If not war, then….
by Chris Zappone
An alternate vision of the China-Japan “war”
it would be folly to count on a prolonged crisis simply fizzling out. But both China and Japan are more than capable of strategic patience. Neither wants to force the issue in the immediate term. Each government has an interest in trying to exert greater control over the various institutional players — not just navies but also civilian maritime agencies — whose operational decisions could make the difference between calm and crisis.
It points to the beginning of a struggle for influence in the seas between China and Japan, backed by the US. But should the dispute linger and harden into a kind of DMZ-type situation, how difficult is it to imagine the struggle for influence transfering to other areas of competition? Already there is a race between China and Japan and South Korea to secure the resources needed for the economies. What if the polarizing effect of the island dispute seeps into other areas of deal-making? Already manufacturers routinely add other countries besides China to their supply chain to try to miminize disruptions related to a total reliance n China?
What if that kind of polarization begins to shape the regional economy? If it takes hold in Asia, which is the strongest region in the globe, it could have follow-on effects elsewhere. Already China’s Internet is not exactly the same thing as the Grown Up Internet, which the US and Japan share. If the Internet becomes Balkanized, why wouldn’t that extend to technology and technological standards, too? In this way, if the Internet is like a universal language, we are seeing the emergence of regional dialects (China’s internet, Iran’s , Thailand’s internet), and not because it makes sense economically, but becuase it makes sense for nationalistic reasons. This is the stuff of science fiction, to be sure. But it wouldn’t be the far off either. Some anthropologists theorize that the development of language is as much to facilitate communication within a given community as well as blocking it out with others. Transfer this notion to the world technology, economic, etc… Basically, anything to avoid a war while doing anything to avoid cooperation between the world’s second and third largest economies. This could be a new kind of sectional Cold War.