Image via WikipediaChina’s foreign policy has been increasingly annoying to its neighbors over the past year or so and this year seems no different. In a report by AP, Chinese vessels made threatening maneuvers indicating an intention to ram a Philippine oil research ship near the Spratly Islands. Aside from the fact that ramming – as it has done against Japanese ships, seems to be an approved form of attack by China this area is Philippine territory, although also partially or wholly claimed by Vietnam, Brunei and China. It is also a vital shipping lane which the US considers in its national interests to maintain open – something China dislikes intensely since it claims sovereignty over the entire South China Sea.
The continuation of this sort of aggressive, bullying behavior is not a good sign and juxtaposed with the recent announcement by Beijing to increase its military budget by more than 12% tends to alarm its neighbors. Although tiny in comparison to the US military budget, the Chinese government attitude that, in the region, what’s theirs is theirs and what is anyone else’s is negotiable is not only counterproductive and against the ultimate interests of China, but could lead to an unfortunate and unnecessary confrontation.
It is difficult at the best of times to discern Chinese foreign policy intentions. The continuation of this type of bullying behavior would lead its neighbors – not to mention the US – to take the worst case view and do what is necessary to counter the actions. Of course, the behavior benefits the US as Japan and the South East Asian countries will want a strong US naval presence to remain, if not beefed up.