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Opinion

Is a US-China war inevitable?

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz - The Philippine Star

The foreign policy of the United States in terms of China and Southeast Asia is of paramount importance to the Philippines because the geographic location of the Philippines places it at the center of this potential conflict between the two countries.

China’s geopolitical aims have been clear for the past decades because its leadership has been consistent. Professor Ritter of Oxford University defines Chinese framework for Great Power status as follows:

“The Chinese Communist Party wants to firm up its grip on Chinese society, encourage consumerism at home and abroad, expand its global influence and develop and export China’s own advanced technology. Since the 2008 global financial crisis, China’s leaders have presented their authoritarian system of governance as an end in and of itself, not a stepping stone to a liberal state.”

In order to become a global superpower, China must be able to convince the rest of the world that its authoritarian model is superior to the liberal democratic model. During the Trump regime there was no major pushback from the United States because Trump is known to have a bias towards authoritarianism and had an obvious liking for authoritarian leaders around the world.

The Biden administration clearly has a very different view. In recent speeches, President Biden has clearly positioned its foreign policy as a global advocate for democracy and human rights. I have read two major foreign policy speeches of Biden. His references to China are what matter to Southeast Asia. During his candidacy, he made a major foreign policy speech. He touched on a broad range of topics; but his references (direct and implied) to China are the most important to us. Here are some of them:

“The triumph of democracy and liberalism over fascism and autocracy created the free world. But this contest does not just define our past. It will define our future as well.”

“Today, democracy is under more pressure than any time since the 1930s. Freedom House has reported that of the 41 countries consistently ranked free from 1985 to 2005, 22 have registered net declines in freedom over the last five years.”

“During my first year in office, the United States will organize and host a Global Summit for Democracy to renew the spirit and shared purpose of the nations of the free world. It will bring together the world’s democracies to strengthen our democratic institutions, honestly confront nations that are backsliding and forge a common agenda.”

“At the same time, free speech cannot serve as a license for technology companies to facilitate the spread of malicious lies. These companies must act to ensure that their tools and platforms are not empowering the surveillance states gutting privacy, facilitating repression in China and elsewhere, spreading hate and misinformation, spurring people to violence…”

“To win the competition for the future against China or anyone else, the United States must sharpen its innovative edge and unite the economic might of democracies around the world to counter abusive economic practices and reduce inequality.”

“China represents a special challenge. I have spent many hours with its leaders, and I understand what we are up against. China is playing the long game, by extending its global reach, promoting its own political model and investing in the technologies of the future.”

“If China had its way, it will keep robbing the United States and American companies of their technological and intellectual property… The most effective way to meet that challenge is to build a united front of US allies and partners to confront China’s abusive behaviors and human rights violations…”

Last Feb. 4, he went to the State Department and gave a talk on foreign policy. It covered a wide range of issues including Russia, Yemen, climate change and China. He said: “…we’ll take on directly the challenges posed by our most serious competitor, China. We’ll confront China’s economic abuses, counter its aggressive course of action to push back on China’s attack on human rights, intellectual property and global governance.”

China will definitely test American resolve to defend its allies in Asia. Three days after Biden’s inauguration, Chinese military aircraft entered Taiwan’s air defence zone. The Chinese sent 11 aircraft on Jan. 23 and 15 aircraft the next day. These aircraft were said to be conducting an exercise that used a group of US navy vessels led by the carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt as a simulated target.

The United States, on the other hand, invited the unofficial Taiwanese Ambassador to Washington to Biden’s inauguration. A US carrier task force also sailed to the South China Sea on Jan. 23; and an American naval force entered the Taiwan strait. The US has warned Beijing to stop intimidating Taiwan and Biden sent a message to China reaffirming its commitment to help Japan defend the disputed Senkaku Islands. The US State Secretary relayed a message that America is committed to defend the Philippines in the event of an attack on Philippine vessels or persons.

It seems that a new Cold War between the United States and China has started. Will this turn into a “hot war?” The key is Taiwan. Avoiding war would require the United States to retract its security guarantee to Taiwan and recognize Beijing’s claims. Also, Washington would need to accept that liberal values and human rights are not universal values.

The only way to avoid a “hot war” eventually would be for one country to change its present position.

*      *      *

An invitation to young writers:

Young Writers’ Hangouts via Zoom on Feb. 13 & 27 with Mailin Paterno and Rin Chupeco, 2-3 p.m. Contact writethingsph@gmail.com. 0945.2273216

Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

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