Yesterday, my colleague Ankit Panda provided a useful summary of the recently released annual U.S. Department of Defense report to Congress on China’s military and security developments (see: “What the Pentagon Thinks of China’s Military”).
In his article, Ankit notes that the paper contains an interesting discussion of China’s alleged “low-intensity coercion” (aka “salami slicing”) in the South and East China Sea, particularly the use of the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG), PLA ships, and its commercial fishing fleet to advance its own territorial claims.
In detail, the paper states that Beijing “uses a progression of small, incremental steps to increase its effective control over disputed territories and avoid escalation to military conflict.” Additionally, next to an increased naval presence,China applies the following means to advance its territorial agenda in disputed areas, according to the Pentagon:
China has (…) used punitive trade policies as instruments of coercion during past tensions, and could do so in future disputes. For example, through trade tariffs, tourism restrictions, and limits on foreign direct investment.
The report lays out a short summary of such Chinese retaliatory trade restrictions, including a 2012 fruit import ban imposed on the Philippines during the height of the Scarborough Reef tensions, or the restrictions on exports of rare earth minerals to Japan “following tensions over a collision between a Chinese fishing boat and Japanese patrol ship.”
It appears that this little sub-chapter on “low-intensity coercion” has incurred Beijing’s particular wrath. According to Xinhua, Chinese officials have called for “the U.S. to stop issuing such biased reports,” particularly since it “ignores facts, make speculations and continues to play up the so-called China threat and lack of military transparency and casts doubts on China’s normal defense building and strategic plan.”
Xinhua reports that the Chinese Foreign Ministry, “reiterated China’s adherence to a peaceful development path and defensive military strategy, which is a firm force in maintaining peace and stability in Asia-Pacific and the world at large.”
“We urge the U.S. to abandon its Cold War mindset, take off its colored glasses, and have an objective and rational understanding of China’s military development,” spokeswoman Hua Chunying of the Chinese Foreign Ministry emphasized.
Cryptically, Xinhua also notes that heavy criticism of the report came from the Chinese Ministry of Defense (MoD) ,which warned that “China will make further response accordingly.”
In another article, a Xinhua commentator kicked the criticism up a notch by stressing that the report is a “blatant attempt to drive wedges between China and other Asian nations, contradicts U.S. pledge to not take side in South China Sea disputes.”
It also accuses the U.S. of “deliberate ignorance of Beijing’s constant well-meant initiatives in enhancing military dialogue with Washington, advancing peace with regional partners, and transparentizing its military status to the world.”
Furthermore, the article notes that if the United States, “really means to advance bilateral relations and mutual trust with China, as repeated by President Barack Obama, Washington should know that it is high time to cut off those futile attempts to interfere in China’s internal affairs or to sow discord between China and other claimants in South China Sea.”
Last the commentator accused the Pentagon of “hackneyed irrational assaults” and reiterared that “Uncle Sam, which seems as arrogant as ever, should be reminded that it has as always been the world’s No.1 military power and culprit of cyber attacks and wiretapping.”