Yes, It’s true that Vietnam has tried really hard recently to make the South China Sea dispute an open-house party as crowded as possible. It’s crying out loud for the US’s interference, flirting with India against China and ganging up with the rest of ASEAN to beef up the offensive. Even so, no matter how fancily Hanoi plays the game, the deciding factor is still the substance of American support.
To Washington, it is of course very important to contain China’s burgeoning influence. However, it won’t be in the US’s strategic interest to include as many players as possible and exclude China from its coordinated alliance, because nobody knows for certain how far the US can come near Asia in 50 years, but it is certain that China will be a huge player in Asia for a thousand years. Without China’s cooperation, the US will sooner rather than later lose its strategic relevance in Asia. Let’s have no doubt about that
Moreover, Vietnam shouldn’t expect too much of the US. Washington at best can act as a buffer, deterrent and arms dealer between waring parties. It won’t directly engage China in the war in the foreseeable future, because the US dominates China with its superior naval and air force and the only way for China to level the playing field is to apply nuclear weapons. The nuclear nature of Sino-American warfare will make both the world no.1. and no.2 economy the fallen giants. The world can be effectively dominated by the Sino-American alliance if the two countries establish the mutual trust to cooperate. Nevertheless, if that window of opportunity passes in a war, the US and China will both be destroyed and at best become the also-runs just like Russian, Germany and France.
Washington’s most urgent task is to tackle the fiscal deficit, trade deficit and unemployment. As the US’s biggest trading partner and financier, China will play the biggest role in American renaissance. As the world’s biggest creditor for dollar liabilities, China will be pivotal to sustain the dollar’s status as world reserve currency. The pillar of the US superpower lies on the dollar’s world reserve currency status, because the operation cost of a superpower can’t be sustained by fiscal policy, which is often comprised by partisan politics while most emergent. That’s when you can count on the monetary relief of the fed. Without dollar’s world currency status, such relief won’t exist. In such a scenario, the importance of China is self-enforcing.
So Vietnam will be left to its own devices in the war cause the US’s priority lies somewhere else. It’s good to see the last two outstanding communist regimes fight against each other. In the end whoever owns the South China Sea will need the superior expertise and technology of American oil companies. It’s good to be America when there’s no losing scenario.
For China, it is very important to defeat Vietnam. It will serve as a wake-up call to Philippine among other contenders and remind them of the false hope for unrealistic American engagement. Furthermore, unlike Philippine, Vietnam shares land borders with China. So China’s attack against Vietnam won’t be restricted by sea. It also can utilize its superior land force to invade Vietnam. Chinese army has plenty of ground warfare experience against Vietnam in previous two wars. It can destroy Vietnamese infrastructures and facilities to sustain the war and economic growth, and bring about the regime change or a civil war in Vietnam. That’s the only cost-effective objectives for the army but not the costly occupation. Leave the chaotic Vietnam to Vietnamese themselves. A dissolved Vietnam will need another 50 years to muster enough strength to strike China.
Once the dust settles, China and the US can jointly exploit the rich oil and gas resources in the South China Sea. ExxonMobil, Chevron and Shell will be all over Spratly Islands.
- Vietnam holds anti-China protest despite territorial plan (ctv.ca)
- US calls for more clarity on South China Sea claims – Reuters (news.google.com)
- Vietnam: Tensions in South China Sea a challenge (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- South China Sea deal eases US-China tension (csmonitor.com)
- Clinton Warns South China Sea Spats Threaten Asian Peace, Trade (businessweek.com)