Heading towards a war
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - October 1, 2020 - 12:00am

Can a war between the two superpowers – China and the United States – begin over the South China Sea and Taiwan? Can this potential war begin as early as this month – October?

With the election only a month away and Biden still leading in the polls, China and many geopolitical experts are worried that Trump will provoke a confrontation and turn the political tide in his favor. If Trump does not score a decisive victory in the presidential debates, this possibility will become much stronger.

It is, by now, a well known fact that Trump will do anything to ensure his re-election. He has not kept this secret, even to the extent of refusing to promise that he will step down and ensure a peaceful transition of power if he loses.

Even mainstream media, like the Washington Post, is reporting that Trump will try to provoke a confrontation, even a military action, to ensure his chances of re-election.

China is already in a near stage of paranoia when it comes to Trump and his possible use of direct confrontation to increase his chances of winning. The Washington Post quoted a professor of international studies at Peking University and an adviser to the Chinese government: “These guys are crazy. There’s nothing they won’t do to hurt China, even when it comes at a cost that previous administration believed unacceptable to the US... As the chances of him getting reelected diminish, we worry he will try to provoke a crisis with China.”

The latest Pew Research Center survey of Americans’ views of China found that 73 percent of respondents had an unfavorable view of China, which is 26 percent higher than in 2018.

A leading China expert recently wrote: “...the context for a potential clash between China and the United States. Though it is difficult to predict how the situation will develop, one possible scenario is that the United States under Trump might decide to officially recognize Taiwan and set up formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan. That would amount to a dramatic reversal of the existing policy laid down by Nixon and Kissinger in the 1970s. If that happens, China is expected to cut off diplomatic ties with the United States and could lead to an armed conflict between mainland China and Taiwan which, if the United States then comes to Taiwan’s aid, would likely result in a US-China armed confrontation. So it bears watching what will happen in the coming month.”

There seems to be a stark difference between Biden and Trump as far as China is concerned. A Biden administration is expected to pressure China to go back to the open days of the Deng Xiaoping era. Also the Democrats would likely push for human rights restoration among Muslims in China and in Hong Kong.

The Trump administration is currently making a lot of noise about human rights abuses in China. However, if and when Trump wins, that policy could easily change. Very few experts believe that Trump is serious about human rights. The Democratic Party, on the other hand, considers human rights as one of its core issues in its platform.

Chinese experts also believe that Trump wants regime change. This means removing the Chinese Communist Party from power.

Aside from restoring diplomatic relations with Taiwan, the United States might try to destroy some of the reefs which China controls in the South China Sea. US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien has called China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea as “ridiculous.” He said Washington was not going to “...back down from its long held principles that the world’s oceanways and international waters should be free for navigation and the same with space and air rights in international airspace.”

“Wolf Warrior” diplomacy  describes an aggressive type of diplomacy purported to be adopted by Chinese diplomats in recent years. In contrast to prior Chinese diplomatic practice which had emphasized the avoidance of controversy and the use of cooperative rhetoric, wolf warrior diplomacy is more combative, with its proponents loudly denouncing criticisms of China on social media and in interviews.

One aspect of the wolf warrior diplomacy that could become highly controversial are the efforts aimed at incorporating the overseas Chinese or the Chinese diaspora into Chinese foreign policy. This has taken the form of intensifying the emphasis placed on ethnic loyalty over national loyalty. This could provoke nationalist, anti-Chinese sentiments in countries with relatively large Chinese ethnic groups like Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

The emergence of the wolf warrior diplomacy has been attributed to Xi Jinping’s political ambition. This has become a geopolitical cycle. Increased aggressiveness from China has resulted in counter aggressiveness from countries from the four corners of the world including Australia, United States, European Union, Japan, Vietnam and India.

China has also become callous to criticisms, like in the 300 fishing boats they sent off the shores of South America. Despite strong objections from Peru and Ecuador, the massive Chinese fishing fleet has refused to leave the territorial waters.

The world is seeing two opposing sides headed towards direct confrontation. No one seems to know how to prevent it. War seems inevitable.

*      *      *

An invitation for online classes for writers of all ages: Adult series on writing family histories, Oct. 17, 2-3:30 p.m.

Young Writers’ Hangout, Oct. 10 & 24, 2-3 p.m. Contact writethingsph@gmail.com.  0945.2273216

Email:  elfrencruz@gmail.com

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