28th November 2013
Another month in Cambridge and another Cambridge-like period of time. What be that? Well, where else could you spend Tuesday (26th) morning sat side by side with a fellow (German) academic friend over tea at 8:30am comparing news stories on respective computers on the dining table at home about Chinese air defence zones, then have a Korean professor drop by and join you to discuss war and memory issues over Cumberland sausages? Then when they head off, you head to hear Prof. Tim Blanning give one of the most enlivening and entertaining presentations ever witnessed on the triumph of music in the modern world, have lunch with five others of differing nationalities, and by 5:45pm find yourself in a lecture theatre with an audience waiting to hear Prof Jay Winter of Yale deliver the memorial lecture at Trinity on the commemoration of the Great War centenary next year. Having to leave after less than 15 minutes was as painful as any extraction I’ve known, as it was both erudite and fascinating. The extent to which profit is a huge motive for Great War commemoration, with profit margins of 80% for certain commercial concerns, and even several seemingly charitable concerns cashing in, it was astonishing. The extraction had a spiritual reason, as my presence was demanded at Gonville and Caius for the evensong, arranged like the music lecture by the outstanding Newcomers and Visiting Scholars (NVS) group, with Julie standing most elegantly to chase latecomers such as I with friendly enthusiasm, and Marilyn Fersht as the gracious host and wife of Master Sir Alan Fersht. The NVS folks and Caius members were treated to a wonderful service of choral singing by the college choir, which is mixed, and adult, in contrast to King’s College, the most famous of the college choirs. The treat was extended to an invitation to join the Master and Marilyn in the Master’s Lodge for mulled wine and mince pies afterwards, where we were able to also meet the Chaplain, choir master and some of the choristers. One was a male first year student, in the college only two months, but seemingly very confident and at home, and another was a dazzlingly attractive, tall, slim 19 year old girl who was not only very bright and engaging but also studying about Vichy France for her main thesis in history. In such an environment one could easily swoon, until realising that 19 is a highly appropriate age for a daughter of a man of my years, and she was being polite to college guests, and that if she were my daughter I would be very proud of her. The evening was rounded off by going to the Pickerel Inn and having a drink with some friends, all of whom, other than me, drank only a half, but as the only British passport holder among them I felt the need to make a stand for Theakston’s Old Peculier (yes, that spelling). Finally, the night was rounded off by walking home along the Cam with new friends, a couple from Madrid, and heating up the leftovers of the Lancashire Hotpot, having tea and fruit cake with Wensleydale cheese, and watching a fascinating programme about politics and soft power in the late Cold War.
Quite a paragraph. Quite a day.
The first issue raised, that of Chinese air defence zones, is the one that erupted quite suddenly, and in a timely fashion, over the weekend. It seems that on Saturday 23rd November, while I was on my way to Oxford to meet old friends Russell and Akiko, and celebrate Wilhelm’s birthday, Beijing decided it needed to make an announcement that the PRC was declaring the establishment of a new Air Defence Identification Zone in the East China Sea. Now, about 20 countries have declared ADIZs, including Britain Japan, but China’s announcement was different in several ways. Their ADIZ was announced suddenly with neither consultation nor warning. It extends quite far out from PRC territory. It overlaps with the Japanese and Korean (and Taiwanese) EEZs. It actually includes the territory of Japan, in the form of the Senkaku (or Diaoyu) Islands, and even overlaps the underwater rocks west of Cheju Island, Ieodo, that has become a base for Korean coastguards and marine researchers as part of their attempt to expand the RoK EEZ. China claims the rocks, 150km from Cheju, and more than 285km from China’s Yushan Islands. Their ADIZ also includes the Chunxiao gas field that straddles the EEZ line claimed by Japan.
The best map has been provided by the BBC:
The response should have been highly predictable to Beijing, and surely was. Japan, in the form of Prime, Foreign, and Defense Ministers rejected it. The Koreans said it was “regretful”. The US said that it was potentially destabilising, and they would ignore it during their military flights. The Taiwan government accepted it, which provoked fury among the opposition and many academic and social commentators. And Beijing stated that this is only part one, with a South China Sea ADIZ due soon, which will undoubtedly be highly welcomed by the Philippines, Vietnam, and many others.
While JAL and ANA immediately began to submit flight plans through the area to Beijing the Japanese government insisted that these were not required, so the pressure having being brought to bear the airlines ceased their information lodging activities. The Korean response was slightly different, flying two P3C patrol planes near Ieodo, and in the ADIZ, while the US flew two unarmed B-52s through the area, in a very well publicised show that China’s threat to carry out "emergency defensive measures" against any aircraft without lodged flight information was a charade. Japan then flew its own P3C aircraft around the Senkakus as per normal, and with no interference.
It seems that China, normally so adept at the incremental salami slicing tactic of slowly tightening the pressure on its perceived foes, such as by sending ships into waters off the Senkakus, and then aircraft, and then drones, pressure that drove the Japanese spare and could be reduced at any time without embarrassment, has made itself look rather silly. It must now either enforce its zone, and intercept aircraft, a large scale job that will inevitably bring it into contact and potential diplomatic or even real conflict with the US, Japan, RoK and others, or not, and appear to be backing down or at least indecisive. It seems to have gained nothing but reinforcing hostility for China, further tarnishing the self-proclaimed image of rising China as a peaceful phenomenon, and providing greater solidarity between at times disparate allies. The US, after all, while providing strong moral and military support to allies Japan and Korea has wavered in its commitments to acknowledge and support their respective sovereignty claims over their islands, not least as one, Takeshima/Dokdo, lies between them, is occupied by Korea, and claimed by Japan. Korea, in the form of President Park Geun-hye, had made a significant effort to cultivate relations with China, not least due to the poor relations the nation has had with Japan for at least a decade, but this approach now seems to have at least stalled and possibly to have come crashing down. From salami slicing to flailing a cosh, Beijing’s new leadership appears to have badly misjudged this policy, and to have possibly destabilised Chinese strategy, for in the Chinese approach everything counts, and strategy is all inclusive.
The worst case scenario would be a PRC feeling painted into a corner whereby vigorous defence of the ADIZ seems the only ‘reasonable’ option. News stories of the only Chinese aircraft carrier about to pass near Taiwan and Okinawa on its way to the South China Sea, and Chinese purchases of advanced long-range Russian Sukhoi-35 fighters, may seem sinister, but they are likely simply coincidental to the ADIZ issue in the immediate term. Jun Okumura, a visiting scholar at the Meiji Institute for Global Affairs, told The Daily Telegraph that there is the risk of another incident similar to the collision of the US EP3 surveillance aircraft near Hainan, and that China will not “cancel the air zone - that would play very badly to a domestic audience - but over time they will not enforce their present demands and all this will fade into the background”. One hopes that he is correct. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/japan/10480031/Japan-and-South-Korea-military-planes-fly-unopposed-through-China-air-zone.html
China has seemingly separated (or not fully linked) the ADIZ and territory issues, which is a good sign, and has also, predictably, claimed that Japan unilaterally increased its own ADIZ at the expense of the airspace control of Taiwan and brought Japan’s zone to within 130km of mainland China. These points are correct. Japan handled its own ADIZ expansion badly, as it does with most such matters (nice one MoFA!), failing to consult with Taiwan in May/June 2010 as it moved its ADIZ limit westwards by about 22km, thus overlapping with Taiwan’s ADIZ. However, it did so as the original US-designated ADIZ on 123 degree longitude passed through the Japanese island of Yonaguni, so the move to a line 12 miles west of the isle was logical and legal. Not polite, but reasonable. The greatest point of difference of then to now was that despite a protest from Taipei, the Taiwanese government announced “Each country is entitled to draw its ADIZ. When it comes to overlapping areas, we know how to deal with it. I believe we [Taiwan and Japan] understand each other’s position” and so it proved. That was pretty much the extent of the dispute.
On Tuesday 26th November China announced that all Chinese citizens in Japan should register with the Tokyo embassy in a measure seeming to indicate that tensions were running high, but more of a blatant attempt to put more pressure on the Japanese government than facilitate the well-being of overseas Chinese. In The New York Times Shi Yinhong, a government adviser and professor of international relations at Renmin University stated, “I believe Xi Jinping and his associates must have predicted the substance of this reaction; whether they underestimated the details of the reaction, I’m not sure”. However, Zhu Feng, professor of international relations at Beijing University said that, “Japan always has the backing of the United States and shows unbelievable arrogance to the Chinese proposal to have talks on a bilateral basis. Japan’s arrogance is unacceptable.”
Ni Fangliu, historian and investigative journalist, with a very popular microblog (more than two million followers, not that I’m jealous), wrote that, “If the Chinese military doesn’t do anything about aircraft that don’t obey the commands to identify themselves in the zone, it will face international ridicule,” and a The Liberation Army Daily official military newspaper commentary acknowledged that without enforcement, the zone would be just “armchair strategy.” The fear is that not only national pride, but also rising Chinese nationalism would be an additional policy driver within the CCP for an aggressive pursuit of this seemingly counterproductive measure.
The incident has had one beneficial point. My friend, Prof Reinhard Drifte, gave a presentation at the Faculty of Asian and Middle East Studies on Monday 25th November about disputes in the East China Sea, and couldn’t have been provided with a more fitting backdrop, and a more interested audience. Every cloud has a silver lining. Let us hope that future scheduled presentations on conflict don’t provoke Beijing to provide another suitably apt contextual canvas.