China vs Amer­ica: the new cold war

The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL - Ayaz Ahmed

AC­CORD­ING to the renowned struc­tural re­al­ist, John J Mearsheimer, the Chi­nese eco­nomic and mil­i­tary rise in the 21st cen­tury would not be peace­ful; the US would em­ploy all means, fair or foul, to con­tain and im­pede China from chal­leng­ing the long-last­ing Amer­i­can hege­mony in the world. The com­pe­ti­tion be­tween both the coun­tries has awak­ened a dor­mant cold war at­mos­phere in cer­tain re­gions. The im­mi­nent cold war would cre­ate both op­por­tu­ni­ties and chal­lenges for de­vel­op­ing coun­tries.

From Capi­tol Hill to the Pen­tagon, all Amer­i­can de­ci­sion-mak­ing quar­ters are heav­ily en­gaged in craft­ing strate­gies on how to encircle, coun­ter­act and im­pede China, thus slow­ing down the Chi­nese eco­nomic boom and mil­i­tary rise. Though the Chi­nese rise is rel­a­tively peace­ful, the pow­er­ful com­mu­nist state is still fully pre­pared to promptly re­spond to any ag­gres­sive Amer­i­can pos­tur­ing against Chi­nese na­tional in­ter­ests, across the world.

In the restive South China Sea, China is hav­ing le­git­i­mate dis­putes with other South-East Asian coun­tries over the Spratly Is­lands, the Para­cel Is­lands, the Pratas Is­lands ,the Mac­cles field Bank and the Scar­bor­ough Shoal. There are pre­cious min­er­als, nat­u­ral gas and oil de­posits on and un­der the seafloor of these is­lands. For its na­tional se­cu­rity, China is also build­ing mil­i­tary, naval and air bases on some of these highly dis­puted isles. A num­ber of ar­ti­fi­cial is­lands have also been con­structed for Chi­nese mil­i­tary ob­jec­tives.

The US con­sid­ers such strate­gic moves from China a grave threat to the se­cu­rity of its re­gional al­lies and also to its dwin­dling re­gional dom­i­nance. To counter China's grow­ing pres­ence in the re­gion, the US has adopted 'strate­gic hedg­ing': It has re­cal­i­brated its 'pivot' to­wards the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion, lethally armed its re­gional al­lies and de­lib­er­ately vi­o­lated the Chi­nese Exclusive Eco­nomic Zones time and again. Both the coun­tries have also hurled threats against each other in the rest­less re­gion.

To weaken the Chi­nese po­si­tion, the US has been vo­cif­er­ously and bla­tantly sup­port­ing the na­tion­al­ists in Hong Kong and Tai­wan for their in­de­pen­dence from main­land China. The US pol­icy in re­sponse to the Chi­nese mil­i­tary and naval mea­sures in the South China Sea is that of cal­cu­lated con­fronta­tion rather than co­op­er­a­tion. If such widen­ing dis­trust and omi­nous bel­li­cos­ity were to con­tinue un­hin­dered, there could be a lim­ited con­fronta­tion be­tween China and the US, with the po­ten­tial of es­ca­lat­ing into a dan­ger­ous war in the dis­puted wa­ters of the re­gion.

In South Asia, it seems that China has out­smarted the US through its on­go­ing peace­ful re­gional con­nec­tiv­ity ini­tia­tives. The Chi­nese string of pearls strat­egy, stretch­ing from the South China Sea to South Asia, has made China the main trade and de­fence part­ner of some of the lit­toral coun­tries of the re­gion. More­over, the Chi­nese Silk Road, the Chi­naPak­istan Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor (CPEC) and China's grow­ing pres­ence in Afghanistan have be­come real bug­bears for the Amer­i­can's long-last­ing mil­i­tary and eco­nomic dom­i­nance of South Asia.

Be­ing an ar­dent re­al­ist, the US will not eas­ily per­mit China to chal­lenge its hege­mony in South Asia. In this con­text, the US has cal­i­brated some long term counter-China poli­cies, to encircle and weaken the ever- ris­ing in­flu­ence of China in the re­gion. The US has tried to coun­ter­act the Chi­nese in­flu­ence in South Asia through its in­va­sions of Afghanistan (in 2001) and Iraq (in 2003), its nu­clear partnership with In­dia and the re­cent nu­clear deal with Iran. Since China has a heavy pres­ence in the sea ports of Myan­mar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pak­istan, the re­sponse from the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment to any fu­ture threat to its eco­nomic and mil­i­tary ob­jec­tives would be prompt and harsh.

China is the only trust­wor­thy power to have emerged as an al­ter­na­tive to the Mid­dle East­ern coun­tries, af­ter the US's dis­mal fail­ure to fix some of their re­gional se­cu­rity is­sues. The US pol­icy of regime change, its fail­ure to root out Daesh and re­move the be­lea­guered Bashar al-As­sad and the Iran nu­clear deal have com­pelled some of the oil-rich Arab monar­chies to look to­wards China for their eco­nomic and mil­i­tary ob­jec­tives. Through its as­tute diplo­macy, China has grabbed the op­por­tu­nity by both hands and cre­ated a win-win situation: it is not only im­port­ing sub­stan­tial en­ergy re­sources from the Mid­dle East, but it is also ex­port­ing eco­nomic prod­ucts and arms to some Arab coun­tries.

To ob­struct the grow­ing Chi­nese en­gage­ment with the Mid­dle East, the US is se­cretly sup­port­ing ter­ror­ist and mil­i­tant groups, rebels and prox­ies in Iraq, Syria and Libya, in or­der to make the re­gion in­se­cure and un­sta­ble so that China can­not ex­pand its eco­nomic and de­fence ties. Such marked di­ver­gences in the US counter-strat­egy against China do not bode well for the mil­i­tancy-hit re­gion. It would cre­ate an ever-in­creas­ing arms race and em­bolden the lethally-armed Arab states to bru­tally crush any prodemoc­racy move­ments.

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