American hawkishness is against its own interests

By Brendan O’Reilly Source:Global Times Published: 2013-12-16 16:03:01

As tensions escalate in the Western Pacific, imagine Chinese Zhan Shen bombers - capable of carrying nuclear weapons - probing the airspace around Hawaii.

Picture Beijing drafting agreements with the governments of Cuba and Venezuela to establish air bases and naval facilities in the Caribbean. Envision nuclear-capable Chinese submarines patrolling the Atlantic Ocean right off the coast of New York and Washington.

Image how Americans would react to those developments.

And yet it's hard for many of my compatriots to understand how the Chinese people view the US military posturing in the East China Sea.

Beijing's establishment of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the Western Pacific has been met with vocal condemnation and military muscle flexing by the US government. The ADIZ covers territory in the Western Pacific between China and Japan - including the airspace over the disputed Diaoyu Islands, known as the Senkaku Islands in Japanese.

An ADIZ is not a claim to territorial sovereignty. Countries that operate ADIZs request incoming aircraft to identify themselves, or face possible defensive maneuvers. Like the ADIZ of China, the ADIZs of the US and Japan extend significantly beyond their territorial waters.

Freedom of navigation in the West Pacific is vitally important to the US. It is even more important to China. China does more international trade than any other country on the face of the earth.

Furthermore, even in the middle of an intense territorial dispute, China, not the US, is the No.1 trading partner of Japan. China would never risk decades of economic growth by launching a regional war. So why was the ADIZ established?

Beijing is worried about the massive military presence of the US in the West Pacific - just like Americans would be if Chinese aircraft carriers patrolled the Gulf of Mexico. As China becomes richer and more powerful, it is natural for China's leaders to seek to push back foreign military assets away from their shores.

The US shouldn't waste its precious human, political, and financial assets by escalating military tensions with the most populous country in the world.

The IMF and OECD predict China's economy will be larger than US' sometime this decade. It is entirely against the US interests to start an arms race with an ascendant economic power.

Trade with China is of vital importance to US economy. Furthermore, tens of thousands of Americans live, work, and do business in China, just as the US is host to many Chinese immigrants, tourists, students, and business people.

Military confrontation in the Pacific is unethical, counterproductive, and a waste of the many billions of dollars Washington continues to borrow from Beijing.

Brendan O'Reilly, writer and educator from Seattle currently living in China.

Posted in: Letters

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