Earlier this month a wargame was held at the US think tank, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, acting out just such a scenario involving China and Japan.
It focused on how the US might respond to such a crisis. As matters got increasingly fraught between China and Japan the players acting out the roles of senior US officials resisted the deployment of US military muscle for fear of worsening the drama.
But then the Chinese actors in the wargame escalated significantly. Long-range Chinese anti-shipping missile units were moved to high-alert. Forces were despatched towards the islands in contention. The US was forced to act; the recommendation was made to send two aircraft carrier strike groups to the East China Sea.
Escalating by despatching a carrier or two might in future not calm a crisis, warns Mr Haddick. It could actually encourage the Chinese to strike out against them.
The war game ended with the dispatch of the two aircraft carriers. Game over. We win. Except, real life might not work like that. There might not be a way to deescalate a conflict between China and Japan. If we win and the Chinese leaders lose, then there is the real possibility of revolution within China. How can China lose to Japan and the US? Now we have the possibility of a conflict rapidly escalating all the way to nuclear war between China and the US. And there appears to be no way to stop the escalation, once it starts.
I cannot see a situation where China will allow itself to lose to Japan. The historical humiliation at the hands of Japan, and the West too, is too great. Failure on the part of China is not an option.
Maybe a great-power war won’t happen, but it might. And think about the last time there was real concern about the possibility of a great-power war. We have entered the age of upheaval.
The Global Trends 2025 report suggests that the international system as we know it today – created out of the ashes of World War II – “will be almost unrecognizable by 2025?. The last international system broke-down during World War I – 1914 to 1918. Trends in place today suggest major discontinuities, shocks, and surprises. In other words, we should not be surprised by great upheaval to everything we know.
[Published on May 14, 2012]
In 1907 there was a financial crisis starting in the US that spread. In 1914 there was World War I. In 1929 there was a financial crisis starting in the US that spread. In 1939 there was World War II. In 2008 there was a financial crisis starting in the US that spread. Is the world at risk of another great-power war starting around 2015 to 2018?
Harold James on Financial Crisis and War – Project Syndicate
The approach of the hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of World War I in 1914 has jolted politicians and commentators worried by the fragility of current global political and economic arrangements. Indeed, Luxembourg’s prime minister, Jean-Claude Juncker, recently argued that Europe’s growing north-south polarization has set the continent back by a century.
The lessons of 1914 are about more than simply the dangers of national animosities. The origins of the Great War include a fascinating precedent concerning how financial globalization can become the equivalent of a national arms race, thereby increasing the vulnerability of the international order.
In 1907, a major financial crisis emanating from the United States affected the rest of the world and demonstrated the fragility of the entire international financial system. The response to the current financial crisis is replaying a similar dynamic.