A shooting war with China may not be inevitable, but a dangerous arms escalation seems a dead certainty. That’s the take from a rare public discussion here this week among naval experts from Japan, the U.S. and China.Feng seconds Yang's impression of Chinese public opinion on the matter.
“Eighty percent of the population wants us to use the military,” says Yang Yi, former director of the Institute for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University in Beijing. “They’re asking, ‘Why are we so weak? Why are we wasting money on our Navy if we are not going to use it?’ Outsiders really do not appreciate what is going on inside China.”
It's ironic that one potential bulwark against Chinese escalation in the South China Sea is the fact that its government is not accountable to the will of its people. Of course, democracies are no stranger to ignoring their own citizen's desires, but Yang's account should give us pause the next time someone claims that the only way the U.S. can live peacefully with China is if it democratizes.