OK, I am only hearing about this now, which is a little embarrassing: but last month the Argentine Naval Division (its coast guard) sunk a Chinese fishing vessel that was encroaching on the Argentine exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
One might have thought that China would use its putative economic might to demand apologies or compensation or something. After all, the country regularly buys U.N. votes and threatens the neighbors. But in this case, pretty much nothing. The captured Chinese weren’t even sent home until April 10th.
In the words of the Argentine ambassador, “It is very clear that this was a police matter and has nothing to do with diplomatic issues.”
It may be that China is merely speaking softly while carrying a big stick. But its behavior elsewhere makes me doubt that. Rather, its stick ain’t that big.