To a people imbued with a deep sense of superior moral worth, historical achievement and victimization by foreign powers, this state of affairs is unjust and unnatural. Pulling back from any territorial dispute with smaller and inferior states would be seen as a humiliating defeat, not a step toward ensuring long-term regional stability.
An expanding view of greater China implies that a resolution of the Diaoyutais despute in its favor would be likely to embolden rather than satisfy its ambitions.
Making good on its claim to the South China Sea could be next.
As Obama and Abe forge a common strategy aimed at helping to manage China’s rise peacefully, they must understand that China’s conception of renewal seeks to resurrect a glorious past and that this implies revision, not affirmation, of the existing regional order. This means that they will have to limit China’s strategic and military options, even if they cannot constrain its ambitions.
John Lee is a fellow and professor at the Center for International Security Studies, Sydney University.
Copyright: Project Sydicate