It is common knowledge that China has long resented and pushed back against the presence of American surveillance ships and aircraft off its coast. China considers this bad for its national interest – after all, the Americans are presumably collecting data on Chinese military activities, among other things. China also presumably sees the ongoing presence as an insult to its national pride, a reminder of a history of humiliation by foreign powers.
Thus it was striking to hear a Chinese military officer reveal in an open discussion at this conference on Saturday that China had “thought of reciprocating” by “sending ships and planes to the US EEZ”. He then went further and announced that China had in fact done so “a few times”, although not on a daily basis (unlike the U.S. presence off China).
This is big news, as it is the first time China has confirmed what the Pentagon claimed last month in a low-key way in its annual report on Chinese military power. Buried on page 39 was the following gem:
“the PLA Navy has begun to conduct military activities within the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of other nations, without the permission of those coastal states. Of note, the United States has observed over the past year several instances of Chinese naval activities in the EEZs around Guam and Hawaii … While the United States considers the PLA Navy activities in its EEZ to be lawful, the activity undercuts China’s decades-old position that similar foreign military activities in China’s EEZ are unlawful.”
It certainly does. And the Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Samuel Locklear, who was present when the Chinese officer made the revelation, has now confirmed to the media that such Chinese operations are occurring.
This is part of why the perspective of Russia and China on Foreign Policy keeps rolling out as a do as we say not as we do game of power. (and do as we say when we can't be contested)