A New Cold War with China?

In the last week, we watched Joe Biden box check the loony feminist faction of his party.  Why, the military is stepping up, droned Biden in a televised appearance.  Flight suits will better accommodate pregnant female air personnel.  Newer hairstyles will be permitted, lest hipper gal soldiers decide to leave the military in a snit.  Nothing frivolous here.

Meanwhile, woke Pentagon desk jockeys (doubtless, Obama’s handpicked finest) slammed Tucker Carlson for daring to be intrepidly unwoke.  Carlson wondered about the absurdity of pregnant warrior pilots and hairdos when the U.S. faces a growing menace from unfree China.  Because there’s nothing unserious about China’s threat to America’s vital interests and national security. 

Then there’s Pat Buchanan, who warns of a burgeoning Sino-American Cold War.  That’s something Buchanan is against.  Wars, cold or hot, are unwanted, but sometimes hard realities make wars inevitable.  A cold war with China may be in the offing. 

Does saying so make one a warmonger?  In this era of hyperbole, kneejerk reaction and pigeonholing it pays to confound those making the charge.  One can be anti-Wilsonian, oppose the forever wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and acknowledge the futility of nation-building, yet appreciate the peril posed by Xi Jinping’s grand designs. 

Countering and containing China needs to be the U.S.’s chief overseas objective now and in years ahead.  Not for Taiwan.  Not for other Asia Pacific nations.  But for itself.   

In fact, while the Washington establishment -- in very bipartisan fashion -- rehashed the Cold War, Xi Jinping is diligently building China’s warmaking capabilities, impressively so.  The Chinese military brass has long planned for war with the U.S.  Shrugging that off as bluster is perilous.

China, in the coming years, means to project power.  Its navy is becoming a blue water enterprise, and increasingly lethal.  The PRC’s long range missile capabilities are improving steadily.  Xi’s advanced missiles are big sticks, and he intends those missiles as deterrents to assert control in Asia Pacific.  China’s army is bigger and getting better.    

Why all this brawn?  China desires hegemony despite a generation’s worth of U.S. and Western efforts to integrate the PRC into the “international order.” 

The U.S. granted China generous trade deals, which provide the revenues for the PRC’s war machine (and helped create antiliberty plutocrats in U.S. sectors, like Big Tech).  China trade has come at the expense of American industry and workers. 

Xi and his cronies have strategized globally -- literally.  The PRC’s Belt and Road initiative, launched in 2013, is ostensibly about China building its commerical ties.  Xi is plowing a trillion dollars in infrastructure construction into primarily underdeveloped, resource-rich nations.          

But there’s a sinister undercurrent to Xi’s aims.  From the Council on Foreign Relations, January 28, 2020:

India has tried to convince countries that the BRI is a plan to dominate Asia, warning of what some analysts have called a “String of Pearls” geoeconomic strategy whereby China creates unsustainable debt burdens for its Indian Ocean neighbors in order to seize control of regional choke points.                         

Japan and India have worked in tandem to counter China’s gambit.  Yes, both see China as a longstanding adversary.  But that doesn’t discount their estimations of PRC intentions.  Certainly, BRI can have more than a sole purpose.  China is largely a resource-poor land, and it’s reach across the globe helps ensure supplies of critical raw materials.  But it also aims to bind nations, via debt and commerce, to itself.  It’s likely that China wants to deny the U.S. access to strategic raw materials, longer term. 

Lately, the PRC menacing Taiwan has garnered media attention.  On March 9, the Guardian headlined: “China could invade Taiwan in next six years, top US admiral warns.” 

While 23.5 million Taiwanese have every right to protect their liberty, focusing on PRC attempts to subjugate Taiwan misses the big picture -- in terms of U.S. interests. 

The threat to America’s -- and other nations’ -- vital interests is the PRC’s declaration to own the South and East China Seas -- and the airspace above.  Those are international waters and airspace, which Xi is audaciously laying claim to and, in fact, militarizing.  Why? 

A 2016 estimate from “ChinaPower” claims that $3.4 trillion in cargo transited the South China Sea that year.  U.S. trade passing through the South China Sea was $208 billion, which is undoubtedly greater five years later. 

Per the U.S. Energy Information Administration (August 27, 2018):

The South China Sea is a major trade route for crude oil, and in 2016, more than 30% of global maritime crude oil trade, or about 15 million barrels per day (b/d), passed through the South China Sea.              

EIA then explained:

More than 90% of crude oil volumes flowing through the South China Sea in 2016 transited the Strait of Malacca, the shortest sea route between suppliers in Africa and the Persian Gulf and markets in Asia, making it one of the world’s primary oil transit chokepoints.          

Xi wants strangleholds on commerce in those seas -- and the abundant resources that lie beneath. 

A stricter understanding of America’s vital interests indicates that Taiwan matters geopolitically.  It’s located between the South and East China Seas.  Taiwan is strategically important, therefore. 

That’s not to suggest that the U.S. go to war with China on behalf of Taiwan.  But the U.S. must be unambiguous: differences between the PRC and Taiwan are to be settled peacefully over time -- and a good deal of time it’ll take.  The Taiwanese aren’t blind.  Xi hasn’t hesitated to crush liberties to bring Hongkongers to heel. 

President Trump, prior to leaving office in January, approved $18 billion in arm sales to Taiwan.  The Biden administration has just greenlighted the sale of “key submarine technology” to the Taiwanese.  Arms sales to Taiwan are necessary, as warranted.                 

Taiwan’s continuing autonomy is leverage in containing Xi’s ambitions.  Xi needs to appreciate that aggression against Taiwan carries with it consequences, most notably economic.  China’s internal stability is more tenuous than Xi leads the world to believe.            

The U.S. has an evolving loose alliance with Asia Pacific nations whose own critical interests would be harmed by PRC control of both seas.  Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Australia are involved with the U.S.  Recently, Biden’s secretary of state Antony Blinken has leveled sharp criticism at China for “undermining stability in Asia.”

President Trump was on the right track in dealings with Xi.  He had sought a long overdue course correction in trade.  He pushed bringing U.S. industries home, including the critical pharmaceuticals sector from China.  He had made the U.S. energy independent -- and not based on unreliable wind and solar power. 

For American national security, the fairer the trade with China, the greater the independence in manufacturing and energy, the better the power projection, the stronger the U.S.’s hand in deterring an increasingly aggressive PRC.  Yet the U.S. does have important commercial interests across the planet.  A robust counter is imperative.  

Whatever Antony Blinken’s pronouncements, the Biden administration appears committed to undermining U.S. independence in trade, energy, and manufacturing.  Flight suits for pregnant pilots and stylish hairdos -- and, otherwise, using the military as a social experiments’ petri dish -- reek of unseriousness.  You can bet Xi Jingping is taking note.              

J. Robert Smith can be found on Parler @JRobertSmith, and is new to Gab, again @JRobertSmith.  He also blogs at Flyover.   

Image: Pixabay