China pairs optimism with caution

The actions of former President Barack Obama before he was relieved of his White House duties and the words spoken by President Donald Trump during his campaign are astonishingly similar — they both have beneficial interests in the area surrounding the South China Sea.

In 2014, the conflict between China and Japan over an island near Taiwan named Diaoyu Island became a severe political and international issue. In December of 2016, Trump challenged the One China Policy via Twitter. The conflicts above were caused by foreign interests in the South China Sea. To prevent further issues which could cause a lot of trouble domestically and internationally, the Chinese government has created man-made islands in the South China Sea and is sending military to those islands to defend the mainland. The U.S. and other foreign powers such as Japan feel that their top military positions are being challenged by China’s military strength. I think they have misinterpreted the growing military presence, and that China is only building its defenses to protect itself from possible future attacks.

It is undeniable that the actions taken by China aim to protect its interests in the South China Sea. Recently, a small region of the sea has had disputed ownership because of Japan’s conquering and control of Taiwan for many years.

No matter what the financial or social state is in Taiwan or the islands around it, these islands are all valuable because of their economic and strategic value. Although Taiwan remains separated from China politically, it is still part of China legally. There is no way that it can become an independent nation or be overtaken again by other countries.

Nobody wants to see wars happening in this region of the world, especially not the Chinese. China began fighting Great Britain over the opium trade in 1840, and it took about a century to return to peace. Then China experienced the Civil War, the purpose of which was to defeat Chiang Kai-shek’s government. Some people in the United States may wonder, “Are there any differences between these two wars?” America also experienced a Civil War.

In my opinion, there are two differences between these two Civil Wars. Some of Chinese at that moment were fighting for better lives, a united nation. Their goal was to expel Chiang from the country. In contrast, the Civil War in America was more about fighting against a policy. In other words, Americans were fighting for or against the institution of slavery. People from the North were not fighting to expel people in the South. Americans were trying to free slaves. That part of Chinese history made it the country it is today, which is a country in favor of maintaining peace as much it possibly can.

China has taken many strides to protect the peace within its country and the surrounding region. Building the man-made islands in the South China Sea, increasing its military presence in that area and proposing the concept of building an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) are all examples of Chinese attempts to maintain the peace.

ICBM is one of the most powerful and dangerous weapons to possess and therefore is a very controversial concept. China only intends to use it to defend its territory, and while many believe that China’s war-ridden history does not validate the reasoning behind ICBM, China has its own right to make this decision. To maintain peace in their own country, I think any military preparation is necessary to make the people feel safe and secure, even if the country does not intend to use it.

Since China is still a developing country, people don’t want to see any terrorist attacks like 9/11 happening in thriving areas. An attack in a large city like Shanghai would be detrimental. As a Chinese citizen, I don’t want to experience wars like in Middle East or to be attacked by foreign countries ever again. Also, because China knows how it feels to be conquered, its people do not want to inflict that harm on anyone else.

In February of 2016, the U.S. and South Korea announced plans to deploy their own defensive system called the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (Thaad). China knows that kind of missile can easily break through its defenses and threaten its security. If anyone is using a weapon near China, even if it is not aiming at China, people will feel unsafe.

Maintaining peace is hard for any major power in the world. While sharing benefits with others is good in theory, arguing and fighting are inevitable. I know if China begins to allow other countries to take advantage of us, there is no doubt that it will not end. If Japan takes all those islands as its own, that will not only block our military, but will also limit our trade. If this happens, conflict will eventually escalate, and a large-scale war is very possible.

I sincerely hope that both communist and capitalist countries can put peace first while exploring their benefits in the world. However, while we all strive for peace, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared.