China statecraft must avoid war with US and keep Taiwan peace

Feb 15, 2023
United States and Philippines flag together relations textile cloth fabric texture.

It would be a grave mistake for Beijing to respond in kind in the face of incessant provocations and escalations by America and its allies.

Western countries, especially those in the Anglo-American sphere love to drum up exaggerated claims about China’s economic coercion and geopolitical threat. But compared to the often genocidal or starvation-level sanctions and embargoes of the United States against its enemies, which are enforced by its global war machine and a weaponised international dollar-based financial system, China’s capabilities and threats are more bark than bite.

Now, the US is preparing the world for a potential hot war with China. That is the only logical conclusion to be drawn from recent US and Nato statements and actions, as well as those of its allies. The Western proxy war against Russia in Ukraine is not enough as it has failed to draw China into the fray, nor has the propaganda war over Taiwan; hence the incessant provocations and escalations.

Japan’s Okinawa is being reinforced with new missile stations as part of an expansion of offensive capabilities along the first chain of islands, which includes Taiwan, against mainland China. The Philippines is opening new military bases for the US. Any number of top Pentagon generals now claim a war may break out with China at any time in the next few years.

Led by the US, Nato has openly labelled China “a malicious actor” and gone so far as to claim a responsibility to counter it; I guess it’s not “North Atlantic” any more but the “Indo-Pacific” as well. So much for Nato eastward expansion in central Europe against which Russia has fought; the world is now its oyster.

While Nancy Pelosi’s pot-stirring trip to Taiwan in August was at least portrayed as a civilian affair, her Republican successor as US House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, is planning one of his own with the full involvement of the Pentagon, which means it is likely to proceed with a full military escort. Such provocative symbolism will be hard to miss across the Taiwan Strait.

Just witness the absurd lengths to which Washington went to play up an expensive and proportionate military response to shoot down a big Chinese-owned balloon as a threat to its sovereignty and security, and how most of the mainstream Anglo-American press reported it as an act of shocking Chinese aggression and provocation.

Meanwhile, Western think tanks such as the notorious Australian Strategic Policy Institute, funded by various Western governments and the US military-industrial giants, and the Rand Corporation, which is the Pentagon’s civilian research arm, routinely churn out anti-China studies with the full facade of academic independence and neutrality while labelling the country as “a peer competitor” and “the greatest long-term threat”.

Notice the threat upgrade. Not too long ago it was still “near peer”; well not any more! And if it’s a long-term threat, doesn’t it mean it’s not really a threat now or at least not much of one? Hey, you have to nip it in the bud. But if you take that route, then any form of aggressive pre-emption against China is justified, including war. But that will be wholly disproportionate to the actual threat, so the most extraordinary campaign of disinformation and propaganda has been executed incessantly by mobilising the global Western mainstream media.

When sacking an employee you don’t like, you can’t just hand him the pink slip, you need to build up a case against him for the benefit of files at the human resources department. What the US and its Western allies are doing is the geopolitical equivalent of sacking – sorry I meant decoupling – or isolating the Chinese from the Western-led global financial system and international “rules-based” order. In this scenario, war increasingly looks like a perfectly acceptable outcome to Washington.

Beijing will have to learn to behave more like a Zen Buddhist master rather than a red-hot bull. Fortunately, China is not Russia. Unlike Western warlike statecraft exemplified by constant American bellicosity, Chinese understand, both instinctively and historically, that war is a scourge and little else.

If you want world peace in the next decade or so, you’d better hope the Chinese succeed.


First published by South China Morning Post February 8, 2023

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