I've posted to several articles in the past either reporting or analyzing the growing voices of China's "Hawks," particularly among the Chinese military establishment. Coupled with apparent division within the Communist Party leadership, and blatant corruption, it appears to me that we could soon see greater influence by the Chinese military over China's foreign policy. I worry we might see something akin to pre-WWII Japan, where the military effectively controlled government policy.
In any event, Walter Russell Mead returns to this topic, writing:
China’s military hawks like Lt-General Ren are becoming more vocal and more powerful. They push “short, sharp wars” with neighboring countries to take control of disputed territories in the East and South China Seas. They urge China to “strike first”, “prepare for conflict” or “kill a chicken to scare the monkeys.”
Some hawks take the aggressive rhetoric to an even higher level: “Since we have decided that the US is bluffing in the East China Sea, we should take this opportunity to respond to these empty provocations with something real,” wrote Air Force Colonel Dai Xu in China’s Global Times last August. “This includes Vietnam, the Philippines and Japan, which are the three running dogs of the United States in Asia … We only need to kill one, and it will immediately bring the others to heel.”
“The military hawks appear to make up only a small proportion of China’s officer corps,” writes Michael Richardson, a fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, in the Straits Times. ”But their influence, magnified by modern communications and social media, may be far more extensive than their numbers suggest. Their influence may also be shaping views and actions in the Chinese chain of military command.”
China’s neighbors see this aggressive posturing and react accordingly. Japan’s new Prime Minister, a China hawk, has put forward the first increases to Japan’s defense budget in 11 years, citing China’s belligerent behavior around disputed islands in the East China Sea.
This hostile environment, coupled with repeated tense military encounters on the high seas, makes a high-profile accident all the more likely. That’s not a good sign for this region.(H/t Instapundit).
That China thinks it could quickly and easily prosecute a war with Vietnam, the Philippines or Japan, without U.S. intervention, bespeaks the worst hubris. An overconfident China is more likely to initiate hostilities, ignoring risks and underestimating its putative opposition. This is especially dangerous where China may begin to see its comparative advantages start to disappear over the next few years as its neighbors seek to strengthen ties among themselves and with the U.S., increase military spending, and possibly develop nuclear weapons. (See this NY Times article on Japan's stockpiling weapons grade plutonium; and a similar article from the Washington Times).