could make billions from tariffs. That it even concerns itself with such things suggests the government anticipates a drop in revenues.
Some claim these islands have quite a bit of oil, but the official American position is that they do not. Regardless, China is building a colony sizable enough for them to stage a significant military presence there. That action is inconsistent with oil prospecting, which could be easily done with offshore rigs. Instead it looks like the Chinese intend to be there as a permanent military and political presence, which disturbs nations such as Vietnam and Thailand who are much closer to the area and do not want their navies constrained by Chinese power.
But even more importantly, we should ask ourselves: should China be a superpower? China has been building its empire on the backs of the US and other major industrial powers. Whether it is purposely devaluing their currency to make their exports cheaper, stealing intellectual property, paying very low wages, or using Bernie Madoff style accounting and pyramid schemes, these smaller problems all add up to one big problem: China does not legitimately deserve to lead the world’s next hegemon.
The US is stuck in a bad position on the South China Sea events. Where we know China has no claim to the oil in these islands, but we do not really want to engage in a war with them over it . Meanwhile the US has been getting its hat handed to it by China economically and to some extent even technologically, with China having several space launches, and in products like Samsung beating Apple. Chinese speculators are buying houses in America for cash from profits of the Chinese stock market boom, which has reached roaring 20s proportions. What is worrisome about this is that the Chinese are acting as if their economy is a bubble, and they want to trade bad assets for good, but then will have to compensate politically for the resulting recession. That often means war.
As its neighbors know, China is a bad actor that intends to seize as much territory and influence as it can before the bubble pops. The US should long ago have labeled China as a currency manipulator and kicked them out of the WTO. The US should use its economic power to force China to be respectful of its neighbors’ territory. If China is set to become the next hegemon let them earn that right fairly, instead of funding their imperialist conquests on the backs of a fraudulent , manipulated economy.