As of 2021, China is said to be competing with America “economically, technologically and militarily”. In addition to this, the middle kingdom is said to be using it’s power to challenge US “global norms”.
For U.S Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, the question is obvious: ‘how do we compete without devasting confrontation?’
In recent years tensions have been escalating between the U.S and China. It started when Trump launched a trade war with Xi and things haven’t gotten any better since.
And yet, things haven’t always been so tense. They have an alliance that’s over fifty years old. In 1971, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger flew to China to meet with their President Mau Zedong and their Prime Minister Zhou Enlai. There he forged an alliance with the people’s republic and the two of them worked against the Soviets for much of the cold war.
Over time the United States helped integrate China into the global economy. They began trading with one another, exchanged goods, services, labour and culture. Things were good. They were rosy. And the two of them rose to prominence together.
But who got more out of the relationship? Well, for a long time it was the United States. They were the more advanced economy. It was the United States that ruled World Order. When the United States said jump, the rest of the world was expected to say how high.
You saw this in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Libya, in Syria. For the first fifth of the 20th century, the United States has called the shots. And now, it looks like that period is on the wane.
Recent years have seen countries challenging the U.S led order. Russia is the biggest example of this. But U.S calls for support against Russia have gone unadhered to amongst much of the global south. Whilst still the most powerful country in the world, the United States no longer stands head and shoulders above the rest. Countries like Russia, India, China and many others are demanding greater autonomy, if not in the world then at the very least in their own regions.
And this brings us to the near present. China has grown bold. Under Xi Jinping it’s grown exceptionally bold. It’s now the number one trading partner to three times as many countries as the United States. Under Xi Jinping, China is becoming a regional hegemon and it should come as no surprise if they go on to replace the United States as world number one.
The problem for China remains the United States. You see, China’s first requirement is to become regional hegemon. By that I mean, China seeks to dominate it’s sphere of influence. It wants Asia and to do this, it needs sole ownership of the south China sea and it needs Taiwan.
Whilst the United States has no formal commitment to Taiwan, it does exchange weapons with them. Strategically, there is no land better suited for the United States than Taiwan. It is placed directly outside their adversaries. It’s the same reason the U.S is so close with the Uk and Israel. Uk is their strategic post in Europe and Israel is their strategic post in the middle east. The United States loves global hegemony and as a result it loves countries that help them remain that.
The problem is that Xi Jinping has made it crystal clear that he wants Chinese unification with Taiwan. He has said very clearly that “There is no room for compromise or concession on Taiwan”. Xi has even refused to rule out force and has expressed a willingness of ‘taking all measures necessary’.
Now don’t get me wrong. Xi doesn’t strike me as some reckless mad man. He’s made conciliatory remarks about stabilizing the relationship between the two. However he also remains adamant about representing the Chinese people on this issue. In a survey conducted in 2021, 55% of respondents said they would support an invasion in Taiwan.
But as things stand he cant. He can’t because by doing so he would be risking war with a nuclear super power. Believe it or not, Xi does not want nuclear fallout. But he wants Taiwan. He’s adamant about that. And already policy makers and influencers have begun thinking of ways round the nuclear disaster.
Editor in chief of the government’s main portal China.com Wu Haiping has outlined several steps Xi needs to take in order to do this. For him China needs to
- Improve it’s air and rocket forces.
- It needs to safeguard it’s economy from U.S sanctions.
- And It needs allies in it’s fight against the combined strength of America, Japan and Taiwan.
And it takes time to do all this. That’s why he hasn’t invade Taiwan. But he very well could. If all else fails then he very well could. And I’m not the only one who thinks this. General Michael Minihan, head of America’s Air Mobility Command wrote: “My gut tells me we will fight in 2025”.
The best we can hope for is a peaceful transition. I think that’s idealistic but if there is room for hope. Having now finished his visit, Anthony Blinken was able to keep communication lines open to avoid all-out conflict. It was also agreed that Qin Gang, China’s foreign minister, is planning to visit Washington in the next few months.
So there is room for optimism. As I said before, Xi Jinping doesn’t seem like a madman. He doesn’t seem rash. Does that mean he’s beyond invasion? No. Certainly not. But I don’t think he’s the type to suddenly lash out without any forewarning.