South China Sea China navy submarine
© Reuters / China Stringer Network
A nuclear-powered submarine of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy in the South China Sea, April 12, 2018.
The Global Times called on People's Liberation Army Navy warships to travel to "U.S. military bases in the Asia-Pacific and the U.S. allies' coastlines to conduct close-in reconnaissance operations and declare freedom of navigation." The editorial added that "the U.S. will definitely see the PLA show up at its doorstep in the not-too-distant future."

This isn't simple ranting. The Global Times operates under Central Foreign Affairs Commission Director Yang Jiechi. Its words represent a credible threat.


Comment: As it is, it's not exactly a 'credible threat', because the US has proven that it's reckless, China has shown it is very measuresd in its responses. And so it's more likely that this outlet - which is not an official diplomatic source, despite its boss - is simply playing the US at its own game of hot-air and belligerence.


Why is China so furious?

It laments the "naked provocation" of a U.S. Navy destroyer's transit, on Wednesday, within 12 miles of a Chinese artificial island in the South China Sea. Yang's mouthpiece warns that "only by making the U.S. have a taste of its own medicine can we touch the nerves of the U.S. and its allies, and reshape the Western world's understanding of U.S. bullying in the South China Sea."


Comment: Indeed. There is only so much China can put up with.


This assessment bears little relation to reality. China's claims of ownership over the South China Sea are both geographically absurd and politically imperialist. Instead, China is escalating its militarization of the sea for two distinctly unjustified reasons. First, to make these waters safe for unilateral Chinese communist resource extraction. Second, to extract political concessions from other nations in return for their access to the sea. China's leverage is the $3.5 trillion-$4 trillion in annual trade flows that move through the South China Sea.


Comment: In parts, that may be true; but why is the US there? We've seen its track record in the Middle East and it can hardly claim that its presence in the South China Sea will result in anything other than more chaos creation.


The Trump and Biden administrations have rightly resisted China's actions with U.S. naval actions such as that on Wednesday. They recognize China's threat to trade, sovereign government, and a key principle of the post-Second World War U.S.-led international order: free transit. But while America's European allies have been unwilling to conduct the U.S.-style transits that so upset China, nations such as Australia, India, Japan, and Vietnam are moving closer to the U.S. position. China thus senses it may face a more robust multilateral challenge.


Comment: Whilst India and China disengaged at their Ladakh border, India also recently deployed warships in the South China Sea as part of its 'Act East' policy


The language Beijing has employed, here, of conducting "freedom of navigation" activities off "U.S. military bases in the Asia-Pacific and the U.S. allies' coastlines" is clearly intended as a threat to send PLA warships within 12 miles of Guam, Australia, and Japan. (While the Philippines is a U.S. treaty ally, its president has made himself into a human pet for Xi Jinping).


Comment: 'A human pet for Xi Jin Ping'? With ridiculous statements like this, at least the writer has the decency to reveal how warped his analysis is: Philippines' Duterte raises concerns with Beijing as 220 Chinese vessels moor at reef in Manila's territorial waters


Regardless, U.S. Navy transits of international waters are one thing. PLA transits within 12 miles of sovereign U.S. or allied coasts would be a very different matter.


Comment: Translation: "It's ok when we do it".


Put another way, where the U.S. is walking through a public park, China claims a right to seize public parks and then engage in home invasions. The reality is clear: By its intent and international law, any Chinese incursion as threatened would constitute an act of provocation bordering on war.

China has no justification to blur the waters.