Tensions are rising in the South China Sea as the US has intensified its intervention, and Vietnam and the Philippines are acting more ruthlessly. It's a similar case with Japan. Challenges from both areas constitute China's new diplomatic state.
China is at a delicate point in its rising process. On the one hand, China's growing strength empowers it to take initiatives on the global stage, but on the other, the uncertainty oozing from such a rise is discussed and even hyped up by the outside world. The US, as well as China's other neighboring countries have unprecedented ambitions to contain China's use of growing influence.
It's a demanding and risky job to let other countries get used to China's rise and treat China as a major power. Vietnam and the Philippines, which haven't updated their knowledge about China, still cherish the illusion that China can simply be forced back by pressure.
China's interests are beyond the South China Sea. It must strike a balance between securing its territorial waters and maintaining a vibrant growth trend.
China faces a dilemma with its growing power. On the one hand, it will be confronted by neighbors like Vietnam, the Philippines and Japan, and other stakeholders like the US if it makes use of its power.
On the other, if China conceals its power, its determination to safeguard territorial integrity will be underestimated, which would further foster the unscrupulousness of countries like Vietnam, the Philippines and Japan.
China also bears pressure from the inside, which simply calls for a rough stand against provocations from Vietnam and the Philippines.
But the Chinese government needs to weigh up different scenarios and look at the big picture.
China has taken the first assertive step in securing its territorial integrity in the South China Sea, and in the meantime faces strong protests from Hanoi and Manila, and obvious bias from the US. China's diplomatic risks are rising, but these are the costs that have to be borne as China becomes more powerful.
The South China Sea disputes should be settled in a peaceful manner, but that doesn't mean China can't resort to non-peaceful measures in the face of provocation from Vietnam and the Philippines. Many people believe that a forced war would convince some countries of China's sincerely peaceful intentions, but it is also highly likely that China's strategy would face more uncertainties.
The Chinese government must take responsibility as a determined decision-maker. It must prioritize national rejuvenation and public well-being, and brace for public criticism and suspicion.
The tensions in the South China Sea have come when China's rise is at a crucial time. But the tough choice China faces in this area also involves the enterprising Chinese people.
As long as the Chinese government is confident, the whole community will stay united.