Anyone follow the North Korean negotiating fiasco? The North Koreans, like the guy swinging a chair in the cafeteria on his first day in jail, do some crazy shit, and we say, "Hey, hey, hey, easy, easy. Let's negotiate! Here's a lovely bag of party favors! Enjoy!" Then the North Koreans blow us off, wait six months and do something else crazy.
Our response to the “Hainan II: Electric Boogaloo” incident is right out of that playbook. Hey, dudes, let's rap! What's so funny 'bout peace, love, and understanding?
So let's all not be shocked when the Chinese try some other crazy stunt, ok?
What to do, you ask? Just threaten them with something relatively minor: we won't come to a summit or some thing that matters to them, or a hike in a tariff, or even just leak a memo from COMPACFLT telling our commanders that, due to a review of procedures in the wake of the U.S.S. Cole incident, commanders may open fire at will on erratic-acting vessels. Shame ’em. And make sure you follow through. Credibility is key. And like it or not, a Democratic president has a tougher row to hoe in this regard than a Republican. Not fair, but that's the way it is. Decades of insisting Barry Goldwater, Nixon, and Ronnie Raygun were twitching to nuke America's enemies has given the GOP a tougher reputation.
Diplomacy is a tool. A means to an end. Figure out what the end is—and make sure it's realistic, not “a kumbaya hand-holding ‘partnership’ with the PRC.”