It Is Possible to Avoid and Not Ensure War With China

Date:

It Is Possible to Avoid and Not Ensure War With China

  • News by AUN News correspondent
  • Thursday, February 09, 2023
  • AUN News – ISSN: 2949-8090

Summary:

  • Thank goodness, President Biden’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday was a far cry from the harsh words of the “hawks,” who used the balloon incident to try to get the US to go to war with China.

  • Clarifying and reinforcing its commitment to the “One China” policy, which has preserved peace between China, Taiwan, and the US for 50 years, is one of the most crucial things the US can do to lower tensions with China.

  • To be effective, a smarter deterrence strategy needs to be paired with a plan to help the US and China again believe that they can live together and do well.

  • Taking care of these problems, like climate change, the spread of nuclear weapons, and stabilizing the global economy, would not only make it less likely that there will be a disastrous war, but it would also help solve some of the most difficult problems facing the world today, making the American and Chinese people safer.

  • Whether there is a devastating conflict with China is a decision that the United States can make.

The most recent evidence of escalating tensions between the US and China was the harsh—some might even say hysterical—reaction to the Chinese balloon that passed over the continental US last weekend. But the arguing that followed made it hard to focus on what should have been the most important thing: keeping the US and China from going to war.

Thank goodness, President Biden’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday was a far cry from the harsh words of the “hawks,” who used the balloon incident to try to get the US to go to war with China. But he also said that he likes “competition, not confrontation,” and that the US is “committed to working with China where it can help the US and the world.” Biden also mentions “modernizing our military” to discourage China. Secretary of State Blinken’s trip to China should be rescheduled immediately so that he can put his words into action and start making plans for peacefully living together.

But if President Biden tries to make things easier between the US and China, he will face strong opposition inside and outside his administration. In a message that was just made public last week, four-star Air Force Gen. Mike Minihan anticipated a conflict between the US and China, writing, “My instinct tells me we will battle in 2025,” and telling his subordinates that “unrepentant lethality counts most.” Minihan’s assertion is both reckless and misinformed. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said in response to Minihan’s claim that war is inevitable that it is “not only not inevitable, it’s very unlikely.”

No matter how likely you think a war between the US and China is, the main goal of US policy should be to stop it from happening. Recent war games, including those run by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and by our organization, the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, show that a US-China conflict would be devastating rather than protective of Taiwan. It would also make the world economy less stable and nuclear war more likely. These risks won’t be lessened if the US keeps building up its military in an arms race with China in the name of military deterrence, a narrowly defined term for building up the military to stop China from acting aggressively. To get the US-China relationship back on solid ground, a strategy that strikes a balance between calculated deterrence and focused efforts to reassure is required.

Clarifying and reinforcing its commitment to the “One China” policy, which has preserved peace between China, Taiwan, and the US for 50 years, is one of the most crucial things the US can do to lower tensions with China. The policy requires, among other things, that China commit to a peaceful solution to the Taiwan status issue and that the US stop supporting Taiwan’s formal independence and only have friendly relations with the Taiwanese government.

Unfortunately, the United States and China have made this agreement worse to make their opponents less likely to attack them. President Joe Biden has repeatedly said that if China attacks Taiwan, the US will use military force. This makes the US doctrine of strategic ambiguity look very bad. Even though the government has repeatedly said that it is committed to the “One China” policy, there has been a growing movement in Congress to change it.

The US responds to each Chinese provocation with another, and China has raised the threat of its military maneuvers near Taiwan. People like General Minihan and other aggressive personalities on the Chinese side who see no possibility of the United States and China coexisting peacefully could gain power due to this spiraling cycle of escalation.

Present problem

But it’s still possible to take a different path. On the military front, the United States should take a defensive stance instead of making up risky plans to beat an enemy with nuclear weapons. US military spending is around 2.5 times that of China, and unlike China, the US has significant allies in the region, such as Australia, Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines. A policy of active denial that focuses on giving defensive weapons to US allies and putting US soldiers in the area less visibly and more flexibly would make it more expensive for China to use military force without making China more afraid. On the other hand, there would be a higher chance of war if there were a big increase in US military activity near China’s shores, an arms race, and aggressive talk in Washington, like that of General Minihan.

To be effective, a smarter deterrence strategy needs to be paired with a plan to help the US and China again believe that they can live together and do well. Even though the US and China had a strong track record of working together on pandemic diseases and climate change less than ten years ago, it seems like recent history has been forgotten and both sides are thinking in terms of “win-lose.”

The only way to restore confidence is to put at least as much effort into cooperating with China on matters of shared concern as is being put into confrontation right now. Taking care of these problems, like climate change, the spread of nuclear weapons, and stabilizing the global economy, would not only make it less likely that there will be a disastrous war, but it would also help solve some of the most difficult problems facing the world today, making the American and Chinese people safer. Any efforts in this direction will be undermined by the verbal conflict indicated by General Minihan’s statement or by an overtly military US government response to China’s challenge.

None of the aforementioned issues should prevent the United States from denouncing China’s bad behavior, such as its brutal suppression of the Uyghur population or its crushing of the democracy movement in Hong Kong. Nationalists and militarists are the biggest enemies of human rights. War and its threats strengthen them and can be found on all sides.

Whether there is a devastating conflict with China is a decision that the United States can make. That fact should be reflected in our approach to Beijing.

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