East China Sea ADIZ: Did Beijing Overplay Its Hand, or Exploit an Opportunity?
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
December 4, 2013
Summary: Beijing should critically evaluate its East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone. Character determines policy. Deng Xiaoping advocated keeping a low profile. This arose out of his restrained character. Keeping a low profile is difficult for high flyers. Read the Analects of Confucius. Governing a nation is no different than cultivating one's own character. Confucius said, "The ancients were reluctant to boast, because failure meant embarrassment."
Full text below:
Beijing declared an East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone, or ADIZ. Did it overplay its hand? Or did it exploit an opportunity? We will have to wait and see.
On the morning of the 23rd of last month, Beijing's MInistry of Defense announced the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone. Aircraft entering and leaving are required to submit flight plans and to identify themselves. Beijing announced that "If aircraft fail to identify themselves or obey commands, [Mainland] China's armed forces will take emergency defensive measures." Rumors emerged that the Mainland Chinese Embassy in Japan was carrying out alien registration. Rumors also emerged that the aircraft carrier "Liaoning" had left port.
Washington immediately denounced the move as an unnecessary provocation. It declared that it would not recognize it, would not provide notification, and would not respond. It then dispatched two B-52 bombers into the ADIZ for two hours. In response, it adopted a "three noes policy." Beijing did not demand that the B-52s identify themselves. Nor did it issue any orders. It merely said that it engaged in "timely identification" and exercised "effective control." Over the past few days, US and Japanese military aircraft have come and gone in the ADIZ. They have all adopted a "three noes policy." Beijing has responded saying merely that it engaged in "timely identification."
Beijing's swift change in posture was either a case of tough on the outside, weak on the inside, or a return to reason. On the one hand, it reiterated that the Air Defense Identification Zone was not airspace. Still less was it a no-fly zone. It was merely a "warning zone." Aircraft entering and exiting the ADIZ are not about to be shot down. According to this reading, Mainland China's armed forces are not obligated to use force. On the other hand, it explained that the Liaoning set sail and passed through the Taiwan Strait along Taiwan's west coast. It did not sail past the east coast of Taiwan, the waters of the Diaoyutai Islands, and the "first island chain." Its purpose was to refute the slanderous "China threat theory."
Beijing's changes in posture had people wondering. If it is so flexible, why the original theatrics? Actually Beijing normalized sea and air patrols around the Diaoyutai Islands last September. Doing so ensured that the status of the Diaoyutai Islands would remain "disputed." One might say it was a successful strategy. But the sudden announcement of an Air Defense Identification Zone was perhaps excessive. Overnight Beijing was forced back on the defensive. One cannot help wondering. Did Beijing overplay its hand?
Beijing announced its ADIZ just when the situation in the East China Sea was most tense. What was its intention? Was it to establish a warning system to minimize misunderstandings? That would have been a positive development. But Beijing used incendiary language, imposed alien registration, and that its aircraft carrier had left port. It turned the event into a show of force. This gave Washington an opportunity to lash back, leaving Beijing in an embarrassing situation.
Or one might say that what Washington opposed was Beijing's attitude, and not Beijing's Air Defense Identification Zone. Six days after the incident, the U.S. State Department announced that civilian US aircraft should identify themselves when entering and exiting the East China Sea region, and that they should provide Beijing with identification. The State Department also said this did not constitute acceptance of the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone. The State Department probably meant that U.S. military aircraft in the region may still adhere to the "three noes policy." In fact, this is standard practice for Air Defense Identification Zones the world over. Civilian aircraft must identify themselves. But military aircraft that do not enter the airspace of other nations need not provide identification. If Washington distinguishes between military and civilian aircraft in the East China Sea ADIZ, then it has essentially reached an agreement with Beijing on its East China Sea ADIZ.
The situation is unpredictable, and could deteriorate. Washington's decision to distinguish between military and civilian aircraft in the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone is probably a wise move. The Japanese declared an Air Defense Identification Zone during the Cold War, in 1969. In 2002, it pushed the zone to within 130 nautical miles of Mainland China's coast. This established a warning system to minimize misjudgments. The situation in the East China Sea is dangerous. The international community should be pleased that Mainland China too has established a warning system to minimize misunderstandings in the East China Sea. The Japanese and Mainland Chinese ADIZs have considerable overlap. This underscores the need to strike a balance between the two sides' interests. Washington and other nations may object to Beijing's attitude when it established its ADIZ. But they have no call to forbid Beijing from establishing an ADIZ. Instead, they should encourage Beijing to adopt the correct terminology and attitudes when establishing an ADIZ.
Washington has apparently given Tokyo a slap in the face. Can Washington approve Tokyo's establishment of an ADIZ, but reject Beijing's establishment of an ADIZ? Washington knows that would not fly. Suppose Washington distinguishes between military and civilian aircraft? If Japan persists in going its own way, it will be reduced to "the sound of one hand clapping." Suppose the situation shifts toward this direction. Suppose Beijing's East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone incident fades from memory. If its patrol zone and ADIZ are abruptly advanced toward the "first island chain," one might characterize Mainland China's move as opportunistic.
Beijing should critically evaluate its East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone. Character determines policy. Deng Xiaoping advocated keeping a low profile. This arose out of his restrained character. Keeping a low profile is difficult for high flyers. Read the Analects of Confucius. Governing a nation is no different than cultivating one's own character. Confucius said, "The ancients were reluctant to boast, because failure meant embarrassment."
2013.12.04 03:42 am