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Creeping China

We were always worried that the Soviets would use ‘salami tactics,’ pushing us far enough to provoke a crisis that needed to be resolved, and not far enough to provoke a war.  We put an effective end to that in Europe by standing by Berlin, eventually.  But China seems to have perfected the method:

Here, as elsewhere, China has painted its rival as the obstructionist party. As Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi put it, “Japan needs to recognize that there is such a dispute. The whole world knows that there is a dispute.” But there is a dispute only because China has succeeded in shaking the status quo in recent years by popularizing the islands’ Chinese name (“Diaoyu”) and staging incursions into their territorial waters and airspace.

As always, the trick is to push hard enough to get something, without raising the asking price beyond what people are willing to pay without fighting.  You may be able to do that for a while, but when other countries see what’s going on, their price may change without your being aware of it.  And when the threat changes from tactical to strategic, it’s a whole new calculus altogether.

Posted in Foreign Policy.