Is China our business? Pat Buchanan puts forth some hard-hitting questions here:
First, why is this our quarrel? We have no claim to any of the Spratly or Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. Yet, each of the claimants — Beijing, Taipei, Manila, Hanoi — seems to have maps going back decades and even centuries to support those claims.
Besides freedom of the seas, what is our vital interest here?
If these islands are Chinese territory, Beijing has the same right to build air and naval bases on them as we do in the Aleutians, Hawaii, Wake and Guam. What do we hope to accomplish by sailing U.S. warships into what China claims to be her territorial waters?
While the ships of the U.S. Seventh Fleet are superior to those of the Chinese navy, China has more submarines, destroyers, frigates and missile boats, plus a vast inventory of ground-based missiles that can target warships at great distances.
In an increasingly nationalist China, Xi Jinping could not survive a climbdown of China’s claims, or dismantlement of what Beijing has built in the South China Sea. President Xi no more appears to be a man to back down than does President Putin.
Continued U.S. overflights or naval intrusion into the territorial waters of Chinese-claimed islands are certain to result in a violent clash, as happened near Hainan Island in 2001.
Where would we go from there?
China today is in trouble. She is feared and distrusted by her neighbors; her economy has lost its dynamism; and the Communist Party is riven by purges and rampant corruption.
If we believe this will be the Second American Century, that time is on our side, that Chinese communism is a dead faith, we ought to avoid a clash and show our opposition to Beijing’s excesses, if need be, by imposing tariffs on all goods made in China.
China’s oligarchs will understand that message.