TAIPEI — When a Chinese J-11 fighter intercepted and flew within 20 feet of a US Navy P-8 Poseidon on Aug. 19 off the Hainan Island coast, it set off debate in the US about whether the forward-deployed US military can continue to conduct the types of operations that strategic necessity requires.
US analysts indicate that what China really objects to is America’s place in Asia. Put in these terms, China’s demand that the US cease close-in surveillance operations poses a stark choice: Pursue a cordial and more equal relationship with China vs. maintaining America’s dominant position in Asia. What China is telegraphing to the United States is that it cannot have it both ways. This gets to the heart of American primacy and its role in the world.
“Chinese leaders are seeking to expand their influence over their periphery by building up, establishing new terms of reference for what is allowed and normal, tranquilizing neighbors into accepting growing Chinese hegemony, and supplanting US power,” said Patrick Cronin, senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program, Center for a New American Security.