Saying that China and the US
Will Inevitably Fight a War
Is Just Alarmist Talk
By Xiong Guangqing
Translated By Jeffrey King
15 February 2012
Edited by Gillian Palmer
China - Huanqiu - Original Article (Chinese)
America’s high-profile return to Asia has seen a shift in the U.S. military’s strategic focus toward East Asia. The U.S. is sending troops to the region and is continuously holding military exercises. All this has resulted in a tense state of affairs for the East Asian region. Some believe that the era of strategic opportunity for China’s peaceful development is coming to an end.
In reality, however, China still has a lot of strategic leeway and many buffer zones on the international stage, especially in East Asia. As long as China can remain patient, accurately judge the changes in the state of affairs and effectively manage Sino-U.S. relations, then China can ensure that its era of international strategic opportunity will not be cut short. This would also be beneficial to the peace, stability and development of the East Asian region.
China’s Strategic Room for Maneuver
1. In a world of economic globalization, factors for mutual reliance between China and the U.S. are numerous. Since the 1990s, a significant change in international relations has been the acceleration of economic globalization. At the very least, this has resulted in two profound changes. The first is the ever-increasing interdependence between countries. The logic of zero-sum games has been defeated, conflicts are now believed to be a loss for both sides and cooperation is viewed as the best means for a win-win situation. The second change is that those issues that before would only have been resolved through political or military means can now be solved by economic means.
Moreover, there are no direct problems or conflicts of interest between China and the U.S. There are no situations that would lead to these two powers insisting on using war as a means to resolve an issue. Economically speaking, although China’s GDP is huge, China is still at the bottom of the supply chain while America remains at the very top of it. Those asserting that China and the U.S. will inevitably fight a war are only engaging in alarmist talk.
2. The possibility that differences in ideology or political systems will lead to a China-U.S. conflict should not be exaggerated. To a large degree, China and the U.S. profit greatly from the current international order. They do not want to take strong actions that may harm this international order.
In all aspects, the U.S. is stronger than China. On top of this is the fact that China’s restrained temperament means that China has no desire to challenge the U.S. What China really needs to be on the lookout for is an exaggeration of the ideological and political differences that could possibly lead to a conflict or an arms race with the U.S. That is the type of outlook that would leave people highly worried.
3. Among the countries surrounding China, it is unlikely that any one of them is willing to “stand out.” America’s military return to Asia will undoubtedly increase pressure on China. However, the possibility that the U.S. will directly use large-scale military measures to attack China is very slim. The U.S. will probably continue to create friction between China and its surrounding countries, resulting in a tense environment around China’s periphery, but it is unlikely that any single country, for America’s sake, will stand up to China or act as the “artillery shell.” A shell, once it goes off, may or may not damage the target, but one thing that is certain is that it will become cannon fodder.
China’s Strategic Choices
1. Do its utmost to concentrate on long-term goals such as continuously increasing China’s strength and working to improve the people’s livelihood. Even though China’s GDP is the second biggest in the world, its per capita wealth remains very low. China’s internal problems need time in order to be resolved. Therefore, in handling its international relations, the most important point for China in gaining time for its peaceful development is to not give anti-Chinese elements a pretext for interfering in China’s internal politics.
2. Do its utmost to correctly manage China’s relations with East Asian countries. After 30 years of rapid development that allowed China to become quite strong economically and saw its tightening of ties with East Asian countries, China should really have more methods for appropriately handling its relations with these countries. Additionally, China has a very good regional advantage and social foundation for strengthening its ties with East Asian countries. China should make extensive use of the power of the country, society and people to increase the exchanges and cooperation between itself and the other East Asian countries. It should promote understanding, deepen relationships and truly put China’s proposed “friendly neighbor,” “safe neighbor” and “rich neighbor” policies into proper practice.
3. Do its utmost to strengthen strategic trust with the U.S. and to appropriately manage Sino-U.S. relations. China has a very long coastline, but it has been hemmed in at the first island archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, existing in a state of being half sealed off. This type of sealing off and containment has been led by the U.S. and has been going on for over 60 years. In this sense, instead of saying America is “returning” to Asia, it is more accurate to that the U.S. is strengthening its presence there. The U.S. intends to increase its military presence in East Asia and to consolidate its leading position in the region. After this return to Asia by the U.S., China must handle the situation appropriately in order to avoid butting heads with America.
Looking at things from a different perspective, although the U.S. is quite strong, it is also struggling with a lot of its own problems. Many of these issues require China’s participation and help in order for them to be resolved. Moreover, America’s position of supremacy is in a state of decline. There exists a severe tension between America’s limited power and its grand objectives. As a result of these factors, China has been given room to move and can ensure that, despite the competition present in Sino-U.S. relations, there will be no outright conflict, but instead a certain degree of stability.
“From a distance, the sea looks calm.” As long as China’s has a reasonable strategy and suitable tactics, it can be certain that China will avoid falling into the trap of war or an arms race. Instead, it should be able to continue its era of international strategic opportunity. If China can have 20 more years of peaceful development, then the livelihood of its people will be that much better, and the foundation from which to maintain internal stability and international peace will be that much more robust.
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