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US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel concluded his Japanese tour and kicked off a visit to China on Monday. In Tokyo he made many remarks that were pleasant to Japanese. Hagel publicly warned China not to tackle the ongoing territorial disputes with neighboring countries as "the Russians have done with Ukraine." It's expected he will soft-pedal on these issues when he is in Beijing.
But Chinese officials should respond to Hagel's unusually forceful remarks with toughness. The US hasn't totally sided with countries like Japan and the Philippines over their territorial disputes with China yet. However, there is little difference between Washington's current partiality for Tokyo and Manila and open support of confronting China.
Many Chinese believe the core of the US "rebalancing Asia" strategy lies in that the US is attempting to burden China's rise through instigating confrontation with other countries in the neighborhood. It's during the implementation of this US strategy that territorial spats have been escalated due to the aggressive and offensive policies of Japan and the Philippines.
Chinese public opinion has given up hope of reason with the US, since Washington is adept in manipulating double standards.
In the US eyes, Japan's "nationalizing the Diaoyu Islands" and the Philippines' trickery to bolster its territorial clam through reinforcing a marooned navy ship that it stationed in Ren'ai reef are not violations of the "status quo," while any countermeasures by China are called "aggression."
The US is good at maneuvering in East Asia. But it overestimates the value of the "rebalancing Asia" strategy if it misperceives China as easily cowed into submission. China is not Russia, nor will the South China Sea and East China Sea be Crimea. Restraint is the basic philosophy of China in front of frictions, but we also make it clear, "Don't irritate us!"
If Washington continues to indulge Tokyo and Manila in provoking China, it will pay the price sooner or later. The cost is that the US will feel ashamed.
For instance, China will spare no efforts to prevent the Philippines consolidating the rusting ship in Ren'ai Reef. Any promises that the US makes to the Philippines and Japan that they can do whatever they want in Ren'ai Reef and Diaoyu Islands will prove empty.
China has no intentions to imitate Russia in how to deal with frictions on its periphery. It's the US that should learn a lesson from the Crimea crisis. Washington suppressed Russia's strategic space, but it got cold feet when Moscow upped the ante.
Conflicts in Europe cannot be replicated in East Asia. The US should be careful that it cannot suppress China as it has done with Russia. Countries like Japan and the Philippines shouldn't be used as pawns to contain China.
China emphasizes the importance of building a new type of major power relationship with the US. As the sole super power, the US has gained the upper hand in Sino-US relations, but it will finally get trapped if it continues to snub our Chinese feelings.