Avoiding a world war

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz - The Philippine Star

Antonio Guterres said in his speech at the UN that one of the two greatest risks the world is facing is the prospect of a divided world. He is the UN Secretary General and like many other world leaders, he is looking for a way to reconcile the two major opposing camps – China and the United States.

Many countries are trying hard to pursue a so-called “independent” foreign policy that will allow them to stay outside both camps. Recent events have convinced me that this is not possible. The world will be divided into two main camps – China and the United States. One of the biggest reasons for this is that Chinese leaders are convinced that it is only a matter of time before China overtakes the United States in all aspects – economic, military, technology.

Chin Yin is a close confidant of Xi Jinping. He is also secretary general of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission. A few days before Biden’s inauguration he stated that “…the rise of the East and decline of the West has become a global trend and changes of the international landscape are in our favor.”

One of the biggest strategic errors of the West was that they believed China could change to a capitalist and even mildly democratic country after Mao Zedong. For a while, the rise of Deng Xiaoping reinforced this belief. However, Deng’s initiatives have all come under attack from China’s new ruler Xi Jinping. It is Xi’s belief that China must go back to the roots of its modern growth. He has publicly said that the roots of modern China are Marxist Leninist and Mao Zedong. Xi’s preachings have been supported by the fact that the move to capitalism may have produced billionaires, but it has also resulted in one of the worst gaps between the rich and the poor in the world.

In the meantime, China’s disputes with its neighbors in the Himalayas, South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean have become worse as China has become more aggressive in its foreign policy.

There was a time when Western leaders and diplomats felt that China could be induced to change and the Chinese people could be empowered by the democratic countries of the world. That possibility is long gone. The only thing that could motivate the Chinese people to rise up against the Communist Party is an economic disaster and extremely high unemployment. This was what happened during the last years of Mao Zedong which gave the opportunity for Deng to take over the Communist Party.

The neighboring powers, led by the United States, have obviously given up on arriving at a peaceful coexistence with China. President Biden has openly declared that China is its greatest threat. He has introduced several programs and proposals that would not only revive the US economy but would also make it more competitive with China.

The US building of new alliances have made it clear that Biden is serious about the pivot to Asia. There was a time when NATO was the bedrock of American defense. This alliance is composed of Europe, Canada and the United States. Today, American focus has shifted to the East. There is a new alliance –the QUAD which I am sure will be formalized sooner or later. This is composed of the United States, India, Australia and Japan. The one thing they share in common is that they are all wary of Chinese aggression. The news is that QUAD’s heads of state will be meeting this year. This will be the first formal summit meeting of the four heads and I am convinced that formalizing the alliance and addressing the China problem will be the main issue.

Recently, the world was shocked when the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom signed an agreement that would supply Australia with nuclear powered submarines using American technology. This was a shock because this was the first time the United States offered nuclear-powered weaponry to any Asia Pacific nation. The second thing is that both countries – Australia and the United States – were willing to face the ire of France because the nuclear submarine deal meant that Australia would have to break its commitment to buy several diesel-powered submarines from France. A clear message is that the United States believed that China is a much bigger threat than Russia.

The moves towards reconciling the two powers – China and the United States – is almost impossible because of major issues that do not look like they can be reconciled.

The first is Taiwan, which China claims is part of China and must be returned. There was some hope for a peaceful solution under the “one nation, two systems” policy of China. That has gone when China took over Hong Kong in violation of this one nation, two systems policy. Taiwan will resist, even by military means, any Chinese takeover. The problem is a miscalculation by China that the United States will not come to the defense of Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion.

The second area of confrontation where both sides will not back down from is their present stand of mastery over this vital sea lane.

Can China and America avoid war? At the height of the Cold War between Russia and the United States, the two countries were able to put in place an agreement that would govern their relations and avoid a nuclear confrontation. This kind of agreement is the only possible solution for the two countries to continue competing and avoid a nuclear confrontation.

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Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

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