You are hereYou Can't Win If You're On The Bench
You Can't Win If You're On The Bench
A very important event recently happened in East Asia. Japan backed down. China won. The United States was benched. What happens now? Japan agreed to release the Chinese boat captain that had been detained after a maritime incident with Japan in the South China Sea. The area where the incident occurred is a disputed territory claimed by both China and Japan. China, aggressive in its defense of territorial rights, would not relent in its insistence that Japan release the boat captain immediately. In the past, Japan would only have issued a warning to China. This time, however, Japan chose to make an example of the captain, detaining him and demanding a Chinese apology for the incident. In addition, Japan wanted an acknowledgement from China of their territorial rights to the area's islands. Japan felt that they could be assertive in their response to the the incident because they were counting on the backing of other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries against China's part in the confrontation. But the Tiger sleeps no more. China, ignoring the ASEAN consortium of which they are a member, took an aggressive economic and military stance against Japan. The result was that the situation became a major incident. Whereas the United States had an opportunity to reestablish their waning influence in the East Asian region, they immediately sided with Japan in the dispute. The U.S. warned China against any retalitory actions. Although no threats were issued between China and the U.S., many analysts felt that the situation, and the U.S.'s reaction to it, would help America regain their credibility in the region. With the war in Afghanistan and a sagging economy draining American resources and influence, the U.S.'s presence in Asia is at an all time low. Even so, the U.S. was the country that ASEAN member countries, especially Japan, looked to for support in the dispute with China. The United States, with an opportunity to mediate the situation, instead wound up with no influence in the outcome. The U.S. had demanded that China drop their threats to initiate economic and military sanctions against Japan. China's response was to tell America to "mind their own business". They claimed, and even convinced the other ASEAN member countries, that the U.S. had no stake in a dispute in a South China Sea region where they wield no economic or strategic influence. The United States must have agreed with China's assessment because they quickly backed down from their demands, thereby causing Japan to relent its aggresive position and release the Chinese boat captain. By turning up the economic and military heat on the Japanese government, China easily won the staredown. Japan lost badly. The U.S., although it's involvement was not serious enough to cause it to lose in the situation, found itself relegated to the bench Just like a substitute player in a soccer match, the United States was unable to regain any valuable influence in an important East Asian region where it is losing touch rapidly. The result of the U.S. involvement could almost be perceived as a "third world" response. One in which it made some noise and posturing, but with which it acted with very little substance or action. Is this "benching" a fate to which the United States must resign itself? This incident has elevated China's already rising status in Asia, but how will it effect their place on the world stage? Interesting to think about, right?
Here's a link to the New York Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/25/world/asia/25chinajapan.html