China’s hawks and their on-again, off-again bluster

by Chris Zappone

A nice wrap from Reuters on China’s hawks and some trends with them

The article mentions the notion that a robust debate about national defense is normal in a major power, although the article also goes onto to describe how these 20 hawks are media darlings. Outside of Colin Powell, the recently deceased Normal Schwartzkopf and David Petraeus, I think most Americans would struggle to name a recent American general. And that’s after a decade of protracted engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This article seems to suggest Chinese generals and colonels whip up the public in part to supplement their modest PLA pensions.

…As long as everyone’s heart is in the right place.

To me the article underscores the dilemma for Obama. He hears comments such as Chinese hawk Dai Xu conclude “the US is bluffing in the East China Sea” and that China should “respond to these empty provocations with something real.” Dai Xu has also called for short, sharp wars like China’s border clash with India to establish China’s power in the region.

But Obama is leading a country that is in no way China-independent. In the area of trade, the US has far to go. The US and like-minded nations can at least batten down their cyber hatches from the Chinese. And that’s the sort of thing we’re seeing from the US.

Obama has said “cyber threat is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation” and that the country’s “economic prosperity in the 21st century will depend on cybersecurity.”

Also of note in this Reuters article is the observation from RAND, who know a thing or two about long-term strategy, that when needed the PLA pundits can be silenced. I’m sure there is lots of bargaining between the CPC and the PLA about who speaks to the outside world and when. But the key quote for me is: “All of a sudden, bam, these guys got turned off.”

If that is the case, the mixed signals China is sending could be on purpose. If that sounds like a suspicion it is. Nothing about China is transparent. So it breeds suspicion. The only question is whether the country cultivates this, or it is, as Luttwak says, a sign of China’s autism in these affairs.