As a science fiction fan Star Trek was one of my favorite, especially the “Prime Directive” which prohibit interference of other cultures and their developments. Of course it was a doctrine more in violation than its strict adherence since this was entertainment. Recently there was an outcry in Weibo when China joined a few others in voting against an U.N. Assembly motion on Syria. China has been following a Prime Directive like policy in against interference in the internal affairs of other countries. Of course this policy is somewhat defensive and ridiculed by West, but let me expound this a little more here.
China historically has been a non expansionary power. With deserts north, oceans east, mountains west, and south jungles and diseases, China prides in calling herself The Middle Kingdom. Geography maybe a limiting factor, yet at the height of power in Ming Dynasty, admiral Chen Ho with his mighty fleet visited various kingdoms south and west not for conquest, but more as curiosity gatherings. Philosophically, Taoism preaches harmony with nature, and Confucianism morality within. China has been defensive power since Han dynasty more than 2,000 years. It maybe psychologically better to gain pyrrhic victories with punishing expeditionary forces north, but much better for treasury and society by marrying off some women dressed as princesses or even some real princesses to tribal Hun chiefs and the use of the Great Wall.
With the Opium Wars China was forced to face the outside world and the resulting century of humiliation. Mao was a military genius in securing the surrender of local warlords from Xinjiang and ruling aristocracy from Tibet, both outside forces tried to pry away even today. Today with the market reforms and freer movements of internal population I suspect it’s only a matter of time modernization will resolve those problems to the disappointment of West. As for South China Sea, the name should have tell West something. When West stirred up nationalism in China, it should expect blowback. If Vietnam and Philippines are willing to negotiate seriously with China rather than wasting treasury to arm race with China, I expect China will be willing to settle Spratly Islands to status quo for join controls. Philippines especially is unwise to confront China, with the climate warming and yearly increasing exposure to typhoons, most of those islets will be under the sea, and rentals from former Clark Airbase or Subic Bay Naval base will gain her little.
For the last 60 years, even during the height of Cultural Revolution, China has a policy of none intervention of internal affairs of other nations. It may be a necessity before, but China still adheres to it now she’s strong, and from the experiences of U.S. in Middle East, bankrupting treasury while generating enemies all over, I suspect Prime Directive is more than a wise policy in real world.