In his bombshell book “Destined for War,” which is soon to be released, Harvard professor Graham Allison offers what can only be described as the definitive account of how Washington and Beijing could soon be on the path to a disastrous conflict, ensnarled in what is often referred to as the Thucydides Trap.Sponsored Ads
While the book offers many important insights, it is Allison’s depiction of the most dangerous of greases for this trap that should terrify his readers. The enabling substance contains two key ingredients: Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Chinese Dream and visions of putting his nation on a path toward “national rejuvenation,” and U.S. President Donald Trump’s quest to Make America Great Again. These set the stage for a bigger challenge: The creation of a zero-sum game in which the newfound greatness of the one is perceived as a strategic or economic loss for the other.
While the world watches mounting military tensions in the South China Sea, another, more ominous situation is brewing in the East China Sea that could be the trigger point for a major war between the superpowers. At the heart of tensions are eight uninhabited islands controlled by Japan that are close to important shipping lanes, rich fishing grounds and potential oil and gas reserves. China contests Japan’s claims and is escalating its military activity in Japan airspace. In response, Japan has been doubling its F-15 jet intercepts.
The situation increases the risk of an accidental confrontation — and could draw other countries, like the United States, into a conflict. It’s a topic President Trump will likely bring up with Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago estate this week.
In this timely op-ed, Maj. Paul Smith, who works in the J-9 of U.S. Pacific Command but is, of course, writing in a personal capacity, compares today’s international security situation to that preceding World War I and sees worrying parallels. He calls for a reassessment of our strategy toward China. Read on. The Editor.
The global environment today eerily resembles that of Europe in the early twentieth century, when a rising tide of nationalism swept through the continent. That nationalism led to increased trade competition, networks of intertwined and complicated alliances and social and political ferment that sparked a war that eventually spread to engulf much of the world in the flames of World War I.
Are we headed towards another global conflict? If so, then where? Most importantly, can this crisis be averted?
“Report says ties between the two nuclear-armed countries could deteriorate into an economic or military confrontation”
The group’s report, which was handed to the White House on Sunday and will be published in Washington DC on Tuesday, says ties between the two nuclear-armed countries could rapidly deteriorate into an economic or even military confrontation if compromise on issues including trade, Taiwan and the South China Sea cannot be found.
It says China’s increasingly assertive actions in the region – which include placing sophisticated weapons systems on artificial islands – coupled with growing domestic nationalism risks setting the US and China on “a dangerous collision course”.
China is stepping up preparedness for a possible military conflict with the US as the Donald Trump presidency has increased the risk of hostilities breaking out, state media and military observers said.
Beijing is bracing itself for a possible deterioration in Sino-US ties, with a particular emphasis on maritime security.
The People’s Liberation Army said in a commentary on its official website last Friday, the day of Trump’s inauguration, that the chances of war have become “more real” amid a more complex security situation in Asia Pacific.
Associating the Trump Team’s mooting of a blockade with war is therefore a self-defeating half-truth at best, and leaves China’s own culpability hidden. From a normative perspective, was it not an “act of war” when China constructed the islands in the Philippines’ EEZ in the first place? Was it not an “act of war” when China ignored the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague and refused to vacate its military from those islands that are within the Philippines’ EEZ? Is the conclusion of the quoted experts then that China’s acts of war should be answered with silence and continued back-sliding, including in the case of the U.S. defense treaty with the Philippines?
The Philippines has been thunderously silent on Tillerson’s comments, and Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay could even be read to support the idea of a blockade, but without putting the Philippines’ thin neck on the line. I don’t blame him.
China’s South China Sea grab was just asking for war from the beginning. There was always going to come a time when China would restrict movement in the South China Sea and lead us right back to where we are now. There is really no escaping the path to confrontation (and possibly war) with China. And forcing a confrontation sooner is always better than later when China has more nuclear weapons.
“The U.S. is going to make sure that we protect our interests there,” Spicer said when asked if President Trump agreed with his nominee.
“It’s a question of if those islands are in fact in international waters and not part of China proper, then yeah, we’re going to make sure that we defend international territories from being taken over by one country.”
Experts had initially thought Tillerson might have misspoken, but Spicer’s remarks appeared to raise the likelihood that the administration was indeed considering blocking China’s access to its new islands in the Spratlys.
The United States will take steps to foil Chinese efforts to “take over” the South China Sea, the White House has indicated, amid growing hints that Donald Trump’s administration intends to challenge Beijing over the strategic waterway.
Chinese media responded by warning that any attempt to prevent China accessing its interests in the region risked sparking a “large-scale war”.
At his first question and answer session with the press on Monday Spicer again hinted Trump’s administration would take a harder line on the South China Sea.
“I think the most dangerous scenario was the one we were heading towards: a lot of tough talk on the South China Sea, but China continuing to encroach and the United States not really putting a lot of muscle behind the statements it was making.”
To put it starkly, what we are seeing today may be the beginning of the end of the “Asian Century.” For decades, prominent and knowledgeable observers, from bankers and industrialists to scholars and politicians, have predicted the rise of the Asia-Paci?c and an era of unparalleled Asian power, prosperity, and peace. At the same time, many writers assure us that the East is replacing the West, in a great shift of global power that will permanently reshape our world. All those predictions now are themselves at risk.
Such a view remains controversial. Only in recent months have the popular press and casual observers begun to worry about growing risk, from China’s stock market collapse to the danger of armed con?ict in the South China Sea. But in a world where headlines continue to focus on the bloody spread of the Islamic State or on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and intervention in the Syrian civil war, only cursory attention is being paid to Asia’s dangers.
Chinese state-run television has revealed China almost ignited a war against the United States in July when it aimed “dozens” of DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs) at the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) patrolling the South China Sea.
This startling admission was made on state-owned China Central Television (CCTV) this week. It also revealed this action that might have triggered a war with the United States occurred a few days before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague on July 12 declared illegal China’s claim to own most of the South China Sea based on “historic rights.”
China saw the U.S. Navy’s two Carrier Strike Groups in the South China Sea as an indication the U.S. was about to attack. It feared the U.S. might use its military strength to enforce the arbitration ruling.
The relationship between China and the US is already at a tipping point where it won’t take a lot to start a major war. This tipping point still exists. So in the future it’s not going to take a lot for things to go south real fast.