U.S. – China Security Perceptions Survey; a prelude to the Great War of 2014?

US and Chinese Leaders

US and Chinese Leaders

An important new report co-authored by respected Chinese and U.S. scholars and authorities, the “U.S.-China Security Perceptions Survey: Findings and Implications” from the Carnegie Endowment for Peace, Washington D.C. underestimates, no, eliminates from consideration, the power of working-class public opinion. When mated with random incidents, it disrupts expert assumptions.

Graphs and tables in the report purport to consider credible poll results from Pew Research Centre, Research Centre for Contemporary China at Peking University, and the China Strategic Culture Promotion Association. All include “public” response sectors in addition to “elites” (military, government, business, scholars, and news media). A perfect one-for-one correspondence in poll samples is impossible and this is taken under consideration. But China’s “public” utterly excludes non-urban publics. In fact, one panellist dismissed opinions of China’s rural population as those of citizens preoccupied with weather and farm commodity prices, not politics.

This is a mistake since internal public opinion can vector the range of options available to government and national elites in reaction to incidents such as the recent close encounter between the USS Cowpens and the escorts of China’s carrier Liaoning in international waters. A miscalculation during such an incident could ignite dangerous overreaction. Citizen-level communications today can spread inflammatory feelings that elites and governments cannot temper. Piled upon military and political posturing, a surge in public opinion could well force governments to act unwisely.

“The day of snowballing riots and violence that culminated in President Kurmanbek Bakiyev‘s fleeing his capital Wednesday evening is the worst nightmare of every despot in Central Asia and beyond. A government that thought it had secured itself against opposition by increasingly brutal police methods suddenly found a people rising in anger, besieging ministries, beating up the interior minister and finally forcing the president to scuttle to a private jet.” (Khanna, Parag. The Second World, Empires & Influence in the New Global Order 2008. New York: Random House, 2008.)

Tensions in disputed spheres of influence and territories such as those between China and Japan over the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands, coupled with rising nationalism create a potential for domestic political stresses that can get out of control. This is inflamed further by an uptick in military posturing such as Japan’s military upgrades and China’s bellicose naval moves.

Domestic violence such as China’s simmering Kashgar rebellion (officially spun as a religious minority Uighur protest) but asserted locally as actually about political repression clearly illustrates forces that can flash into wider conflicts. Tensions over regional water supplies are another issue than could conflate national policy and internal nationalistic feelings.

The mutual defence pacts (U.S.-Japan. U.S.-Republic of Korea, U.S. –Taiwan) are one axis in the region. Vietnam, the Philippines, in fact all the nations of Southeast Asia, too are deeply vested in asserting access to resources such as energy, fishing grounds, and commercial development in this congested (and contested) region.

Given the mixed alliances and complex geographical dynamics in the far Western Pacific, the scene is set for something like the sparking of World War I, a time of similar tension and national rivalries that quickly spun into extreme catastrophe.

Categories: Politics & Law

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

12 replies


  1. My posts at China Daily Mail | Suptweet's Blog
  2. Prelude to Conflict: Asia, March 16 | China Daily Mail
  3. Prelude to Conflict: Asia, February 23 | China Daily Mail
  4. Prelude to Conflict: Asia, March 2 | China Daily Mail
  5. Prelude to Conflict: Asia, March 9 | China Daily Mail
  6. Prelude to Conflict: Asia, March 23 | China Daily Mail
  7. Prelude to Conflict: Asia, April 7 | China Daily Mail
  8. Prelude to Conflict: Asia, April 28 | China Daily Mail
  9. Prelude to Conflict: Asia, May 5 | China Daily Mail
  10. Prelude to Conflict: Asia, May 12 | China Daily Mail
  11. Prelude to Conflict: Asia, May 26 | China Daily Mail
  12. Prelude to Conflict: Asia, June 16 | China Daily Mail

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: