CANBERRA—As the Philippines gets embroiled deeper into conflict with China over disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea, a new study by an influential adviser to the US defense department was published in Australian mainstream media on Saturday reporting that Australia has been “quietly building a regional defense coalition to restrain China’s “aggressive” and “autistic” international behavior.
The provocative book, “The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy,” due for publication in November, is authored by Edward Luttwak, a senior associate for the Center for Strategic Studies in Washington, and consultant to the Pentagon. For scholars on Third World power seizures in the 1970s, Luttwak is noted for the seminal book, “Coup d’État” (Harvard University Press, 1979).
Writing for the major Australian newspapers (including Canberra Times, The Age of Melbourne and Sydney Morning Herald), correspondent John Garnaut dispatched an exclusive story from Beijing with the headline, “Australia counters Chinese threat.”
Excerpts of the story are summarized below for the purpose of informing Philippine foreign policy authorities, who have been caught floundering in their response to increasing Chinese maritime incursions into disputed areas in the Spratly Islands and Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal), claimed by the Philippines as part of its exclusive economic zone, on how Australia is reacting to this “threat.”
The Philippines is linked to Australia in a defense arrangement under which the two Pacific allies signed in 2007 the Status of Visiting Forces Agreement.
According to the report on the Luttwak book, the study contradicts Australian and US denials that they see China as a threat or want to contain its rise, but it also says that the United States should support them.
Luttwak writes, “Australians view themselves as facing a strategic threat.” According to the report, the book praises Australia’s initiative in forging ties with countries, including Malaysia, Indonesia and India, that lie beyond America’s natural security orbit, as well as broadening the defense networks of close US allies such as Japan.
“Each of these Australian initiatives derives from a prior broader decision to take the initiative in building a structure of collective security piece by piece, and not just leave it all to the Americans,” the book says.
But a spokesperson for Defense Minister Stephen Smith dismissed talk of containment, the report said.
“It is not possible for a country or countries to contain another country with a population of 1.3 billion,” the spokesperson said.
“The shifting strategic influences must be managed by the international community through constructive and positive bilateral relationship, through dialogue and through regional architecture.”
Luttwak is a consultant to the Pentagon think tank, Office of Net Assessment, and is reported to have high-level access to Chinese and US military officials.
According to the correspondent’s article from Beijing, China’s impact on Asia-Pacific security was on display last week after it hardened territorial claims over the tiny Japanese-administered islands known as the Senkaku, or Diaoyu group.
“If necessary, we could make Diaoyu islands a target range for China’s air force and plant mines around them,” Gen. Luo Yuan said in state-run Global Times.
The Garnaut article reported that Australian National University’s Hugh White had argued that the United States needs to “share power” with what is going to be “the most formidable power” Washington has “ever faced.”
Luttwak, however, argues that the “logic of strategy” dictates that “neighbors will naturally coalesce against the new rising threat,” thus preventing China from realizing anything like the relative military power that has been projected.
This resistance arrived early for China because of the “hubristic turn” it took after 2008.
“They (the Chinese) have been imbecilic enough to relaunch territorial quarrels with Japan, Vietnam and India more or less on the same day, when those three countries have more people, more money and more technology than China,” the book said.
“The rapid accession to prosperity has been a very common way for countries to lose their sanity,” Luttwak wrote. China suffered from ancient and new foreign policy weaknesses.
“The Chinese are autistic in dealing with foreigners, they have no sense of the ‘other,’” he said. “They think they are incredibly brilliant strategists as if they have been conquering other nation, when, in fact, it’s been the other way around for 1,500 years.”
China heading for fall
While Luttwak’s critique will challenge prevailing understandings in Western policy circles, the article said, it echoes criticisms in China itself.
In describing the book before its publication date on Nov. 15, Amazon.com. issued this synopsis:
“As the rest of the world worries about what a future might look like under Chinese supremacy, Edward Luttwak worries about China’s own future prospects. Applying the logic of strategy for which he is well known, Luttwak argues that the most populous nation on Earth—and its second largest economy—may be headed for a fall.
“For any country whose rising strength cannot go unnoticed, the universal logic of strategy allows only military or economic growth. But China is pursuing both goals simultaneously. Its military buildup and assertive foreign policy have already stirred up resistance among its neighbors. Unless China’s leaders check their own ambitions, a host of countries, which are already forming tacit military coalitions, will start to impose economic restrictions as well. Chinese leaders will find it difficult to choose between pursuing economic prosperity and increasing China’s military strength.
“Chinese leaders would have to end their reliance on ancient strategic texts, such as Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of War.’ While these guides might have helped in diplomatic and military conflicts within China itself, their tactics—such as deliberately provoking crises to force negotiations—turned China’s neighbors into foes. To avoid arousing the world’s enmity further, Luttwak advises, Chinese leaders would be wise to pursue a more sustainable course of economic growth with increasing military and diplomatic restraint.”