Not Sun Tzu

Beijing’s has made some bad moves recently

It is fairly common to ascribe a certain oriental strategic wisdom to China’s foreign policy moves. That’s not always true. Whatever the outcome of the current stand-off with Japan over the fishing trawler near the Senkaku islands, Beijing has already lost one round of the geopolitical game.

The incident involving a Chinese fishing trawler ramming into two Japanese coast guard vessels in Japanese waters claimed by Beijing should not have allowed to become a litmus test of sovereignty claims. Yet that is exactly what China did. Instead of reciprocating the Japanese government’s early and wise move to prevent escalation of tensions—by returning the trawler and crew, minus the captain—Beijing contended that trying the captain under Japanese law would be an implicit recognition of Japan’s territorial claims. If Japan now concedes to this demand it would be seen as succumbing to Chinese bullying. If Japan does not concede, the leadership in Beijing loses faces to its own people.

If Sun Tzu said something about not putting an enemy with the back to the wall, his modern day compatriots certainly have not paid heed.

There are, of course, face-saving diplomatic solutions possible if China is ready to explore them. However this plays out, Beijing’s actions will push Tokyo, Seoul and other East Asian capitals strongly towards each other and towards Washington. All the more so if, in the unlikely event, tensions lead to military conflict.

It might well be the all Beijing cares for is to ensure that its actions play well to its domestic audience. If so, it has badly miscalculated the international price it will have to pay for playing to the galleries.

Related Posts: Beijing’s series of foreign policy mistakes are likely due to a factional power struggle ahead of the leadership transition in 2012.

2 thoughts on “Not Sun Tzu”

  1. “If Japan now concedes to this demand it would be seen as succumbing to Chinese bullying. If Japan does not concede, the leadership in Beijing loses faces to its own people. ”

    Is that “leadership loses face” not applicable to Indian leaders?

  2. hi
    agree with u fully but i like to put some point in front which has to do some educational
    plan with the moss population, becoze of illiterarcy and some like a tradition of moss
    population, B – MONEY WHICH IS very popular in india for doing trade should not be
    overlooked . That money itself is a big problem creator for the population itself, perform
    -ing a trade without invoice and b moneies is big support to underworld activities, which
    common men on the street doesnt know how this link is connected to giving support
    without even knowing abt it. To hide taxes from the authoritis. their purpose is only tha
    t but indireclty it is very much help to unwanted elements of the societies to clean up
    B- monies the pop—tion has to be educated, when u r cripling all the ways & means of
    organiser of violance then they can not do anything at all

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