Why is China angry with Singapore? – Part 2

October 3, 2016

Q: Do you see the possibility of war breaking out between China and the US in the South China Seas?

A: Absolutely and categorically no! Going down that road offers no pay outs, not for either China or the US and their allies. War is an act of exactation – that is to say it must be able to materialize real and tangible pay out’s otherwise there is no incentive to even moot the idea of war.

Fortunately the modeling to go to war or not is a very orthodox theoretical science that for the purposes of brevity is just a convoluted form of Nash Equilibria – that just means people don’t just wake up one morning and decide to go to war. I know the logic for waging war sounds quite perverse, but it’s actually very rational and sound.


Q: But don’t you agree the intensity of the military buildup in the South China seas is quite frightening and all it really takes is a spark to set the whole house burning.

A: Having said war is a zero possibility. This does not discount friction will definitely occur from time to time on the balance of probabilities. But what’s important to stress is that is not war. This is almost certain given that there is currently no rules of engagement or even code of conduct on both sides, but as time goes by some settling will occur and both sides can only begin to ritualize their responses. Ultimately what we are likely to see will resemble the case study of the Pakistanis and Indians. After munching on their Papadoms and tea at three the latter will fire two shells only for the former to respond with three. They even take turns to alternate who fires first. On public holidays and during national mourning, both sides stand down. That sort of thing. But that is not war, it’s just posturing.

In Militaries this is very normal.

Q: If both China and US stand to gain nothing out of this, then why are both sides investing so much hardware and manpower into the South China Seas.

A: Kindly rerun the tape recorder to the very beginning. I never ever said China or the US gained nothing out of this. I merely mentioned the possibility of war being zero.

Q: What does China get from behaving like a big bully in South China Seas? From what I am able to make out, all she seems to be doing is causing many ASEAN countries unnecessary anxiety and concern.

A: That is your perception. That incidentally is also because your vantage is from an observer outside China. But what’s notable for your learning outcome is the average Chinese does not see it that way at all and you must always keep that reality at the back of your mind whenever we discuss the South China seas.

The leaders in China are malvinizing the South China seas for domestic consumption. It’s hardly a matter of choice. As things are not as hunky dory in China – there are many cracks and fault lines which are widening even as we speak, as a result of a rapidly slowing economy.

This has to be the sum of all the fears of the Chinese leadership. As not only is this event historical but what adds considerably to the intensity and perhaps even heightens the stakes is that most Chinese have never ever experienced an economic downturn before.

You and I have. Not once but even a few times. But for the average Chinese he’s really only known La Dolce Vita – so this remains terra incognito – an unknown quantity and to exacerbate matters many have zero experiential knowledge as to how to cope with a rapidly slowing economy. Where instead of market surpluses, they are now creeping to a economy of market scarcity. Already there are very disturbing signatures – trans migration is reversing in the coastal region for the very first time. For the very first time since Deng Xia Peng promulgated the open door policy in the 80’s, droves of city dwellers are returning back to their kampungs. I mean returning back to the countryside.

These are of course things you don’t hear about even in China as information is controlled and filtered. But even by the most forgiving estimation – this has to be a very scary trend to the Chinese leadership.

As while I don’t doubt, they may certainly be able to successfully engineer a soft landing economically – it’s doubtful they can manage the emotional fall as well. We are talking about staggering figures here.

Hence the strategic need for malvinizing the South China Seas to leverage on the myth making machine to promote nationalism and galvanize the masses – this to me is the only game in town that currently occupies the mind of the Chinese leadership.

As it’s conceivable when things turn from bad to worse, the legitimacy and competence of the communist party will increasingly come under criticism from the masses along with many inconvenient questions concerning their raison d’être to rule.

I happen to have a lot of sympathy for the Chinese leadership. So I can understand why they need to engineer consent by playing up the South China Seas.

The problem is I feel many don’t. And that is always a cause for concern. As it takes considerable skill to manage an increasingly nervous and fearful China.


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