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UNIVERSIDAD AUTONOMA METROPOLITANA

Departamento de Produccin Econmica


rea de Investigacin de Poltica Econmica y Desarrollo

Licenciatura en Economa

Casos de estudio para la elaboracin de modelos

A continuacin, usted encontrar un conjunto de artculos publicados por la prensa internacional


relacionados con anlisis de fenmenos sociales y econmicos considerados importantes. Analice cada
uno de ellos e interprtelos. Proponga en cada caso un modelo tipo Y=f(X1, X2, Xk) que permitiera
explorar justificadamente y de forma probabilstica cada una de esas situaciones. Para ello:
1. Liste el conjunto de las variables que son citadas en cada caso
2. Determine cul es el fenmeno que se explora y que constituye la variable dependiente
3. Elija el conjunto de variables que explican a la variable anterior. Ordene la importancia causal de
esas colocando al principio de su modelo a las que considere ms importantes sucesivamente
4. Exponga el signo que mantendra cada variable causal con el fenmeno que se explica

Departamento de Produccin Econmica. Edificio de Profesores en Ciencias Sociales, Nivel 3, Calzada del Hueso
1100, Villa Quietud, Coyoacn, Mxico D.F. 04960. (+5255) 54 83 71 00



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SUSTAINABILITY&ENVIRONMENT
STEPHENLEONARD
StephenLeonardisPresidentoftheAustraliabasedClimateJusticeProgram.

OCT21,2015

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Traduccin:EstebanFlamini
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https://www.projectsyndicate.org/commentary/taxbigpollutersbystephenleonard
201510/spanish
19952015ProjectSyndicate

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A New Report Argues Inequality Is Causing Slower Growth. Heres Why It Matters. NYTimes.com

Incomes and Outcomes


A New Report Argues Inequality Is Causing Slower Growth. Heres Why It Matters.

By NEIL IRWIN
August 5, 2014
Is income inequality holding back the United States economy? A new report argues that it is, that
an unequal distribution in incomes is making it harder for the nation to recover from the recession
and achieve the kind of growth that was commonplace in decades past.
The report is interesting not because it offers some novel analytical approach or crunches
previously unknown data. Rather, it has to do with who produced it, which says a lot about how
the discussion over inequality is evolving.
Economists at Standard & Poors Ratings Services are the authors of the straightforwardly titled
How Increasing Inequality is Dampening U.S. Economic Growth, and Possible Ways to Change
the Tide. The fact that S.&P., an apolitical organization that aims to produce reliable research for
bond investors and others, is raising alarms about the risks that emerge from income inequality is
a small but important sign of how a debate that has been largely confined to the academic world
and left-of-center political circles is becoming more mainstream.
Our review of the data, as well as a wealth of research on this matter, leads us to conclude that
the current level of income inequality in the U.S. is dampening G.D.P. growth, the S.&P.
researchers write, at a time when the worlds biggest economy is struggling to recover from the
Great Recession and the government is in need of funds to support an aging population.

Beth Ann Bovino, the chief U.S. economist at S.&P., spoke at a panel of financial market experts,
investors and opinion makers in Washington last year.
Greg Gibson / Bipartisan Policy Center

To understand why this matters, you have to know a little bit about the many tribes within the
world of economics.
There are the academic economists who study the forces shaping the modern economy. Their
work is rigorous but often obscure. Some of them end up in important policy jobs (See: Bernanke,
B.) or write books for a mass audience (Piketty, T.), but many labor in the halls of academia for
decades writing carefully vetted articles for academic journals that are rigorous as can be but are
read by, to a first approximation, no one.
Then there are the economists in what can broadly be called the business forecasting community.
They wear nicer suits than the academics, and are better at offering a glib, confident analysis of
the latest jobs numbers delivered on CNBC or in front of a room full of executives who are their
clients. They work for ratings firms like S.&P., forecasting firms like Macroeconomic Advisers and
the economics research departments of all the big banks.
The key difference, though, is that rather than trying to produce cutting-edge theory, they are
trying to do the practical work of explaining to clients companies trying to forecast future
demand, investors trying to allocate assets how the economy is likely to evolve. Theyre not
really driven by ideology, or by models that are rigorous enough in their theoretical underpinnings
to pass academic peer review. Rather, their success or failure hinges on whether theyre successful
at giving those clients an accurate picture of where the economy is heading.
In that sense, the new S.&P. report is a sign of how worries that income inequality is a factor
behind subpar economic growth over the last five years (and really the last 15 years) is going from
an idiosyncratic argument made mainly by left-of center economists to something that even the
tribe of business forecasters needs to wrestle with.
I asked Beth Ann Bovino, the chief U.S. economist at S.&P., why she and her colleagues took on
this topic. We spend a lot of time trying to think about whats the economic outlook and what to
expect ahead, she said. What disturbs me about this recovery which has been the weakest in
50 years is how feeble it has been, and weve been asking what are the reasons behind it. She
added: One of the reasons that could explain this pace of very slow growth is higher income
inequality. And that also might also explain what happened that led up to the great recession.
From my research and some of the analysis I saw from others, when you have extreme levels of
inequality, it can hurt the economy, she said.

Because the affluent tend to save more of what they earn rather than spend it, as more and more
of the nations income goes to people at the top income brackets, there isnt enough demand for
goods and services to maintain strong growth, and attempts to bridge that gap with debt feed a
boom-bust cycle of crises, the report argues. High inequality can feed on itself, as the wealthy use
their resources to influence the political system toward policies that help maintain that advantage,
like low tax rates on high incomes and low estate taxes, and underinvestment in education and
infrastructure.
Those ideas go back to John Maynard Keynes, and this year alone major books from academic
economists have explored them (Atif Mian and Amir Sufis House of Debt, and the
aforementioned Thomas Pikettys Capital in the Twenty-First Century).
The report itself does not break any major new analytical or empirical ground. It spends many
pages summarizing the findings of various academic and government economists who have
studied inequality and its discontents, and stops short of recommending any radical policy changes
favored by the likes of Mr. Piketty (who is among those cited).
And the S.&P. researchers are relatively limited in their policy prescriptions, avoiding much
discussion of politically explosive debates over marginal tax rates and the scale of the social
welfare system. They instead emphasize the usefulness of investing more heavily in education.
Ms. Bovino and her colleagues find that if the average amount of education of the nations work
force were to increase at the same rate it did during the middle of the 20th century, over the next
five years annual G.D.P. would be 2.4 percent higher.
The S.&P. report is one document from one research group, so one shouldnt make too much of it.
But it is a sign of where things are shifting: Anyone who wants to explain why the United States
economy is evolving the way it is needs to at least wrestle with the implications of a more unequal
society for the economy as a whole.

Revive demonio en Europa

SARCELLES, Francia.- Desde los enclaves inmigrantes de los suburbios


parisinos y la burocrtica ciudad de Bruselas hasta el corazn industrial
de Alemania, el viejo demonio de Europa regres recientemente.
"Muerte a los judos!", gritaban los manifestantes en mtines propalestinos en Blgica y Francia. "Gaseen a los judos", vociferaban los
asistentes a una protesta similar en Alemania.
Las amenazas fueron superadas por peor violencia. Cuatro personas
fueron abatidas a tiros, en mayo, en el Museo Judo en Bruselas. Una
farmacia propiedad de judos en Sarcelles, un suburbio parisino, fue
destruida en julio por jvenes protestando contra las acciones de Israel
en la Franja de Gaza. Se descubrieron bombas incendiarias en una
sinagoga en Wuppertal, Alemania. Un judo suizo fue apaleado con
tubos de fierro.
Tales incidentes tan despertado alarma respecto al surgimiento de lo que el Primer Ministro
Manuel Valls, de Francia, ha llamado un "nuevo antisemitismo" y provocado que los judos se
pregunten si Europa sigue siendo un lugar seguro para ellos. Ms estn emigrando a Israel,
mientras que otros describen zonas "vedadas" en los distritos musulmanes de muchas ciudades
europeas, donde los judos no se atreven a adentrar.
Europa ha visto protestas y estallidos de antisemitismo cada vez que ha hecho erupcin el
conflicto israel-palestino y algunos analistas dicen que la furia de este verano fue un episodio
cclico que, al igual que los anteriores, se desvanecer.
Por ejemplo, algunos sealan que el nmero reportado de incidentes antisemitas este ao en
Francia est muy por debajo de algunos aos en la dcada de los 2000. Sin embargo, tambin hay
preocupacin por lo que algunos ven como un prejuicio antijudo "ms suave" e insidioso que
temen se est permeando al mainstream.
"El temor es que ahora las cosas se estn diciendo abierta y descaradamente, y nadie se inmuta",
dijo Jessica Frommer, de 36 aos, juda seglar en Bruselas. "La Europa moderna est basada en
detener lo que sucedi en la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Y ahora, 70 aos despus, gente parada
cerca del Parlamento Europeo est gritando, 'Muerte a los Judos!'".
Los lderes franceses han condenado frreamente la reciente violencia antisemita.
La Canciller Angela Merkel, de Alemania, encabez un mitin contra el antisemitismo el mes
pasado, en Berln, en la que dijo a los alemanes: "Es nuestro deber nacional y cvico luchar contra
el antisemitismo".

Sin embargo, al tiempo que el apoyo europeo a la causa palestina y su crtica a Israel se han
intensificado, muchos judos describen una confusin en la distincin entre ser anti Israel y ser anti
judo.
Algunos judos hablan de sentirse polticamente aislados, sin un hogar ideolgico. Muchos partidos
polticos de izquierda son anti Israel, muchos partidos de derecha tienen orgenes antisemitas y a
muchos judos que han votado con el Partido Socialista en Francia y Blgica les preocupa que esos
partidos son dbiles y se estn volviendo ms dependientes de los bloques electorales
musulmanes en rpido crecimiento.
Incluso entre quienes se inclinan a condenar al racismo en todas sus formas, luchar contra el
antisemitismo ya no es visto como una prioridad, con los judos frecuentemente percibidos como
privilegiados, en comparacin con los musulmanes y otras minoras confrontadas con la
discriminacin.
"Durante los ltimos 4 o 5 aos, hemos sentido una creciente inseguridad", dijo David Harroch,
quien maneja una librera juda en el Pequeo Jerusaln, el distrito comercial judo en Sarcelles.
"Mis clientes me comentan lo preocupados que estn por el clima, la situacin aqu. Mucha gente
se ha ido".
Los funcionarios israeles dicen que hasta 6 mil judos emigrarn de Francia este ao.
Muchos judos y musulmanes crecieron juntos en Sarcelles sin problemas. A poca distancia de una
de las mezquitas en un centro comercial de la ciudad se encuentra una pequea tienda de
abarrotes propiedad de musulmanes Abdel Badaz, uno de los dueos, recientemente se
encontraba parado detrs del mostrador con un amigo de la infancia, Mickal Berdah, de 36 aos,
un judo cuya familia emigr de Tnez hace dcadas. Ambos criticaron la situacin como obra de
jvenes revoltosos.
"Cuando has crecido en el barrio y conoces a todo mundo, no hay esa clase de odio", dijo Berdah.
El tiroteo en el Museo Judo en Bruselas -y el subsecuente arresto de Mehdi Nemmouche, un
musulmn francs quien pele como jihadista en Siria- atrajo atencin internacional ya que cuatro
personas murieron, incluyendo dos israeles.
Pero ha habido incidentes menos publicitados: el dueo turco de una tienda en Lieja que coloc
un rtulo diciendo que atendera a perros, pero no a judos y una voz en el altavoz de un tren de
pasajeros que anunci una parada como "Auschwitz" y orden a todos los judos que bajaran.
"Empec este verano a ver al mundo de una manera diferente", dijo Marco Mosseri, de 31 aos,
un italiano que trabaja en la industria automotriz en Bruselas. "Tena miedo. Pas varias noches sin
dormir. Por primera vez, estaba pensando que quizs podra morir a causa de mi religin".
El 14 de septiembre, mientras personas se reunan para dedicar una placa en un monumento a las
vctimas del Holocausto, jvenes lanzaron piedras y botellas hasta que lleg la polica. Tres das

despus, estall un incendio en un piso superior de una sinagoga en el distrito Anderlecht de la


Ciudad.
Generaciones de inmigrantes musulmanes y sus descendientes hoy representan
aproximadamente una cuarta parte de la poblacin de Bruselas. La comunidad juda es pequea,
de unos 20 mil integrantes, la mayora judos seglares y asimilados como Mosseri.
Un reporte reciente de dos organizaciones judas europeas seal que el 40 por ciento de los
judos europeos ocultan el hecho de serlo. Algunos han dejado de portar collares con la Estrella de
David o no dejan que sus hijos vistan camisetas para un campamento de verano judo en
autobuses o trenes pblicos.
Y desde el inicio del conflicto en la Franja de Gaza este verano, muchos describen a los medios
sociales, particularmente Facebook, como un pantano de odio. "Tengo amigos que jams se
interesan en la poltica y todos los das estn subiendo cosas sobre Gaza", dijo Frommer. "Parece
una obsesin. Es tu obsesin porque quieres salvar a nios o porque tienes un problema con los
judos?".
En Hungra, el ascenso de Jobbik, un partido de extrema derecha, ha despertado preocupaciones
de que las opiniones antisemitas estn volvindose mainstream.
En Italia, se culp a activistas de extrema derecha por una racha de graffiti antijudo. En Roma, un
grupo de extrema derecha distribuy volantes en agosto que llamaba a un boicot de por lo menos
40 tiendas propiedad de judos.
Michal Privot, director de la Red Europea contra el Racismo, dijo que culpar slo a la periferia
islmica por el antisemitismo desestimaba estudios acadmicos que muestran lo arraigado que
est entre todos los belgas, as como otros europeos.
"Bsicamente, lo que se tiene es una oportunidad de oro para que la periferia de derecha culpe de
ello a los musulmanes y se declare inocente", dijo Privot.
Los dispositivos empleados en el intento por incendiar una sinagoga en Wuppertal, Alemania, no
encendieron, pero tuvieron un impacto.
"Para los judos en Alemania, en especial, esto tiene un significado muy, muy profundo", dijo
Artour Gourari, empresario local y miembro de la sinagoga. "Nuevamente arden en la noche las
sinagogas en Alemania".
Los lderes religiosos de la Ciudad reaccionaron con rapidez. Los imams y ministros cristianos
rpidamente acudieron al edificio para ofrecer su apoyo. Ms de 300 personas asistieron a una
reunin de paz al da siguiente.
"La gente estaba impactada", dijo Samir Bouaissa, un lder musulmn local. "Una amenaza contra
una de nuestras casa religiosas es una amenaza contra todos nosotros".

A principios de este mes, los lderes religiosos de la Ciudad recibieron otro impacto: un pequeo
grupo de hombres camin por un barrio musulmn, sermoneando a los jvenes y vistiendo
chaquetas naranjas que decan "Polica de la Shariah".
En aos recientes, Leonid Goldberg, el lder comunitario de la sinagoga de Wuppertal, ha utilizado
una celebracin de Rosh Hashana para advertir sobre el creciente antisemitismo entre los
musulmanes extremistas en la Ciudad. "Nadie quera or eso", dijo.

20/10/2014

Chinas Dangerous Game - Howard W. French - The Atlantic

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Chinas Dangerous Game


T H E C OUN T R Y 'S IN T EN SIF Y IN G EF F OR T S T O R EDR A W MA R IT IME BOR DER S H A VE IT S N EIG H BOR S, A N D T H E
U. S. , F EA R IN G W A R . BUT DOES T H E A G G R ESSION R EF L EC T A G OVER N MEN T G R OW IN G IN P OW ER OR ON E
F A C IN G A C R ISIS OF L EG IT IMA C Y ?

By Howard W. French
In the tranquil harbors that dot the coastline of Palawan, a sword-shaped island in the western
Philippines, the ferry boats are crowded with commuters traveling back and forth between sleepy
townships, and with vendors bearing fresh produce. On Sundays, they fill with people dressed up for
church. From nearby berths, fishermen set out to sea for days at a time aboard their bancas, the
simple, low-slung catamarans they have favored for generations.
Just inland from the shore, narrow, crowded streets thrum with the put-put of motorized rickshaws.
The signs on the small shops and restaurants that line them are almost as likely to be in Korean,
Vietnamese, or Chinese as in the Filipino language Tagalog.
The shore-hugging seas of this part of the world, from the southern tip of the Korean peninsula to the
Indonesian archipelago, have always served as a kind of open freeway for culture, trade, and ceaseless
migration. In past times, historians of the region went so far as to call the long waterway that
encompasses both the East China Sea and the South China Sea the Mediterranean of East Asia. But
more recently, it has begun to earn more-ominous comparisons to another part of Europe, a
fragmented region that was the famous trigger for the First World War: the Balkans.
A mere 25 miles off the shore of Palawan sits the frontier of an increasingly dangerous and
unpredictable struggle. Its origin lies in Chinas intensifying efforts to remake the maritime borders of
this region, just as surely as Russia is remaking Europes political map in places like Crimea and
Ukraineonly here the scale is vastly larger, the players more numerous, and the complexity greater.
Moving with ever greater boldness, Beijing has begun pressing claims to ownership of more than 80
percent of the South China Sea, waters enclosed by what it calls its nine-dash line, a relic of the
countrys early-20th-century nationalist era, when it was first sketched to indicate Chinas view of its
traditional prerogatives. The line has no international standing and had gone largely unremarked upon
until China recently revived it. It now figures in all Chinese maps. Since 2012, it has been embossed in
new passports issued to the countrys citizens.
Also known as the cows tongue, for the way it dangles from Chinas southern coast, the line encloses a
region through which roughly 40 percent of the worlds trade and a great majority of Chinas imported
oil passes, via the Strait of Malacca, as through the eye of a needle. An observation from the 16th
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20/10/2014

Chinas Dangerous Game - Howard W. French - The Atlantic

centuryWhoever is lord of Malacca has his hand on the throat of Venicestill conveys the regions
maritime importance.
Residents of outposts like Palawan, which sits along the eastern edge of the nine-dash line, already feel
besieged. Fishermen who enter waters that their forebears freely traversed for generations nowadays
find themselves at risk in a disputed no-mans-land. The locals are afraid to go out to the west because
there are a lot of Chinese boatsmilitary vessels, said Edwin Seracarpio, a 52-year-old boat owner
whom I found one bright morning waiting port-side for the return of one of his crews. The Chinese say
it has always been their property.
If China can impose its will in the South China Sea, at least five rival claimantsall much smaller,
weaker Asian stateswill be limited to a narrow band of the sea along their coastlines. China would
gain greater security for its crucial supply lines of oil and other commodities; exclusive access to rich
fishing areas and potentially vast undersea oil deposits; a much larger buffer against what it regards as
U.S. naval intrusions; and, not least, the prestige and standing it has long sought, becoming in effect
the Pacifics hegemon, and positioning itself to press its decades-old demand that Taiwan come under
its control. Arguably, it would achieve the greatest territorial expansion by any power since imperial
Japans annexation of large swaths of Asia in the first half of the 20th century.

Earlier this year, a flotilla of Chinese ships, reportedly including naval vessels, steamed into waters off Vietnams coast to deploy an oilexploration rig, claiming rights to the area. Above, Chinese coast-guard vessels give chase to a Vietnamese boat that had come within
10 nautical miles of the rig. (Martin Petty/Reuters)

Chinas expansion has long been expected. Many observers have said a new cold war, in which a rising
China gradually seeks to push the U.S. military out of the western Pacific, is inevitable. Any such
conflict would of course be dangerous whenever it happened, because the United States is likely to
resist these efforts strenuously. But whats surprisingand worrisomeis how the timeline for this
conflict, or at least its beginning stage, has seemed to accelerate over roughly the past two years.
Suddenly and aggressively, China has begun advancing its military interests throughout the region,
catching its neighbors and the United States off guard.
Since mid-2013, China has seemed, at first glance, to almost indiscriminately pick fights all the way
around its eastern perimeter. That July, a group of Chinese warships, setting out from a northern port,
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circumnavigated Japan for the first time. Beijing seemed to be sending two messages: that it was ready
to stand up to its historical rival, and also that China would no longer be contained within what it calls
the First Island Chain, the long series of islands that stretches down Chinas coast, preventing easy
naval access to the open Pacific.
Just before Thanksgiving last year, Beijing made a surprise announcement of an air-defense
identification zone, claiming navigational control of the skies over most of the water that lies between
China and Japan, including not only areas claimed by Japan but also areas claimed by South Korea,
with which it has usually enjoyed smooth relations. The Pentagon, which sends surveillance aircraft
through this zone regularly, immediately said it would ignore Chinas assertion; however, the United
States did advise commercial airlines to observe the new Chinese rules.
Just days after the air-defense zone was announced, Chinas lone aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, a
freshly refurbished ship purchased secondhand from Ukraine in 1998, embarked on its first voyage
with a full naval strike group in tow. It was almost a textbook reenactment of the gunboat diplomacy
practiced by Western nations a century ago. With an escort of two destroyers and two antisubmarine
frigates, the Liaoning steamed directly for the hotly contested South China Sea. In early December,
before it could even reach the disputed zone near the Philippines and Vietnam, one of the
accompanying Chinese vessels engaged in a dangerous showdown with an American vessel, the Aegis
cruiser Cowpens.
The American ship was tracking the Liaonings deployment, in international waters, when the Chinese
ship abruptly turned into the Cowpens path and stopped in front of the ship, forcing the Cowpens to
make a radical maneuver to avoid a collision. According to a state-run Chinese newspaper, the reason
for the ships highly unusual failure to give way was that the Cowpens had violated the Chinese
convoys inner defense layer, a hitherto unheardof exclusion zone apparently covering more than
2,800 square milesequivalent to about half the size of Connecticut. After the incident, the U.S. Navy
took pains to emphasize that the American avoidance maneuver should not be seen as a precedent.
The U.S. military, my forces in the Pacific AORArea of Responsibilitywill operate freely in
international waters, said Admiral Samuel J. Locklear, the head of the Pacific Command. Thats the
bottom line. We will operate there And thats the message to all the militaries that are operating in
that region.
In January 2014, a different Chinese naval group patrolled the James Shoal, an area claimed by both
Taiwan and Malaysia, where it held a highly publicized deck-top ceremony in which sailors trumpeted
an oath of determination to safeguard Chinas maritime interests.
In February, three Chinese warships patrolled the Indian Ocean, passing for the first time through the
narrow Sunda Strait between the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra, and eventually
maneuvering, without advance notice, off the Australian territory of Christmas Island. China,
Australias biggest trading partner, is displeased that this historical American ally agreed in 2011 to
allow the United States to begin rotating as many as 2,500 marines through a training base in northern
Australia, as part of the Obama administrations announced pivot to Asia, a shift of American
military assets to the Pacific, and a reflection of the regions increasing centrality to the global
economy.
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Shen Dingli, a prominent Chinese security analyst, explained the patrol this way to a reporter for The
Sydney Morning Herald: America has interfered in mainland Chinas unification with Taiwan, and its
region-based alliances have served its purpose of military intervention. Australia is on the U.S.
strategic chessboard for such a purpose Australia shall not expect to be entitled to follow the U.S. to
threaten China without hurting itself.
The ensuing months have all maintained a similar rhythm, with Chinese provocations, if anything,
growing stronger. In early May, some 80 Chinese ships, reportedly including seven navy vessels,
accompanied a $1 billion deep-sea oil-exploration rig as it was towed just 120 nautical miles off the
main coast of Vietnam and readied for operation. China claimed that the rig was being deployed within
its own territorial seas, even though Vietnams coast is closerand even though the location is well
within 200 nautical miles of Vietnam, a boundary line accorded to all coastal countries as an exclusive
economic zone. Jousting ensued, including Chinese ships use of water cannons to ward off their rivals,
and the ramming of ships on both sides. In the end, faced with vastly superior Chinese strength,
Vietnam was essentially reduced to exasperated diplomatic protests. (In mid-July, China announced
that the rig had completed its mission and would move to Chinas Hainan Island.)
Throughout the year, China has also employed less militaristic but no less brazen tactics to assert
control in the Pacificmost notably by building artificial islands in the contested waters off the Spratly
Islands. On these new islands and on other remote outcroppings, China has constructed bases and
dwellings to house Chinese soldiers. It seemingly hopes to use its presence on the islands to support
and underscore its claims to the waters that surround them.
However willy-nilly these provocations may at first appear, the struggle that China has launched for
dominance of the western Pacific is anything but indiscriminate. It is best understood, rather, as a
densely scripted theatrical production in several acts. As long as China has its way, the early phases will
likely be played out mostly in the South China Sea, where the country enjoys a huge and growing power
disparity compared with much smaller statesVietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei,
Indonesia. But the struggle will eventually come to more squarely include Japan and its perimeter, if
miscalculation does not bring that conflict to a boil sooner. Over the past year, I have traveled the
region extensively, talking with key diplomats and military thinkers among Chinas neighborsthe
ones now scrambling to respond to Chinas incursionsto get their sense of how things might play out,
and how the United States might become involved, wittingly or unwittingly. What follows is their
perception of the chessboard and likely play in the Pacificand of where things might take a dangerous
turn.

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The South China Sea is home to many overlapping claims of maritime rights, as shown on the map above. Since 2009, China has
asserted exclusive rights to more than 80 percent of the sea, enclosed by a line (in red) sometimes called the cows tongue. The line
has no international standing.

Killing a Chicken to Scare the Monkeys


Chinas main frontline opponents in the South China Sea are Vietnam and the Philippines. Analysts in
both countries strongly fear that Beijing will seek to make an example of at least one of them, following
the venerable Chinese adage that one kills a chicken to scare the monkeys. The question would seem to
be which neighbor will serve as the sacrificial chicken; which country China will bully and humiliate as
an object lesson to other neighbors that resistance is futile and decisive help from the Americans is
unlikely to come.
Today, Vietnam is the only country in the region that seeks to impose serious limits on Chinas
maritime ambitions but does not have a defense agreement with the United States, making it an
attractive target. On the other hand, even if it is scarcely more than one-30th of Chinas size, Vietnam
has a redoubtable martial culture, as the United States learned in the 1960s. The Chinese, too, should
be familiar with the disposition toward resistance: Vietnam repelled a Chinese invasion of the countrys
northern borderlands in 1979, leaving as many as 20,000 Chinese soldiers dead. Yet this incident has
long since been censored out of Chinas national consciousness. And just as they did at the beginning of
that assiduously forgotten war, outlets of the Chinese state media have spoken recently of the need to
give Vietnam a lesson it deserves, or to make it pay an unaffordable price.
Although the two countries are nominal ideological allies, their relationship through the centuries has
involved many waves of invasion and subjugation, deeply coloring the attitudes of each toward the
other. Invasion is in their blood, and resistance is in our blood is how a Vietnamese political analyst
summed up the countries two millennia of bitterly shared history for The New York Times in May.
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No one among the score of diplomats and officials I met in Vietnam has any illusion of prevailing in a
symmetrical clash with China, naval or otherwise. But Vietnam has at times found unconventional
means to overcome bigger and more heavily armed adversaries. This history of defying the odds has
fired a mood of self-confidence in Hanoi that sometimes smacks of arrogance.
We are a very small country, but every time China has wanted to use force against Vietnam, we have
stopped them, a prominent Vietnamese military analyst told me in Kuala Lumpur early this year. We
met in a formal reception room in his countrys embassy, furnished with a springy couch, a noisy air
conditioner, and fading revolutionary art. High on the wall, in pride of place, hung a portrait of a
smiling Ho Chi Minh. In the Malvinas conflict, Argentina fired only three Exocet missiles; one of them
sunk a British ship, he said. If the Chinese come with Liaoning, we will defeat them.
Hanoi recently took delivery of two silent Russian-built, Kilo-class submarinesfour more are on the
wayand the military analyst unambiguously explained such an expensive purchase for a country with
a per capita GDP of only about $1,900: his country needs to be able to sink Chinese ships in order to
raise the cost of Chinese aggression to unacceptable levels. Little by little we are loosening the noose
that China has put around his countrys neck, he told me.
Vietnam has to weigh its response to Chinese provocation with great care, given the two countries
increasing economic integration. In 2012, at a particularly tense moment with Manila, China
suspended imports of bananas from the Philippines, causing huge quantities of the crop to rot on
docks. And as soon as tensions rose once the oil rig had been towed into Vietnamese waters, trade
between the two countries declined sharply, with Chinese state media warning of possible long-term
economic consequences.
To the Vietnamese, the oil-rig incident did not reach a threshold that warranted war. Multiple
Vietnamese officials told me that a Chinese bid to seize disputed islands from Vietnam (as it did in
1974 and 1988) probably would. The oil rigs deployment fomented gigantic protests in Vietnam, where
large public demonstrations are rare. On the first day, May 11, hundreds of people turned out
peacefully in Hanoi, carrying banners with slogans like Protect the nation. Over the next several days,
large crowds converged on several industrial parks, attacking Chinese businesses. Vietnamese analysts
said that the unrest, in which numerous protesters died, carried a sharp warning that the states
legitimacy might crumble if it failed to strike back after any new Chinese island grab.
Many Western analysts view Chinas approach in the Pacific as a sort of calibrated incrementalism,
whereby a Chinese presence and de facto Chinese rights in disputed areas are built up gradually, in a
series of provocations that are individually small enough to make forceful resistance politically
difficult, but that collectively establish precedents and, over time, norms. The Chinese, in fact, have a
name for this approach: the cabbage strategy. An area is slowly surrounded by individual leavesa
fishing boat here, a coast-guard vessel thereuntil its wrapped in layers, like a cabbage. (Salami
slicing is another metaphor for the approach.)
Surely the Chinese would be satisfied if Vietnam simply accepted their slow expansion of maritime
rights and territory. But the tempo and tenor of Chinas recent actions suggest that Beijing might now
also be happy with a contest of strength against Hanoi, especially if Vietnam were perceived as the
country that struck first. This, ultimately, is how Chinas positioning of its oil rig, backed by an armada,
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should be understood: it would help legitimize Chinese claims if Vietnam did nothing, and would offer
an opportunity to loudly squash the bug in some limited battleand perhaps to impose crippling
economic sanctionsif Hanoi lashed out.
Indeed, given Beijings great advantage of force, some Vietnamese officials have recently warned that
although military action by their side is emotionally attractive, and perhaps even inevitable, it may do
nothing more than spring a Chinese trap. If the question of standing up to China becomes too tightly
bound with regime survival, all that might be accomplished is public failure and, ironically, regime
change in Vietnam.

To maintain a claim to the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, several Filipino soldiers live aboard the Sierra Madre, which is grounded
there. Chinese ships regularly seek to block the vessels resupply. (Eric DeCastro/Reuters)

If China is looking to make an example of a smaller rival in the South China Seato show that the bully
will most certainly get its way, that appeasement is better than resistancethe Philippines is the other
likely target. Until very recently, the Philippines stood out for its weakness. Of the countrys once-large
fleet of C130 transport planes, for instance, only two or three still function. For 20 years, the
Philippines has badly neglected its military, which was never that strong to begin with.
Beijing has busily begun changing the status quo in the disputed waters of the South China Sea. On
contested islands, it is building naval piers, landing strips, and even schools for the children of Chinese
military personnel. In tandem, it has used surveillance ships and nominally private fishing boats to
more or less permanently surround disputed shoals and shallows. The fishing boats are outfitted with
GPS and radios, and their captains receive subsidies for their role as an early warning system to Beijing
about the movements of other countries vessels. China responds to most incursions into the disputed
seas with its increasingly sophisticated and muscular coast guard, to avoid the appearance of
militarization. The Philippines, like most states in the region, cannot match the capability of these
vessels without using navy ships, which would look to the outside world like conflict escalation. For
good measure, Chinese naval vessels often hover in the background, there to send a message and to be
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available in an emergency.
Manilas counterefforts to anchor its claims to the small islands and shoals off its coast have been
equally clever, but ultimately reflect desperation. Most famously, in 1999, the country grounded a
rusted-out ship long ago inherited from the United States, known as the Sierra Madre, just off the
Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratlys, 105 nautical miles west of Palawan. The sailors billeted aboard
the disintegrating ship literally embody Manilas case for sovereignty over the shoal. Their survival,
however, depends on the outcome of an increasingly tenuous game of cat and mouse with the Chinese
navy as it seeks to interdict their resupply.
In January, Gilberto G. B. Asuque, then the Philippines assistant secretary for ocean concerns, greeted
me in a conference room filled with large nautical maps in the Philippines foreign ministry. The
Chinese keep telling us to remove our boat, he said, referring to the Sierra Madre. When I asked him
whether his country is poorly prepared for a potential showdown, he replied, Isnt that a little
obvious? Asuque went on to say that out of necessity, the Philippines has elected to play out its
conflict with Beijing in the public arena whenever possible. If China resorts to force, he reasons, the
international community will likely rally in support of the embattled underdog.
The country has embraced the same philosophy in pursuing a case against China under the UN
Convention of the Law of the Sea. The United Nations has no power to force China to comply with any
ruling, but as the weaker nation, the Philippines is counting on international opprobriumbasically
shameto force China to observe a convention it ratified in 1996. We have everything to gain, and
nothing to lose, Harry Roque, a law professor at the University of the Philippines who helped
persuade the government to pursue its case against China, told me.
At Oyster Bay, on Palawans west-central coast, the Filipino government recently broke ground on a
new naval base, in the belated hopes of pushing back against its giant and determined neighbor. Just in
the past year or so, Manila has hastily purchased two used frigates from Italy, a variety of attack
helicopters and other aircraft, and a fleet of coast-guard patrol vessels. President Benigno Aquino III
speaks often of the acquisitions, explaining them as a bid to ensure that his country has at least a
minimal deterrent capability. There is no mistaking that he has China in mind.
Most important, in April, the Philippines signed a mutual-defense agreement with the United States,
designed, it seems, to give Beijing pause. A month after the signing, in a speech at West Point,
President Obama drove home the message behind the agreement. Let me repeat a principle I put
forward at the outset of my presidency: the United States will use military force, unilaterally if
necessary, when our core interests demand itwhen our people are threatened, when our livelihoods
are at stake, when the security of our allies is in danger.
One might think the agreement and Obamas remarks would deter China, and that is unquestionably
the consensus view in the United Statesbut from the Pacific, the deterrent value of the agreement
looks less certain. In fact, a former Filipino national-security adviser told me that because
gamesmanshipthe goal being to cut the United States down to size in what China regards as its own
backyardseems to be one major impetus behind Chinas new assertiveness, China might now view the
Philippines as a more attractive target. Now that Manila has explicit American backing, finding a way
to humiliate the Philippines would allow Beijing to prove a larger point. This thought was captured
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vividly in recent comments by Major General Zhu Chenghu, a professor at Chinas National Defense
University. Speaking with a Hong Kongbased TV station in June, he warned American allies in Asia
that the United States had become a paper tiger. He likened Washingtons response to the Ukraine
crisis to erectile dysfunction.
From Chinas perspective, the perfect scenario might be for the inexperienced Filipino armed forces to
venture the use of their newly acquired hardware, prompting a limited military encounter that would
display Chinese superiority and enable China to make a new or stronger territorial claim to a few small
atolls in the areaperhaps in hydrocarbon-rich waters. The United States might find it difficult to
respond satisfactorily, given the stakes. To some elites in China, the opportunity to reveal the United
States as an unreliable alliance partner across the Pacific is surely alluring.
If the risks of American humiliation in backing (or failing to back) a weak country like the Philippines
are high, though, the risks for China are also considerable. Chinas naval history since the 19th century
reads like a litany of failures, first against European powers and then against a rising Japan, which
decisively defeated its neighbor in 1895. Any failure to prevail over the Philippines would constitute an
embarrassment that could potentially destabilize the Communist Party. And Washington might also
call Beijings bluff, defending the Philippines if, for example, China tried to evict the Filipino soldiers
from their rust-bucket outpost, the Sierra Madre. This might reveal China, instead, to be the paper
tiger.

Filipino cadets practice amphibious landing. (Romeo Ranoco/Reuters)

The High-Stakes Game


A few hundred miles to the north of the Philippines, China is in a showdown with Japan over a small
and until recently obscure group of barren islands and rocks known in Japanese as the Senkakus,
which were under Tokyos uncontested control from their annexation in 1895 until Japans defeat in
World War II. Despite the seeming insignificance of the territoryno one lives therethis struggle has
much higher stakes than the skirmishes to the south. It is here that the future of East Asia may well be
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determined. The region has never peacefully accommodated the coexistence of two major Asian
powers, and as China pursues world-power status, Japan has made clear its intention to constrain it.
The long Japanese archipelago keeps China bottled up in coastal waters. Control of the Senkaku
Islands (and potentially of the Ryukyu Islands, which sit southeast of the Senkakus) is seen in Beijing
as a key to gaining direct, unfettered access to the open oceanand, significantly, as a stepping stone
toward taking over Taiwan, a fundamental aim for decades.
China did not contest Japans sovereignty over the Senkakus, which it calls the Diaoyu Islands, until
1971, when the United States, relinquishing the last vestiges of its occupation of the Japanese
archipelago, returned the islands to Tokyos jurisdiction. In what is unlikely to be a coincidence, just
two years before China began making its claims, the United Nations published the results of a
geophysical survey of the area, concluding that the continental shelf between Taiwan and Japan may
be one of the most prolific oil reservoirs in the world.
In 1978, after several years of sporadic verbal jousting, the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping told his
Japanese counterpart that the two countries should defer the question of ownership of the islands to a
future generation. Tensions resurfaced sharply in 2010, 13 years after Dengs death, when a Chinese
fishing trawler rammed a Japanese coast-guard vessel in nearby waters. Japans arrest of the captain
unleashed nationalist passions in China.
Ever since, China has frequently sent coast-guard ships into the 12 nautical miles of territorial waters
surrounding the Senkakus, in a blunt challenge to Japanese authority. From time to time, the militaries
of the two countries directly engage each other. In December 2012, three months after the Japanese
government nationalized some of the Senkakus (the land had previously been owned by a Japanese
citizen), a Chinese reconnaissance aircraft entered the airspace above the islands, prompting Japan to
scramble fighter jets from nearby Okinawa. A month later, in a move that naval experts said could
easily have led to an exchange of live fire, a Chinese frigate locked its fire-control radar on the Japanese
destroyer Ydachi. This June, military aircraft of the two countries reportedly flew within as little as
100 feet of each other above the disputed waters, during perilous maneuvers for which each side
blamed the other. When asked, in a poll conducted this summer, how the territorial dispute should be
resolved, 64 percent of Chinese respondents said China should strengthen its effective control over
the territory. More than half said they expected a military conflict with Japan at some point in the
future, although only 11 percent expected it within the next few years.
In December 2012, Japan returned to power its most nationalistic prime minister in a generation,
Shinzo Abe, who increased Japanese defense spending for the first time in years and promised to revise
the constitution, which bans the use of force in disputes, in order to legally field a national army. Abe
and many of his conservative associates have shown a penchant for inflaming Chinese passions by
seeming to minimize Japanese atrocities during World War II, such as the sexual enslavement of
Chinese women by the Japanese army. Abe has a powerful personal connection to this ugly history,
from which he has never distanced himself: his grandfather Nobusuke Kishi was a top civilian official
in Japanese-occupied Manchuria. Last December, he became the first serving Japanese prime minister
in years to visit Tokyos Yasukuni Shrine, where convicted Japanese war criminals are commemorated.
Abes unapologetic relationship with this history has made top-level diplomacy with China impossible.

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Abe has spoken openly about standing up to China. In one of his first big defense measures, he
approved the creation of a force modeled after the U.S. Marines. Tokyo has even gotten into the
budding regional aircraft-carrier race, by building and recently commissioning its own light carrier, the
Izumo, which for now deploys only helicopters. Japan has also announced plans to increase its fleet of
highly advanced submarines from 16 to 22 vessels. Eyebrows were raised in Washington last year when
it was reported that Japan might shoot down any Chinese drones violating its airspace.
On a recent visit to Japan, I traveled to one of the places where the nation is expanding its military
presence, Yonaguni, a tranquil jewel of an island with only two main roads, located at the southern end
of the Ryukyu island chain. There, on high ground, under an old lighthouse where a local breed of
stunted horses graze, one is just out of visual range of the Senkakus. Most people here dont want a
base on this island, a resident told me. But for quick deployment, there is surely no better location.
Japans rationale in establishing the outpost, as with most of its recent strengthening efforts, is that
sooner or later China will try to take the Senkakus by force. Among other benefits, control of the
islands would give China a platform for striking American ships setting out from bases in Okinawa,
preventing them from approaching China or from intervening in a conflict over control of Taiwan,
which sits close by.
Early this year, speaking at a conference in San Diego, the director of intelligence and information
operations for the United States Pacific Fleet, Captain James Fanell, argued that Beijing was already
preparing its forces to be able to conduct a short, sharp war to destroy Japanese forces in the East
China Sea, followed with what can only be expected, a seizure of the Senkakus or even the southern
Ryukyus. The Pentagon eventually distanced itself from Fanells comments, which some other
regional experts have called alarmist. Whatever Chinas true intentions, though, Fanells remarks
conveyed a strong sense of American foreboding about the mounting tensions between Japan and
China.
If hostilities broke out today, many analysts believe that Japan would prevail. In addition to their topdrawer American weapons systems, Japanese forces benefit from years of joint training alongside their
American counterparts, and are probably more battle-ready than the navy of the Peoples Liberation
Army.
For that reason, among others, prominent Japanese analysts feel it is unlikely that China would be
interested in a major frontal clash anytime soon. They know that we would beat them, one leading
national-security thinker told me flatly. But he and other analysts generally believe that China will
continue to provoke close calls and perhaps even small skirmishes with the Japanese military
harassing Japanese aircraft, ramming coast-guard vessels. The goal, they say, is subtle, and very much
part of a long game. It involves public opinion, in Japan and in the United States.
As Japan and China conduct increasingly risky sorties and maneuvers in and above the rough seas
between them, the likelihood of shots being fired rises, and with it the chance of casualties. Whichever
side appears responsible for any clash will see its international image badly tarnished, and will face
strong pressure to appease. If Tokyo is perceived as the aggressor, or even merely reckless, Japanese
analysts fear an immense backlash, at home and abroad. Public opinion in Japan, with its deep
currents of pacifism, could turn on Abe, or on a future government, as civilians panic at the thought of
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their leaders steering them into war with their giant neighbor.
Potentially even more damaging, in the eyes of Japanese analysts, would be the response of the
American public. Since 1996, the Japanese foreign ministry has polled Americans directly about their
support for U.S. defense commitments to Japan. Last year, two out of three respondents gave their
support, but that was the lowest level of support since the poll began. When asked which country in
Asia was the most important partner of the United States, more Americans said China than Japan.
Particularly at a time of American war weariness, a violent skirmish between Japan and China over
what appear from afar to be a jumble of meaningless rocks would provoke a profoundly unsettling
question: Is the United States really prepared to fight China, and defend Japan, over an obscure
territorial issue?
Accidents will happen, Narushige Michishita, the director of the security-and-international-studies
program at Japans National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, told me flatly, in Tokyo. We have to
formulate our policy on the assumption that some bluffing contest will eventually go wrong, resulting
in dead soldiers. The focus has to be on minimizing the damage. Many Japanese analysts are
convinced that China is trying to goad Japanthrough persistent, carefully calibrated provocations
into overreaction, and will continue to do so.
If the United States were to waver in its commitments to Tokyo, or to balk altogether, Beijing will have
gone a long way toward achieving perhaps its biggest long-standing objective: undermining the alliance
between America and Japan. Washington would lose credibility throughout the region, and nation
after nation, possibly even including Japan, would begin making new calculations aimed at
accommodating China.
Here again, though, the opportunities for miscalculation are abundant, and may well proliferate in the
coming years. Should China first successfully face down one of its adversaries in the South China Sea,
for instancethe Philippines, sayits military and political leaders might feel emboldened. And yet in
that same scenario, the onus on Washington to strongly support Japan, lest it see its entire alliance
structure in Asia crumble, would be exceptionally heavy. Washington would have multiple options in
any clash between China and Japan, ranging from direct hostile engagement to intense support
through real-time satellite and radar intelligence, logistical help, and even interception of Chinese
missiles. Such a varied menu might allow the United States to calibrate its military response to any
hostility and, in conjunction with skillful diplomacy, to smother the conflict while retaining its
standing. History suggests that such technically demanding dances can also go badly wrong.

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Vietnamese coast-guard crewmen plot coordinates. (Martin Petty/Reuters)

Tying Down the Giant


Chinas pushiness has commanded the attention of states around its entire perimeter. Many have
begun to form unlikely partnerships with the same interest in mind: restraining Beijing.
Referring to one of these new relationships, a Vietnamese diplomat in Southeast Asia told me drolly
that India is prepared to fight China to the last Vietnamese, meaning it would bankroll Vietnam as a
proxy in any conflict with the Chinese. Delhi has already agreed to train Vietnamese sailors in
submarine warfare and has offered a $100 million line of credit to Hanoi to buy military equipment,
including maritime patrol vessels. Thats not much by the standards of regional military spending, but
it is likely only a first step.
This is also probably the most salient goal of the American pivot: thickening the web among Chinas
wary neighbors, who have a shared interest in keeping China from using force to upend the existing
order. Japan excepted for the time being, none of these countries has any prospect of prevailing toe-totoe with China, and some of them are frankly Lilliputian. In concert, however, even if not in outright
alliance, they may be able to effectively tie down the giant and constrain it to a mutually acceptable set
of international rules.
In any event, as the India-Vietnam example vividly illustrates, Chinas neighbors are not exactly
waiting for the United States to show them the way. Japan is contributing enthusiastically to a
maritime defense buildup in both Vietnam and the Philippines. Even South Korea, usually among the
most solicitous of Chinas neighbors, is now selling materiel to the Philippines.
Ultimately, intra-regional balancing like this probably offers the best prospect for avoiding a direct
face-off between China and the United States in the western Pacificand perhaps the best prospect of
peace overall. In his 2012 book, The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy, Edward N. Luttwak writes
of this weblike approach to counterbalancing as one of the most fundamental reflexes in the realm of
strategy. Using a World War Iera analogy to describe what is taking place in the Pacific, he says, The
German action in building oceanic warships resulted, not in the acquisition of oceanic naval power in
an otherwise unchanged world, but in a global strategic transformation that ensured the ultimate
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nullity of German naval power, and then Germanys defeat. Likening todays fast-rising China to the
fast-rising Germany of a century ago, he continues, Only a militarily nonthreatening and
diplomatically conciliatory grand strategy could have served Germany wellaccelerating its peaceful
rise to new heights of cultured prosperity. This, Luttwak writes, is perfectly obvious in retrospect. But
by 1907, and indeed long before, that best strategy had become simply unthinkable for Germanys
political elite.
The more China sees a coordinated response to its military buildup and naval forays, the more likely it
might be to turn toward diplomacy, and to stop seeking overwhelming superiority in the region. And
yet, of course, that is not the only possibility, as Luttwaks analogy makes plain. The biggest question
today is whether or not Chinas political elite under Xi Jinping, an unusually assertive new leader, has
crossed a line similar to the one that German elites did a century ago, or may soon cross it.
The Roots of Chinese Aggression
For decades, beginning with Deng Xiaoping, Chinas geostrategic watchword was hide your
capabilities and bide your time. Dengs dictum has never been explicitly revoked, but Chinas actions
since mid-2013 clearly show that his approach has been cast aside. Hawks within the Chinese military
establishment have increasingly touted the need for much greater assertiveness, to the point of
bellicosity. In one of many recent examples, Liu Yazhou, a political commissar at the Peoples
Liberation Army National Defense University, sounded something like a strategist from Chinese
antiquity when he said in a magazine interview: An army that fails to achieve victory is nothing. Those
borders where our army has won victories are more peaceful and stable, but those where we were too
timid have more disputes.
Although Liu has been written off by some as outside the mainstream, Xi Jinping has himself made a
point of publicly celebrating weapons development and encouraging military preparedness. On his very
first trip outside of Beijing after taking office in November 2012, he visited troops in the Guangzhou
Military Region, reportedly telling them, Being able to fight and win wars is the soul of a strong army.
In August 2013, he toured the Liaoning aircraft carrier before it began operations and exhorted the
ships commander to improve its combat readiness. During a lecture last fall in Moscow, Shi Yinhong, a
prominent Chinese historian of diplomacy, summarized the change of direction under Xi, noting the
new leaders frequent use of the theme of the great resurgence of the Chinese nation; a sharp
decrease in the use of the once-favored phrase peaceful development; and the dropping altogether of
Dengs notion of taking a low profile.
Chinas goal of regional supremacy is not hard to understand, and as Chinas economic and military
means catch up to its ambitions, we might only be entering the beginning stages of a long and
dangerous period in which China seeks to assert itself more and more strongly. John J. Mearsheimer,
the prominent realist and University of Chicago political scientist, has been predicting that China will
not rise peacefully at least since his 2001 book, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. In a debate last
fall with Yan Xuetong, a well-known Chinese international-relations scholar, Mearsheimer said:
Should we expect China to have its own Monroe Doctrine? Of course we should. But that doesnt
mean the United States will accommodate one. Mearsheimer argues that China is making a big mistake
in the timing of its recent push, taking on America prematurely, rather than waiting another decade or
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two, when Chinas relative strength might presumably be much greater, and the possibility of a fait
accompli higher.
Many analysts peg the countrys recent change in outlook to a surge of confidence, even triumphalism,
in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, which delivered a body blow to most Western economies
but left China relatively unscathed. Subsequent events, such as the false line in the sand that the White
House drew over the use of chemical weapons in Syria and Washingtons inability to prevent Russia
from annexing Crimea, may have contributed to a sense in Beijing that American energies abroad are
flagging.
And yet, paradoxically, Chinas new behavior appears to be a reflection not only of rising capability or
self-confidence, but also of rising insecurity among the Communist Party leadership, whose legitimacy
in the countrys post-ideological era has always rested on the narrow twin pillars of strong economic
performance and nationalism. The explosion of social media in China has amplified the voice of
populist hard-liners who constantly demand that their country stand tall and not shrink from using
force. This seems to have instilled fear in the leadership of looking weak. Asked if it were possible for a
Chinese leader to speak publicly of compromise with Chinas neighbors, Wu Jianmin, a former Chinese
diplomatic spokesman and a retired president of China Foreign Affairs University, told the Asahi
Shimbun, a Japanese daily, You would be a traitor.
Meanwhile, Chinas manufacturing sector, long the engine of its economic growth, has been shedding
workers for several years now, as wages have risen and labor-saving technology has proliferated. The
economy and employment have continued to grow quickly, but that growth has been fueled by an
unprecedented run-up in corporate and government debt. By some recent measurements, productivity
growth is declining. Arguably, Chinas neighbors have as much reason for concern about the possibility
of a sharp economic downturn in China, which many experts have long predicted, as they do about
continued fast growth: if one pillar of legitimacy should weaken, the other would need to bear a heavier
load.
Chinas top leadership remains, to a large degree, a black box, and no one can say with certainty why
the country is suddenly asserting itself so actively in East Asia. There is a case to be made, however,
that this is the United States moment of peak opportunity vis--vis China, a chance to steer it into a
less pugnacious mode of coexistence, in which international norms will be accepted, rather than
reinvented, under Beijings aegis.
Although China will almost certainly soon boast the worlds largest economy, a number of indicators
suggest that the country may have already entered a period of maximum potential relative to the rest of
the worldthat the economic red flags already waving may portend a change in economic trajectory,
rather than a hiccup. The picture presented by Chinas demographics is an unpromising one, of a labor
force that is about to begin a sharp decline, and of a society that may grow old before it can grow truly
rich, on a per capita basis. Even in China, few economists believe that the country can sustain anything
like the growth rates of the past few decades, and many fear that it may have entered into what is
known as the middle-income trap, in which once-supercharged developing economies find it difficult
to continue rising up the industrial value chain, where innovation and advanced services replace lowend manufacturing. As the political scientist David Shambaugh recently noted, Not a single Chinese
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company ranks among the BusinessWeek/Interbrand Top 100 global brands.


If Washington can continue finding ways to bolster its allies, particularly the democracies of East Asia,
and if the United States and China can avoid major miscalculations over the next few years, this
moment of Chinese assertiveness may give way to a more serene and realistic self-confidence in
Beijing. If China can successfully downshift, and if its government can slowly find new sources of
legitimacythrough, say, greater transparency, more-stringent anticorruption measures, pollution
control, and other nonmonetary lifestyle improvements for its peopleits elites may come to see little
advantage in confronting its neighbors.
One afternoon in January, I visited a Filipino naval installation at the edge of Manila to be briefed by a
former admiral and national-security adviser, who told me that his countrys military spending was
likely to double soon, with a large share of the increase going to the navy and the air force. A few
minutes later, he put a question to me that was framed by an attitude of disbelief: Do you think it is
natural for a superpower to behave the way China is?
As the long meeting broke up, a number of staff officers were encouraged to speak for the first time,
and a captain turned to me and asked what I thought the timeline for a future clash with China might
be. A few moments later he interrupted me as I unreeled a heavily hedged reply and said, I hope it is
not in my lifetime.

Rising Tensions: Japan and China


A partial list of recent provocations
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(1) Dec. 2012: A Chinese recon aircraft enters the airspace above the
Senkakus; Japan scrambles fighter jets in response.
(2) Jan. 2013: A Chinese frigate locks its fire-control radar on the
Japanese destroyer Ydachi.
(3) Feb. 2013: Three Chinese surveillance ships enter disputed waters
around the Senkakus.
(4) Feb. 2013: Chinese aircraft are intercepted by Japanese fighter jets
in disputed airspace.
(5) July 2013: Chinese warships circumnavigate Japan.
(6) July 2013: China and Russia conduct a joint naval exercise in the
Sea of Japan.
(7) Nov. 2013: Beijing announces an air-defense identification zone
over most of the maritime area between China and Japan.
(8) June 2014: Chinese military aircraft fly within 100 feet of Japanese
military aircraft in disputed airspace.
This article available online at:
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/11/chinas-dangerous-game/380789/
Copyright 2014 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All Rights Reserved.

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