China knows that its relations with the US are entering a period of transition. Photo: Straitstimes
America has always played a special role in the response of China. Instead of rejoicing over victory, they negotiate on the sidelines with Chinese leaders. A key figure in this case is national security advisor Susan Rice, who wrote on the website of the White House after a visit to Beijing that she had urged Chinese leaders to “handle big disagreements between us in a constructive spirit.”
Ms. Rice wrote: “I have reiterated that the most important benefit for us is to peacefully settle conflicts and to respect the international order based on law.” The “rule-based order” is exactly what Beijing has challenged in the recent move to take over territory in the disputed waters.
Although China has always claimed to ignore the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling (PCA) and called the ruling released on July 12th as “a bunch of paper”, the strong objections of the ruling seems to have impact on China more or less. China has shown restraint, at least so far: no air defence identification zone (ADIZ) has been notified yet.
According to analysts, this fact shows that the Chinese currently has a problem of two options: claiming sovereignty over the water within the nine-dash line would be a provocative act, but reducing claims would be a loss of face. The best solution at this time for Beijing is to continue to keep silence.
Meanwhile, China this month tried to convince a number of allies in Southeast Asia to not support the PCA’s ruling. US Secretary of State John Kerry sought such a consensus at a conference in Laos, but he had to leave “empty-handed”.
A US senior intelligence official said: “The judgment of the Court of Arbitration has huge influence. That is the reality, and China is making people not say anything about it. But apart from this, they cannot do anything else. “
A deeper hidden issue in the dispute in the East Sea is the increasingly nationalistic affirmation of the Chinese leaders.
Christopher Johnson, a leading analyst on China at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, noted that the response of the Chinese communications was gentler and softer. This is a sign that China wants to alleviate the situation.
We can see a contrast between the delicate and pragmatic foreign policy, with the approach that is somewhat dismissive of the US presidential candidate Donald Trump and those who criticize China in the US. Despite a visit of Ms Rice aimed at easing the situation, Chinese leaders know that relations with the US are entering a period of transition and Beijing cannot foresee what will happen.