Nov. 24, the day after China announced its new air defense identification zone (ADIZ), may well go down in history as “the day America lost Asia,” as Michael Auslin put it in an op-ed on the Politico Web site in Washington the other day.
I would like to suggest that it might well be remembered as a date — like Dec. 7, 1941 — that will live in infamy as the day China began a long, protracted “soft war” to control the world.
In his now-famous speech to the US Congress the day after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, then-US president Franklin Roosevelt spoke of the previous day as “a date which will live in infamy.”
And it has, even though World War II is now long over and Japan has become a US ally.
Maybe now is the time for another US president or Congressional leader to stand up and say, as Auslin wrote: “November 24, 2013 — the day after China announced its new air defense identification zone — may well go down in history as the day America lost Asia.”
Of course, the future is never easy to predict, and Beijing’s “surprise move” in setting up its unannounced and completely unexpected air defense identification zone while the US was busy getting ready for a busy week ahead of Thanksgiving cannot be fully understood in geopolitical terms yet. However, the op-eds are flying fast and furious already in both Tokyo and Washington, and even talking heads in China are getting into the act.
This was not a minor event. This was an opening act. The West — and Japan — must respond, in words and in actions. Diplomacy will be useful, too, one hopes.
How Taiwan enters into the equation remains to be seen, but certainly the government is watching events unfold, both domestically and overseas.
Auslin believes that if the US does not take strong action now, China will soon dramatically expand its control over Asian airspace without even being challenged by any nation in the region or in the West.
“And with a whimper, not a bang, Washington may begin losing its influence in Asia despite its still-preponderant strength,” wrote Auslin, an academic who works at the American Heritage Institute, a conservative think tank.
Since the demarcation of an ADIZ is not legally valid under international law, Beijing cannot unilaterally expand its territorial airspace by setting up such a zone. However, it did, and it is a done deal. The West blinked. Has China won the war already?
History is replete with events like the surprise move by China. What happens next is anyone’s guess, but one thing is becoming more and more clear: The date will live in infamy for a long, long time — or until the regime that controls China collapses, as the former Soviet Union did.
We are living in confusing and ruptured times, and yes, these are the times that try men’s souls. The West needs to respond, but how? And who will do it? Japan? The US? The UN?
Dan Bloom is a freelance writer in Taiwan.