US’ Cold War against China on Land and in Oceans: Discerned Indicators
(Research Paper, spanning 10,930 words, including 6 explanatory maps, and 46 authenticating references.)
Brigadier (Retd.) Dr. Ahsan ur Rahman Khan
The Unfortunate Phenomenon and Its Ramifications
The Opposing Alliances
Discerned US’ Design
Discerned Stance of European Union (EU) Countries
Discerned Chinese Design
Comparative Geopolitical Potential of US and China Aligned Groups
Comparative Military Strategic Capabilities of US and China Aligned Groups
Most Likely Form of This Cold War
The Unfortunate Phenomenon and Its Ramifications
This new Cold War, this time launched by US against China, is surely a very unfortunate phenomenon. It has already started producing serious damaging effects in the economic sphere in many parts of the world; as also initiating geopolitical destabilization of South and South–East Asia region. Additionally, there is also the lurking danger of this Cold War getting converted – even if accidentally – into a devastating military conflict. That danger clearly exists in view of the too aggressive moves by US–aligned group: (a) on land by India, on behest of US, through military annexation of the disputed territories of its occupied Kashmir including Ladakh (IOK), to ultimately cut off China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) at its entry point in Pakistan); and (b) in South China Sea, by US and its Allies’ Navies aggressively confronting Chinese Navy.
Keeping in view US’ adamant persistence of flexing military muscle against China, on land and in Ocean, this phenomenon certainly has the potential of resulting in massive human and economic disaster, and serious destability, in South and South–East Asia region.
Composition of The US-Aligned Group
So far US-aligned group includes members of Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD), which comprises of US, India, Australia and Japan. It was initiated as an informal strategic forum in 2007 and maintained semi-regular summits, information exchanges and military drills between member countries. It was weakened when for sometime Australia discontinued as a member. However, all four members rejoined QUAD in 2017. (1)
Countries Aligned With China
Countries aligned with China are not grouped together in any joint agreement like QUAD. However, these countries have a fairly strong ‘mutual geopolitical inclination’ due to their respective national geopolitical compulsion to thwart the currently much increased US’ arrogant economic and military domineering against the ‘non-compliant’ countries. The countries currently having that mutual geopolitical inclination are China, Pakistan, Russia, Iran, and Turkey.
Discerned US’ Design
It is already known that initially in the post–World War-2 period US’ design against China was ‘containment’ of influence expansion of communism from Soviet Union (USSR) and China. Subsequently US turned to the design of ‘political engagement’ of China through the well-known Nixon-Kissinger ‘realpolitik stratagem’. However, since last some years when (a) in the absence of USSR’s WARSAW Pact, NATO and US-EU strategic partnership lost its value for US, and (b) China’s economic and military potential grew from strength to strength; US changed its design (in the words of US President Brarck Obama) to ‘Pivot Asia’. President Donald Trump has further strengthened this design. In this strengthened design US’ priority is not only ‘containment’ of China, but it is ‘coercion’ of China applying all means of aggression including economic, technological, and military etc to achieve China’s political subjugation. And for that purpose US is applying its anti-China belligerence on land through India to cut off China’s CPEC at its entry point in Pakistan; and in Indo-Pacific Oceanic region, with its own and Allies’ Navies, to interdict China’s crucial maritime routes.
These facts are amply confirmed by the official paper of US’ Congressional Research Service (CRS), titled “China-India Great Power Competition in the Indian Ocean Region: Issues for Congress” dated 20 April 2018. Some of its relevant extracts are:-
- Under the heading ‘US Goals and Objectives’, the paper mentions “Under several past administrations, U.S. policy toward the Indo-Pacific has included the following goals and objectives”. Out of the list of those goals and objectives the more relevant were: (a) “Shape the strategic dynamics in the IOR (Indian Ocean Region) as needed to prevent Asia from being dominated by a single hegemon or coalition of powers that could threaten the United States”; (b) “Support U.S. friends and allies in the region and develop strategic and defense relationships with regional partners to strengthen the U.S strategic standing in the region”; and (c) “Keep the United States engaged in the dominant economic and strategic architectures of the region to promote U.S. economic interests”. (2).
- Under the heading ‘2017 US National Security Strategy’, the paper asserts, “The 2017 National Security Strategy (NSS) of the Trump Administration declares that “great power competition [has] returned” and places significant emphasis on the Indo-Pacific while describing China, along with Russia, as a revisionist power and competitor challenging “American power, influence and interests” while “attempting to erode American security and prosperity.” One observer states that, “The biggest departure from previous NSS documents is the placement of the Indo-Pacific discussion—at the very top of the regions considered, above Europe and the Middle East.” The NSS states that “China seeks to displace the United States in the Indo-Pacific region, expand the reaches of its state-driven economic model, and reorder the region in its favor.” (3)
- “The NSS lists the “Indo-Pacific” as the first of six regional contexts it discusses and states that, “we welcome India’s emergence as a leading global power and stronger strategic and defense partner.” It goes on to say that the United States will expand and deepen its security cooperation and strategic partnership with India while supporting India’s leadership role in the Indian Ocean region. The NSS also states: “We will seek to increase quadrilateral cooperation with Japan, Australia, and India.” (4)
- Under the heading ‘2018 National Defense Strategy’ the paper highlights “The 2018 National Defense Strategy views the reemergence of long-term, strategic competition by revisionist powers as the central challenge to the United States’ prosperity and security. Within this context it states China is leveraging military modernization, influence operations, and predatory economics to coerce neighboring countries to reorder the Indo-Pacific region to their advantage. … it will continue to pursue a military modernization program that seeks Indo Pacific regional hegemony in the near term and displacement of the United States to achieve global preeminence in the future”. (5)
And further confirmation of those facts about US’ discerned design has been provided just few days back by Steve Bannon who was White House chief strategist in President Donald Trump’s government. His interview with Fox News revealed the current US’ anti-China design. That interview has been published by many media outlets on 21st of last month (July). The published report is titled “Former White House strategist reveals Trump’s ‘war plan’ to confront China”. Following are some extracts of that published interview.
“The Trump administration has put together a “war plan” to first “confront” and then “take down” the Chinese Communist Party, said former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon”;
“This “war plan” against China includes supporting allies in India on the borders of Chinese-occupied Tibet, Bannon said on Monday;
“Bannon said the president’s “kind of war council” has laid out the “four horsemen of the apocalypse” — the national security adviser, head of the FBI, the secretary of state, and then-Attorney General Barr — against the Chinese Communist Party;
“Those four individuals laid out an integrated and coherent war plan to confront the Chinese Communist Party on technological and information war and economic war, and then, with our allies, start to open up the South China Sea, and support our allies in India on the border of Chinese-occupied Tibet,” he said”. (6)
And now, an official confirmation of those facts relating to the US’ anti-China belligerence has been made public by US’ Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in his speech in The Richard Nixon presidential Library and Museum. His speech has been published by US Department of State on 23rd of last month (July) (7).
In his lengthy speech he factually announced current US’ strategy of bringing in regime change in China through instigation of Chinese dissidents, for which he asserted “We must also engage and empower the Chinese people – a dynamic, freedom-loving people who are completely distinct from the Chinese Communist Party” (8).
Salient aspects of his lengthy speech have also been published by media. The US’ bimonthly international affairs magazine The American Interest has also published on 25th of last month (July) an article titled ‘Mike Pompeo Just Declared America’s New China Policy: Regime Change’. Some extracts of that article are given below.
“Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, from the podium at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California, laid out in no uncertain terms what the administration wanted to do and how it planned to go about accomplishing its ambitious aims”.
“America, the secretary of state said, has effectively ditched five decades of “engagement” policy and is now embracing a policy now out of favor across the American policy establishment: regime change”.
“Formally, the State Department still “engages” China, Pompeo said, but “simply to demand fairness and reciprocity.”
“More importantly, Pompeo said there would be a new form of engagement. “We must also engage and empower the Chinese people—a dynamic, freedom-loving people who are completely distinct from the Chinese Communist Party,” he said. “That begins with in-person diplomacy.”
“Analysts say the landmark address is “a cry for war,” as Fred Kaplan, writing on the Slate site told us”. (9)
Discerned Stance of European Union (EU) Countries
The stance of EU towards the current US–China Cold War is obviously as complex as is its internal politics, due to the diverse historical background and the varying geoeconomic compulsions of the EU member nations. However, the EU member countries are now compelled to decide how to interact with these two rather belligerently competing world powers in their ongoing Cold War – i.e. US, with whom EU countries have had deep military and economic relationship (although both these aspects being on the wane now); and China (whose system of governance is not considered by Europeans as being liberal democracy, but it provides better avenues for economic interaction for mutual benefits).
In this context it is worth keeping in mind that while both US and China have some countries aligned to each, yet so far neither US nor China appear to have attained completely dominating geostrategic power potential to win this Cold War. The role of EU is therefore bound to be of high significance in this phenomenon.
Gaining of a very clear understanding of the most probable EU stance in relation to this US-china Cold War is, therefore, of paramount importance for the policy–makers in the governments of various countries.
As for the views from EU member countries, one publication in this context is quite an authentic document, titled ‘Europe in the Face of US – China rivalry’, which provides clear understanding of the evolving EU stance. That document is the report published in January this year (2020). It has been prepared by The Institut français des relations internationales (ifri) (which is a think tank dedicated to international affairs, based in Paris, France), in collaboration with The European Think Tank Network on China (ETNC) (which has collection of China experts from European research institutes).
Extracts from the Summary of this document, which provides the required understanding, are given below.
“The European Think Tank Network on China (ETNC) has devoted its fifth year of meetings and research to analyse – from a national, bottom-up approach – how the EU is responding to increased US-Chinese geopolitical rivalry. This report contains 18 country chapters, all from EU member states, and a further one focused on the EU’s perspective on Europe’s difficult balancing act between the US, a long-term strategic and economic partner, and China, the EU’s second most important market and, probably, the next economic superpower. The evidence presented in this report shows ——-. how US unilateralism and Chinese assertiveness have triggered a rethinking of the EU’s strategic landscape”.
“Despite the differences between EU member states, its key finding is that all the countries analysed are in a similar position. They all consider the US their most important ally and they all depend on its military protection, but they also want to do as much business with China as possible”.
“Hence, far from being persuaded about a possible decoupling, the European economies are trying to maintain and even enhance their economic engagement with China, but this is now done with more awareness of the strategic dimensions involved” ——.
“However, many other texts reveal the same complaints that are voiced in Washington DC”, ———-. “However, while many European policymakers share the complaints that are voiced by Washington about China’s state capitalist model, the nature of its political system and its strategic ambitions; on a range of issues the Trump Administration, too, is seen as undermining some European interests and values: the drop-out from the Paris climate agreement, the way the US seeks to push for WTO reforms, the undermining of the UN, the approach to the nuclear deal with Iran (JCPOA) and the nuclear arms control treaty (INF) and Trump’s protectionism and his criticism of NATO and the EU are cases in point”.
“The EU sees trouble in both its major partners, and in their rivalry, but it also needs them both for its prosperity. By performing this balancing act, the common European objective is to avoid a bipolar system in which EU member states are forced to pick sides on all relevant policy issues. This is reflected in the reluctance of many member states to issue a blanket ban on Chinese companies’ access to their 5G markets”.
“Some, like Hungary, are trying to play the two powers against each in other to extract possible concessions”.
Finally, there is a group led by France, Germany and Spain that is working with Brussels to enhance the EU’s strategic autonomy and economic sovereignty, including the capacity to develop critical core technologies autonomously, independent from China while managing or hedging dependencies from the US”. (10)
Since Russia is also likely to play an important role in US–China Cold War, the views from Russia about this Cold War from Timofei Bordachev (Programme Director of the Valdai Discussion Club (Russia) and Academic supervisor of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies) are also worth taking into account. His article titled ‘Europe, Russia and Attitudes Towards the ‘New Cold War’ Between US and China’ has been published on 9 June 2020. Some of the extracts of that article are given below.
“The global conflict between China and the United States will be the most serious test of Euro-American relations in the history of this relatively unified community of liberal market democracies. This is because China neither threatens the survival, nor the interests, of Washington’s European partners, and an acrimonious relationship with Beijing only serves to create problems for them. Therefore, the leading countries of the European Union (EU) are increasingly thinking about how to behave going forward and are certainly not going to unconditionally support their American NATO ally. This represents a first-ever rift in the 75-year history of transatlantic relation”.
“Last week, President Trump managed to simultaneously loudly announce a new attack on China’s economic positions around the world and receive a sensitive blow in the form of the polite refusal of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to personally participate in the G7 summit in the United States”.
“Indeed, everything has changed. According to a recent survey conducted in Germany by the Pew Institute and the Kerber Foundation, only 37 percent of German respondents believe that relations with the United States are a higher priority for their country than relations with China”.
“Therefore, a global change in the balance of power both represents an increase of China’s capabilities and an increase of the US’s determination to maintain a dominant position. Europe may be the worst-affected party in this conflict”.
“Russia was a historical competitor for Europe, which for 300 years sought to dominate the Old World and whose opinion the European powers were forced to take into account.——- After 1917, Russia, for the first time since the time of Peter the Great, was eliminated from the European balance of power. But at the same time it remained a “perfect adversary” – simultaneously threatening and conductive to development”.
“However, China, on the other hand, poses neither an ideological alternative to Europe nor an existential threat. Beijing seeks to trade and develop economic relations without imposing its political views”.
“Therefore, Europeans in the coming months and years will seek to use the new global conflict in order to maximise their own yet-insignificant resources and opportunities. The leading continental states, primarily Germany and France, will this year try to play the role of an independent balancer toward the United States”.
Germany will spend its six months chairing the EU attempting to consolidate its political power within the Union”.
“The very fact that now the Europeans have begun to move towards the recognition of the inevitability of ethical diversity, as a real alternative to the universal ethics of the liberal world order, is already a very serious signal”. (11)
Discerned Chinese Design
As well-known, China’s design for influence expansion design is primarily based upon enhancing its economic/investment in the world; though political influence expansion also automatically ensues as a by–product.
However, the key to success of this design of China is that it offers economic/investment interaction without attaching any political etc ‘strings’ as are usually attached by US and EU countries.
According to published reports, “Initially announced in 2013 by Chinese President Xi Jinping, the so-called “Belt and Road Initiative” has China planning to invest in economic development and transportation in more than 130 countries and 30 international organizations. Projects range across Asia, but also include places in Africa, the Caribbean, Europe and South America. With a projected cost of more than US$1 trillion it may be the most ambitious infrastructure project undertaken in human history” (12). +
Besides that, China’s design also includes expansion of its maritime outreach to safeguard its maritime routes. For that purpose China has been investing heavily in port development in various countries. According to a 7 October 2017 report titled ‘China’s Expanding Investment in Global Ports’ of The Economist, “China is making strides towards establishing itself as a maritime power. Besides enhancing the capabilities of its navy, it is also investing heavily in global port infrastructure. From mid-2016 to mid-2017 Chinese firms announced around US$20bn-worth of investment in nine overseas ports, around double that for the year-earlier period”. Ports shown in the map below.
(Courtesy: The Economist Intelligence Unit) (13).
In this context, it is also worth noting that so far about 80 % of China’s import of oil is along the long route through the Strait of Malacca. However, once the Gawadar port of Pakistan becomes fully operational as the port terminal of CPEC, China will have a much shorter maritime route through the western Indian Ocean for its oil imports as well as its other imports and exports,
Map: Key Indo-Pacific Energy and Trade Routes
Source: Graphic created by CRS. Map and information generated by [author name scrubbed] using data from the South China Morning Post (2017); the Department of State (2015); Esri (2016); and DeLorme (2016).
(Courtesy: CRS. China-India Great power Competition. op.cit.) (14)
As for the responsibility of initiating this US-China Cold War, it is evident that China’s design of its influence expansion in the world is purely based upon the application of ‘soft power’ – through economic/investment interaction.
However US, rather than competing China in economic/investment sphere, has opted to belligerently oppose that design of China. The reasons for that belligerent anti–China stance quoted by US and its Allies are the same old rhetoric (i.e. China is a closed society, China’s government is not a liberal democracy, Chinese President has unbridled powers, China is aggressively trying to dominate South China Sea, and (even as ridiculous a blame as) China has spread the Covid–19 virus in the world to destablise the competing economies, etc.) so, they claim that if China is allowed to spread its influence in the world, the liberal democratic countries will suffer.
Thus, US and its ‘camp–follower’ countries blame China’s economic/investment based design as the reason for this new US–China Cold War. In reality, however, finding it too difficult to compete with China in such economic/investment design, due to US’ own incompetence, US has initiated this new US–China Cold War applying the belligerent design (including sanctions, diplomatic pressure, military coercion, etc).
The fact that US, particularly US President Donald Trump, is the initiator of this Cold War, has also been confirmed by Jeffrey David Sachs. He is an American economist, liberal, academic, public policy analyst and former director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, where he holds the title of University Professor. He is known as one of the world’s leading experts on economic development and the fight against poverty (15)
In his interview published by BBC on 21 June 2020, he has asserted (extracts): “The Columbia University professor blamed the US administration for the hostilities between the two countries”. “The US is a force for division, not for cooperation,“ ——-. “It’s a force for trying to create a new cold war with China”.
About the sanctions imposed upon China by US, Professor Jeffrey David Sachs mentioned “The Trump administration has also targeted Chinese companies, in particular Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, which Washington says is being used to help Beijing spy on its customers. China denies this, as does Huawei”. “But President Trump’s tough stance on China and Huawei may have all been part of a political ploy to get himself re-elected ———. In that context he agreed “that targeting Huawei was never simply a security concern”; “The US lost its step on 5G, which is a critical part of the new digital economy. And Huawei was taking a greater and greater share of global markets”; and “The US concocted in my opinion, the view that Huawei is a global threat. And has leaned very hard on US allies… to try to break the relations with Huawei“.
About China’s economic/investment design and its effect on Asia, Professor Jeffrey David Sachs opined, “The big choice frankly is in China’s hands. If China is cooperative, if it engages in diplomacy, regional cooperation and multilateralism, in other words – soft power – because it is a very powerful country…. then I think that Asia has an incredibly bright future.” (16)
Comparative Geopolitical Potential of US and China Aligned Groups
While analysing any conflict situation between states, a very careful examination of the geopolitical potential of the opponent states is crucial, to assess the ability of each state to act within the limits of its respective geographical, national power (economic, military, etc.), political and foreign policy potentials.
(The Case of US Aligned QUAD Group)
As mentioned earlier the US Aligned Group comprises of US, India, Australia and Japan (The QUAD). As for the strength of the geopolitical potential of this group, undoubtedly US, despite its current economic problems due to Covid-19, is still the leading world power at least in military and high–tech fields; India and Australia also have reckonable economic and military potential; and Japan’s economy is third largest in the worlds.
However, this group also suffers from a number of weaknesses in its geopolitical potential. These include the aspect of geospatial weakness, and the lack of capability in all members of the group – India, Australia, Japan, and even US – to generate worthwhile geopolitical power.
As for the geospatial weakness of this group, US, the leader and main force of
(The QUAD Group. Courtesy Google Search) ( (17).
this group is located about 6,300 nautical miles from China across the Pacific Ocean; and the distance from Bahrain (location of the headquarter of US’ Fifth
Naval Fleet responsible for Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Arabian Sea, and parts of the Indian Ocean) to China is also immense – 3,300 nautical miles in straight line, obviously much more than that via the ocean route. This is a very serious weakness from operational logistics of US’ Naval and Marine Corps forces.
In the case of India, which is US’ strategic partner, India has the problem with China only in the resolution of its long-standing northern border disputes with China. India’s high priority strategic concern, therefore, is only ‘land-based’ focused on its northern border with China; and it has no threat from China in the South China Sea or the Pacific Ocean. Hence US’ demand from India to contribute Indian naval cooperation in QUAD group’s naval actions in South China Sea and Pacific Ocean is factually a ‘burden’ on India.
(Map. India-China border dispute areas. Courtesy: Indian Website Clear IAS) (18)
Besides that, as well-known, it was as a part of US’ anti-China plan that: (a) on 5th August last year Indian government militarily annexed the internationally disputed territories of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) and Ladakh; and (b) also officially declared its intention to further capture China’s Aksai Chin area and Pakistan’s area of Gilgit Baltistan to cut off CPEC at its entry point (Karakoram Pass) in Pakistan. India also constructed a new road connecting Leh with Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) where Indian military/air base is located. Strategic significance of this road leading to DBO is indicated by Lt Gen Prakash Katoch (Indian Army) in his article published by Indian Defence Review (IDR) dated 27 April 219. He mentioned that DBO is just 8 km south of Karakoram Pass and 9 km from Aksai Chin (19); thereby India gained the strategic capability to launch coordinated air and ground offensive against Pakistan’s Karakoram Pass or China’s Aksai Chin, or both. These Indian activities naturally invoked the military standoff with China,
(Courtesy: Former Indian Ambassador M. K. Bhadrakumar’s article) (20).
which as well-known has now ultimately resulted in India’s humiliating military and national debacle and considerable loss of territory to Chinese forces. That loss of territory has also caused the interdiction of India’s road to DBO. In this context it is also worthy of note that in this grave situation for India, US has merely issued statements of ‘concern’ and advised that the dispute should be resolved through dialogue between both countries.
Thus India is most probably going to remain in this extremely serious national and strategic quandary in the foreseeable future timeframe; hence, chances of India’s worthwhile participation in QUAD ant-China operations, particularly in Indo–Pacific Ocean, are too far remote.
In the case of Australia, Australia’s diplomatic relations with US are as old as of 80 years. Besides that, US and Australia are members of US-Australia-New Zealand Security Agreement (ANZUS) since 1951; and Australia–US Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) since 2005. As such US–Australia alliance is mostly considered to be the “Unbreakable Alliance”.
Otherwise too, within the QUAD group, Australia has also recently signed a number of agreements/ MoUs with India, including (21):-
- Framework Arrangement on Cyber and Cyber-Enabled Critical Technology Cooperation;
- MOU on cooperation in the field of mining and processing of Critical and Strategic minerals;
- MoU Arrangement concerning Mutual Logistics Support (MLSA), for increasing military inter–operabilitythrough mutual defence exercises, and enabling both nations to access military bases for logistics support;
- MoU on Defence Cooperation; Australia to support India’s membership for NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group);
- MoU on Co-operation in the field of Public Administration and Governance Reforms;
- MoU on Cooperation in Vocational Education and Training;
- MoU on Water Resources Management;
- Elevation of bilateral Strategic Partnership concluded in 2009 to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) announced.
Undoubtedly all such information, at least apparently, reflect the strength of Australia–US and Australia–QUAD relationship.
However the decisive question is that, despite such information, whether Australia is likely to fully participate in QUAD’s anti–China military operations and/or economic actions as desired by US? The ground realities of the obtaining ‘Realpolitik’ clearly show that the sure answer is NO.
Factually since many years Australia’s ‘thought–leading’ elite has been highlighting the farcicality of the idea of Australia joining the QUAD. In that context a noteworthy article, titled “Why joining the Quad is not in Australia’s national interest”, was published even three years back. It was written by Geoff Raby who was Australia’s ambassador in china from 2007 to 2011. Some extracts of his article are significant (22):-
- “Australia’s joining a quadrilateral group with Japan, India and the US is a bad idea, a very bad idea. It was a bad idea 12 years ago ——-, and it remains even more so today. It is a potentially dangerous response to China’s ascendancy and flies in the face of more than 30 years of Australian policy engagement with China”.
- “Recognising that Australia is more dependent economically on China than any of the others, and by a big margin, it is curious why Australia would want to join a group that China sees as hostile to its interests. It may seem preposterous in Canberra, but Beijing does in fact feel threatened by the United States. Japan’s invasion and occupation of China is still in living memory. And China has a long-standing military conflict with India over disputed borders”.
- “It cannot fathom why a country that has benefited so much from China’s economic prosperity would wish to join a group, as Beijing sees it, intended to contain China”.
- “India is mainly concerned about its border disputes with China and China’s growing presence in the India Ocean. Quad membership is a long way behind in Delhi’s list of priorities and besides, membership of the quad would hardly impact on India’s relations with China. If a serious conflict were, however, to occur between China and India over the disputed borders, where would Australia stand if we were a quad member?”
- “Australia needs to return to creative diplomacy in the region based on regional integration rather than regional division”.
And that idea, of Australia not participating in US’ anti–China QUAD design at the cost of Australia’s national interest, has now been announced officially by Australia’s Foreign Minister just a few days back on 28 July 2020 in Washington (US). It was announced in the joint press conference by US’ Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense; and Australia’s Foreign and Defence Ministers after their AUSMIN (The Australia–US Ministerial Consultations) meeting.
The former Indian ambassador M.K. Bhadrakumar, who discussed this issue in his article titled “Australia ‘Decouples’ From US China Policy” dated 30 July 2020, highlighted “The setting for the AUSMIN meeting was prepared by Pompeo personally with his much touted alliance–of–democracies speech at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in California on July 23. The content of that speech was highlighted in its Churchillian title, Communist China and the Free Word’s Future” (23).
US Department of State’s official document dated 28 July 2020, which published the details of the proceedings of that joint press briefing, is most revealing. Both the US’ Secretaries and Australian Ministers, in the diplomatic norm, obviously praised the US–Australia partnership. However the most crucial part of US’ hope (to get a blanket approval from Australia for full participation in all US’ anti–China operations/actions as expressed by US Secretary of State in his 23rd July speech) was flatly and publicly negated by the Australian Foreign Minister.
That fact is recorded in the mentioned US Department of State’s official document. That document mentions that when media was allowed to ask questions, Nick Schifrin from PBS Newshour asked two questions.
In one question he asked US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about US’ anti–China design alliance of democracies, “Mr. Secretary, after your alliance of democracies speech, you received some criticism by some people who called it unworkable especially for European allies, as the Trump administration pursues a confrontational trade policy on Europe and doesn’t criticize other autocrats, including Viktor Orban. How do you work through that?” To this question Mike Pompeo negated the arguments of Nick Schifrin and asserted that the alliance of democracies is workable.
Nick Schifrin’s second question was for Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne. He asked, “And Minister Payne, another aspect of that speech was the admonition to help the Chinese people change the Chinese Government. Do you think that is possible and/or wise?” It was Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne’s answer to this question which made it abundantly clear that Australian government will not provide any blanket approval for full participation in all US’ anti–China operations/actions as expressed by US Secretary of State in his 23rd July speech.
In her answer Australian Foreign Minister categorically asserted, “Thanks very much, Mike, and rather than I think make individual comments on the Secretary’s speech – Secretary’s speeches are his own; Australia’s positions are our own. And we operate, as you would expect, on the basis of our shared values, actually, which are reflected in both the approach of the United States and the approach of Australia. But most importantly from our perspective, we make our own decisions, our own judgments in the Australian national interest and about upholding our security, our prosperity, and our values. So we deal with China in the same way. We have a strong economic engagement, other engagement, and it works in the interests of both countries.
That said, of course, we don’t agree on everything. We are very different countries. We are very different systems, and it’s the points on which we disagree that we should be able to articulate in a mature and sensible way and advance, as I said, our interests and our values. As my prime minister put it recently, the relationship that we have with China is important, and we have no intention of injuring it, but nor do we intend to do things that are contrary to our interests, and that is the premise from which we begin. (24)
This categorical official version of Australia’s China policy enunciated by Australia’s Prime Minister and reiterated by Australia’s Foreign Minister, makes it clear without any doubt that Australia is not prepared to participate in any anti–China hostile QUAD operation/action desired by US.
In the case of Japan, its economy is strong; however its military potential is too limited. The 9 August 2019 issue of Japan’s leading English magazine METROPOLIS provides the clarity about the limitations of Japan’s armed forces – some extracts are given below.
“Article 9 of the Constitution of Japan bans war as a means of settling international disputes and outlaws the maintenance of a military”. —–During the post World War 2 period when Japan was occupied by US forces “Occupation forces and the Japanese government revised the post–war constitution to allow self–defensive military action, establishing the JSDF” (Japan Self Defense Forces).—— “the International peace Cooperation Law of 1992, which allowed the SDF to participate in United Nations peacekeeping operations in “noncombat” areas”. —- “Still, the Japanese military aren’t allowed to be solitary aggressors. Not only do the SDF worship international law, but they abstain from using offensive weapons like long-range ballistic missiles, bombers and aircraft carriers. Manpower is pretty limited. When they do exercise military power, it’s defensive and bilateral (in cooperation with the U.S.)”. (25)
Factually since World War 2 US has been using Japan as its military ‘launching pad’ in South-East Asia (Indo-Pacific region). For this purpose “There are more American soldiers based in Japan than in any other foreign country. Around 54,000 U.S. military personnel are stationed there”, —– . (26) These US military forces are stationed in a number of bases in Japan; and Japan “compensates 75 percent of U.S. basing costs — $4.4 billion”. (27)
However, there have been reports of Japanese public developing unpleasant feelings about the behaviour of US troops located in Japan.
Besides that, last year the concept of US forces in Japan to provide defence cover to Japan against any aggression, also received a serious jolt.
The credible US’ news publication Foreign Policy published a report on 4 September 2019 titled “American Bases in Japan Are Sitting Ducks”. It highlighted the major advances in military high–tech made by China at a fast pace; and then asserted: “In a 2017 report for the Center for New American Security, Tom Shugart and Javier Gonzales conclude that the missile defense systems of every single American air and naval base in Japan would be overwhelmed by the PLA Rocket Force’s very first volley. They estimate that more than 200 aircraft, almost all fixed American command centers, every U.S. runway, and most of the American fleet at berth would be destroyed—tens of billions of dollars in military equipment gone in less than 30 minutes of fighting. Recent Rand Corp. war games found similar results. In response to the games, former Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work offered a caustic assessment: “In every case I know of, the F-35 rules the sky when it’s in the sky, but it gets killed on the ground in large numbers.” (28) That credible news of the grave danger to Japan’s national security is most likely to compel the Japanese leadership to re-think/re-model Japan’s regional geopolitical alignment.
A further serious problem in US–Japan geopolitical alliance also surfaced when last year (2019), according to an exclusive report of Foreign Policy dated 15 November 2019 US President demanded “Tokyo to pay roughly four times as much per year to offset the costs of stationing more than 50,000 U.S. troops there”. (29).
And yet another, 15th June this year’s news published by Japan’s National Daily The Mainichi, has added further to the necessity of seriously re–checking the signs of ‘weakening’ of US–Japan geopolitical/geostrategic partnership. The report was, “Japan has decided to suspend a plan to deploy the U.S–developed Aegis Ashore missile defense system, designed to counter the threat of North Korean ballistic missiles, due to technical problems and ballooning costs, Defense Minister Taro Kono said Monday”. (30) Another report of Arms Control Association (July/August 2020) has also clarified, “Purchasing, operating, and maintaining the two Aegis Ashore systems for 30 years had been estimated to cost about $4.2 billion, and Japan has already invested about $1.8 billion in the project, according to Japanese news sources”. (31)
In essence, therefore, it is evident that, as a member of QUAD, Japan is not capable of contributing in the Alliances’ geopolitical potential; rather it may as well cause a ‘retarding’ effect upon the US’–designed QUAD’s anti–China operations/actions.
As for US’ geopolitical potential, undoubtedly US’ strength in its military forces and high-tech capabilities provide it strength in its geopolitical clout. However, US also has many weaknesses in its geopolitical potential. Some of those weaknesses of US’ geopolitical potential are very briefly mentioned in succeeding paragraphs.
The geospatial problem. As mentioned earlier in this paper, US has to negotiate thousands of nautical miles through oceanic routes to reach in the vicinity of China – the operational focus of its QUAD plans. That is certainly a very serious weakness from operational logistics of US’ Naval and Marine Corps forces.
US is fast losing major component of its geopolitical clout – i.e. partnership with EU. It is already known that one major component of US’ geopolitical power potential was its immense geopolitical clout due to its rather dominating partnership with EU, in the spheres of economics and military (NATO). However, now that partnership is visibly on course of major political and strategic divergence.
The basic reason for that is the mode of rather arrogant unilateralism of US President Donald Trump, in which in total disregard of US’ EU allies he pulled out/announced to pull out from international agreements – “(Paris Climate Agreement (2017), Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement (2017), UNESCO (2017), Iran Nuclear Deal (2018), United Nation Human Rights Council (2018), UN Relief and works Agency (2018); and several times over the course of 2018, Trump privately said he wanted to withdraw from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, senior administration officials told the New York Times”. (32)
It was due to that ‘America First’ arrogance and oft-repeated bullying of its EU members by President Trump, which caused the emergence of politico-strategic divide between US and EU (particularly the major EU countries).
By now the two most powerful EU counties, Germany and France, have already joined hands to lead EU to EU’s political and strategic ‘sovereignty’ outside US’ dominance.
And the US–EU clear cut ‘divide’ is now in place. Recently EU has taken two actions countermanding US’ unilateral actions in the international sphere.
In one case, when “The WHO launched an appeal in March for $675m to help fight the coronavirus pandemic and is reported to be planning a fresh appeal for at least $1bn”, according to BBC report of 15 April 2020,“US President Donald Trump has said he is going to halt funding to the World Health Organization (WHO)”. (33) At that juncture Germany–France leadership showed its leadership mettle in taking Europe out of the morass. It was with their efforts that according to 21 July 2020 report by The Guardian “EU leaders have reached a historic agreement on a €750bn coronavirus pandemic recovery fund and their long-term spending plans”. (34) That new appearance of EU’s ‘sovereignty’ in decision–making was hailed in Europe as also commented by the Spanish language daily newspaper of Spain El Pais of 28 July 2020, “The German Chancellor and the President of France have exercised leadership when Europe needed it most. The Brussels agreement is a historic opportunity to guarantee stability and recovery”. (35)
The other case is that of US’ unilateral decisions of anti–China operation/actions through QUAD or otherwise. In fact EU’s marked differences on US’ anti–China actions (sanctions, trade war, etc) had already become intense earlier – resulting in clear emergence of the politico–strategic divide between US and EU. That reality was also highlighted by the US’ magazine The Atlantic dated 4 June 2019 in its article titled “The U.S. Is Losing Europe in Its Battle With China”. That article was written by Noah Barkin who was the 2019 Research Fellow of the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) which focuses on German–American relationship. In that article he asserted “But conversations I had with dozens of officials on both sides of the Atlantic—many of whom requested anonymity to talk about diplomatic and intelligence issues—suggest that instead of coming together, Europe and the U.S. might be in the early stages of a damaging divergence on the China challenge. Trump’s latest moves, which raise the specter of a prolonged economic Cold War between Washington and Beijing, are likely to deepen the divide, taking the U.S. down a path that is unpalatable for even the hardest of European hard-liners”. (36)
In any case, EU has now clearly taken the decision not to be bound by US’ unilateral anti–China operation/actions through QUAD or otherwise. The US–EU politico–strategic divide is thus most likely to enlarge in the near future timeframe.
As explained earlier, US’ QUAD partners too have weaknesses in respective power potential and also lack strategic will to act against China.
These serious weaknesses in US’ geopolitical power potential make it abundantly clear that US along with its QUAD group is factually not capable of succeeding in its current anti-China design to completely subjugate China.
(The Case of China-Aligned Group)
The countries now aligned with China against US’ ant-China design are Pakistan, Russia, Iran, and (possibly now) Turkey.
Though individually the geopolitical power potential of China and anyone of its aligned countries is not superior to that of US; yet collectively this China group has no discernible aspects of weaknesses, rather it has many aspects of collective geopolitical power potential strength, to present a daunting challenge to the US along with its QUAD group. Some of those aspects of strength are briefly explained in succeeding paragraphs.
The most noticeable is the geospatial aspect of strength. Unlike US and its aligned QUAD group, the China aligned group’s countries have geographical contiguity.
(Map courtesy Goggle Search) (37)
The other aspect of strength of this China aligned group is the geopolitical bondings of these countries. Though at this stage, the bonding of these countries is individually between countries; however it is most likely to develop into bonding as a group, because of the overriding compulsion to join together to ward off the newly too aggressive US’ external domineering designs.
China and Pakistan have deep–rooted and time–tested geopolitical partnership including all aspects – economic, military, international politics, etc.
China and Russia have also developed strategic partnership. Though much details about it are not generally known, yet David Ceasar Wani Suliman, who is a Doctoral Fellow (PhD) in the School of Political Science and Public Administration at Shandong University China, has clarified “Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moscow and Beijing have converted their relationship from being Cold War rivals to become realistic partners with a common goal of pushing back at a Western–dominated international system. Their relationship is strategic and opportunist but noticeable by progressively well–matched economic, political, and security interests”. (38) The not much media–covered aspects of the strength and depth of China–Russia partnership has also been covered in a paper of US’ Research Group BROOKINGS of February this year. Some extracts of that paper which are noteworthy are “The China–Russia relationship has become an increasingly robust, pragmatic strategic partnership since 2014, in part because the United States is pursuing policies that have driven the two countries closer together”. ——– “Russia appears to have accepted its role as a junior partner to China”. ————– “Asked about Russia’s relationship with China at the Valdai Discussion Club in October 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the two countries “enjoy an unprecedentedly high level of trust and cooperation. This is an allied relationship in the full sense of a multifaceted strategic partnership.” Then he revealed, “We are now helping our Chinese partners create a missile attack warning system. This is very important and will drastically increase China’s defense capability. Only the United States and Russia have such a system now”. (39).
Details of the newly developed Chin-Iran relationship, through China’s huge investment for development of Iran’s Chahbahar port and various infrastructures, are already well–known.
Details about the deep–rooted Pakistan-Turkey relationship, covering all aspects – economic, military, international politics, etc, are also well–known.
Details of clearly developing Pakistan-Russia relationship, including even joint military exercises, are well–known too.
Relations between Turkey and Russia had some areas of geopolitical competition. However the handling of these issues (in Syria and Libya), achieving the effective détente, by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian President Wladimir Putin, has clearly reflected the pragmatic statecraft of the Turkish and Russian governments. Hence, further development of Turkey–Russia relationship, most likely appears to be ‘on the cards’.
Besides that – the joint efforts of Pakistan–China–Russia–Turkey to bring peace and development in Afghanistan, Iran’s readiness to participate in this joint effort, and the indications of Russia having a desire to join CPEC – are certainly the unmistakable indicators that China, Pakistan, Russia, Iran, and Turkey are well on track to form a geopolitical alliance. It was in that mode that in February this year Iran’s ambassador to Pakistan, in his lecture in Islamabad Strategic Studies Institute (ISSI), proposed “Countries like Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, Russia and China have the potential to form a new alliance for better future of the region”. (40)
Since by now all member countries of this China aligned group have had their turns to be subjected to suffer from US’ aggressive external domineering actions (economic/ political/military), these countries have finally resolved to challenge US’ external domineering. In this context it is significant to note that this resolve of these countries has arisen from the burning aspiration of their respective masses to so resist the US’ designs. That fact provides the unsurmountable strength of ‘Strategic Will’ to the resolve of the governments of these countries. That Strategic Will is yet another aspect of the geopolitical power potential of Chin aligned group of countries.
(Comparison of Geopolitical Power Potential of the Two Groups)
Keeping all these facts in view, it is evident that US being a major military power still has the potential to create security problems to a target country; yet it (along with its QUAD group) does not have the geopolitical power potential to subdue the China aligned group of countries. On the other hand the China aligned group has the geopolitical power potential to effectively thwart US’ aggressive designs against the group; yet this group is also not yet capable of subduing US completely.
Comparative Military Strategic Capabilities of US and China Aligned Groups
In this context two significant points to be kept in mind are:-
- US and China being the ’actual’ and leading belligerents in this Cold War, the focus of this analysis has to be on US’ and China’s military strategic capabilities; and
- While many details of US’ advances in military high–tech are generally known – mostly because of US’ own media projections; those of China’s are mostly clouded in the haze of secrecy. However, by now it is generally acknowledged that whatever information about China’s advances in military high–tech has somehow become available, that information factually represents only a part of the ‘hidden–whole’.
Any attempt to analyse the comparative military strategy capabilities of US and China aligned groups, therefore, has to depend much upon the published papers/analytical inferences of the credible experts, officials and organisations.
One of such publications is that of US’ well–known RAND Corporation, titled “War with China Thinking Through the Unthinkable” (41). It is important to note that the research presented in this paper is five years old – i.e. conducted in the year 2015. That clearly shows that the current US’ aggressive belligerence against China is not a new development; rather its contemplation started five years back.
This research paper covered a projected timeframe period of ten years from 2015 to 2025. This paper is quite lengthy. However, it Summary (from initial pages xi to xvii) provides ample understanding of the major aspects highlighted and inferences drawn in this research. Some of those are briefly mentioned in succeeding paragraphs.
“As its military advantage declines, the United States will be less confident that a war with China will conform to its plans. China’s improved military capabilities, particularly for anti–access and area denial (A2AD), mean that the United States cannot count on gaining operational control, destroying China’s defenses, and achieving decisive victory if a war occurred” (p. ix).
“We postulate that a war would be regional and conventional. It would be waged mainly by ships on and beneath the sea, by aircraft and missiles of many sorts, and in space (against satellites) and cyberspace (against computer systems). We assume that fighting would start and remain in East Asia, where potential Sino–U.S. flash points and nearly all Chinese forces are located” (p. ix).
“——– both U.S. and Chinese military forces seriously threaten each other” (p. x).
“These cases indicate that the advanced conventional counterforce capabilities of both the United States and China could produce major military losses from the outset and throughout unrestrained (though nonnuclear) hostilities” (p. xiii).
“By 2025, enhanced Chinese A2AD will have shrunk the gap between Chinese and U.S. military losses: Chinese losses would still be very heavy; U.S. losses, though less than China’s, could be much heavier than in a 2015 war” (p. xiii).
“The prospect of a military standoff means that war could eventually be decided by nonmilitary factors” (p. xiv).
“Although advances in targeting enable conventional counterforce warfare and reduce U.S. warfighting dominance, they do not point to Chinese dominance or victory. War between the two countries could begin with devastating strikes; be hard to control; last months, if not years; have no winner; and inflict huge losses on both sides’ military forces” p. xvii).
These highlighted aspects and drawn inferences in this research clearly assert that: (a) even by the year2015, China had made enough advances in military and related high–tech capabilities; (b) as a result “United States will be less confident that a war with China will conform to its plans” and that due to China’s improved military capabilities “United States cannot count on gaining operational control”; and (c) as the time passes after the year 2015, in the case of war, US’ losses will increase.
Thus factually, while five years earlier this Rand Corporation’s research had asserted that in case of US–China war China will suffer more losses as compared to US’ losses; it has also brought forth the realisation that: (a) US’ forces may not be capable of attaining US’ planned operational control over Chinese forces, and (b) neither US nor China may ultimately emerge as clear winner.
And, as the drive of US and China for advancement of military and related high-tech capabilities continued after 2015, subsequent research/analysis clearly showed the further loss of US’ earlier superiority in military high-tech capabilities.
One such report was from The New York Times dated 29 August 2018, titled “With Ships and Missiles, China Is Ready to Challenge U.S. Navy in Pacific” (42). Some extracts of that report are the following.
“A modernization program focused on naval and missile forces has shifted the balance of power in the Pacific in ways the United States and its allies are only beginning to digest”.
“While China lags in projecting firepower on a global scale, it can now challenge American military supremacy in the places that matter most to it: the waters around Taiwan and in the disputed South China Sea”.
“To prevail in these waters, according to officials and analysts who scrutinize Chinese military developments, China does not need a military that can defeat the United States outright but merely one that can make intervention in the region too costly for Washington to contemplate. Many analysts say Beijing has already achieved that goal”.
“One focus has been in what American military planners call A2/AD, for “anti-access/area denial,” or what the Chinese call “counter-intervention.” A centerpiece of this strategy is an arsenal of high-speed ballistic missiles designed to strike moving ships. The latest versions, the DF-21D and, since 2016, the DF-26, are popularly known as “carrier killers,” since they can threaten the most powerful vessels in the American fleet long before they get close to China”.
“The DF-26, which made its debut in a military parade in Beijing in 2015 and was tested in the Bohai Sea last year, has a range that would allow it to menace ships and bases as far away as Guam, according to the latest Pentagon report on the Chinese military, released this month. These missiles are almost impossible to detect and intercept, and are directed at moving targets by an increasingly sophisticated Chinese network of radar and satellites”.
Yet another stark realisation of the serious loss of US’ military superiority came from an article titled “The U.S. Navy Isn’t Ready to Take On Iran” published on 30 September 2019 by the well-known US magazine Foreign Policy (43).
This article was published when US could not act against Iran in response to the alleged 14 September Iranian missile and drone strike on Saudi oil facilities. The author of the article, the American analyst Michael E. Moran, asserted “The United States’ ability to project power into the Persian Gulf region via carrier strike groups, the go-to U.S. option in such situations for decades, is not what it used to be, nor what it might have been”.
From that incapability of US, Michael E. Moran highlighted that “Not long ago, a modern version of gunboat diplomacy—dispatching carriers or guided missile cruisers to the region to loiter menacingly offshore—could have decisively influenced events”. ——- “Today, however, such a deployment would no longer elicit the same response in a potential adversary. In part, the change reflects the closing of the enormous technological advantage the U.S. Navy had enjoyed for decades over any realistic rival”. Mentioning Iran’s domestically produced anti–ship missiles capable of 100 miles range, and Iran’s fleet of fast moving boats, he asserted “The combination of these missiles and Iran’s fleet of fast and cheap patrol boats has been enough to keep the USS Lincoln out of the Persian Gulf as tensions between Iran and the United States increased this summer’. —- —- “Even against what the U.S. military regards as a second–tier power like Iran, Washington’s options are severely limited”.——— “After all, the Lincoln and its 90–plane strong air wing have remained about 200 miles off the coast of Oman since May, even though its F/A-18 strike aircraft have a range of only about 500 miles. At best, this leaves strike aircraft barely able to get to the eastern Iranian coast and back and hundreds of miles short of the Iranian naval bases in the Gulf most frequently cited as potential targets”.
And, in this regard, recently on 25 May 2020 Gregory R. Copley also published a very informative article titled “Is The U.S. Prepared For War With China?” (44). He is the Australian historian, author, and strategic analyst (who has for almost five decades worked at the highest levels with various governments around the world, advising on national security, intelligence, and national management issues, and who in 2007, was made a Member of the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday Honours).
In the context of the severe loss of US’ military superiority, even to the extent of US’ incapability to succeed in military action against China, the very important findings of the credible organisations/authorities reported by Gregory R. Copley are as following.
“On March 7, 2020, a RAND organization warfare analyst, in a speech to the (significantly, Democratic Party-controlled) Center for a New American Security, announced that RAND conflict simulation had seen the US fail to prevail in a comprehensive military engagement with either the PRC or Russia. RAND analyst David Ochmanek noted: “We lose a lot of people. We lose a lot of equipment”.
“The conclusions were supported by a presentation by former US Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work. “In every case I know of,” said Work, “the F35 rules the sky when it’s in the sky, but it gets killed on the ground in large numbers.” But subsequent failures of the F35 to achieve anything like acceptable operational readiness rates do not even justify DepSec Work’s qualified optimism”.
“The 2018 bipartisan official study for the US Defense Department, entitled Providing for the Common Defense: The Assessment and Recommendations of the National Defense Strategy Commission, noted: “If the United States had to fight Russia in a Baltic contingency or China in a war over Taiwan, Americans could face a decisive military defeat.” The Commission highlights the PRC’s and Russia’s ongoing efforts to develop advanced anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) weaponry, systems which could result in “enormous” losses for the US military in a conflict. It went on: “Put bluntly, the US military could lose the next state versus state war it fights”.
“That a window of opportunity continued to exist into 2020 for the PRC to use its largely mobile ballistic missile capabilities to neutralize both US fleets at sea within around 1,000 n.miles from the PRC coastline and against US air (particularly B52, B2, and B1 bomber) and missile assets on Guam and the Japanese islands was evident”.
“An open report in the UK newspaper, The Times, on May 16, 2020, indicated that continuing US simulation exercises showed that US forces would be overwhelmed, and that the situation was worsening with the introduction of new PLAN attack submarines, aircraft carriers, and destroyers through 2030”.
After reporting all these, Gregory R. Copley has opined, “It seems clear that Beijing is reluctant to initiate military action, but is ready to engage once it has begun”.
All these published research findings and analytical inferences asserted by credible subject experts, officials, and organisations – relating to the comparative military strategic capabilities of US’ and China’s aligned groups – clearly highlight the fact that in case of a military war neither US nor China can achieve victory. The US-China Cold War is therefore most likely to continue in the ‘non-military-offensive mode’; unless of course if military conflict erupts accidentally during any aggressive military ‘posturing’.
Most Likely Form of This Cold War
Since all indicators (geopolitical, military, etc.) clearly show that both US and China are not in a position to indulge into a military conflict, in all probability this US–China Cold War will continue through the combined application of the strategies of ‘compellence’ and ‘deterrence’.
‘Compellence’ is the term which was coined in 2005 by the 2005 Nobel Prize winner American economist Thomas C. Schelling. He described ‘compellence’ as a direct action that persuades an opponent to give up something that is desired (as opposed to ‘deterrence’ which is designed to discourage an opponent from action, by threatening punishment) (45).
Scholars have differed in their opinion about the methods of applying the strategy of compellence. However in the current scenario, the strategy of compellence applied by US comprises of many more methods of application of this strategy than the methods enunciated by the scholars.
US’ current strategy of compellence, to bring about the ‘political subjugation’ of the target country, includes a mixture of the vast variety of methods – economic sanctions, destruction of economy through covert sabotage actions, proxy terrorism through US’ mercenary militias (like the ‘Black Water’), creation of destabilization or/and regime change (through espionage, subversion, sabotage), using terrorism as a tool of offensive diplomacy, ‘diplomacy of violence’ by offensive military posturing, cyber warfare, space warfare, etc.
On the other hand, China is mostly applying the strategy of ‘deterrence’, both in the spheres of geopolitics and military, to deter US and its QUAD Allies from taking any non–military and/or military offensive action against it. As well–known by now in the sphere of geopolitics, through the vast outreach of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China has developed deep geoeconomic partnerships or relations with 138 countries in the world. As of March 2020, these countries include 34 countries of Europe (including 18 EU countries) and Central Asia, 25 countries of East-Asia & Pacific, 18 countries of Latin America and Caribbean, 6 countries of South-East Asia, 38 countries of Sub-Sahara Africa, and 17 countries of Middle-East and North Africa (46).
This vast geoeconomic network of China (in the continents of Asia, Europe, Africa, and Latin America), as also China’s newly developed geographically contiguous geopolitical alliance (Pakistan, Russia, Iran, and Turkey), provide China with much credible geopolitical deterrence to ward off US’ anti–China designs in the geopolitical sphere. In the military sphere, China’s advances in the military high–tech provide China with much effective ‘counter–force’ capability to deter US and its QUAD Allies from indulging in any military adventure against it.
This US–China Cold War is therefore most likely to continue in this form at least in the near–future timeframe. That is so because the driving force behind US’ decades–old rather militarized external domineering policy, is the combined strength of US’ ‘Military Industrial Complex’, Pentagon, CIA, and the hawkish majority of US’ Democrat and Republican politicians alike. Hence, even the possible change of US’ President in November elections this year is not likely to bring any change in this US’-initiated Cold War, and its current form.
The thus higher chances of continuation of this Cold War in the near future timeframe clearly foretell following consequential scenarios:-
- Chances of this Cold War engulfing other countries is likely;
- Masses of the involved countries (not excluding US) will continue suffering economic and security hardships;
- In not too distant a timeframe, the China–Aligned group is most likely to gain further strength in its geopolitical and military power potential; besides that, it is also likely to be joined by some other countries which suffer from US’ external domineering. In that case this group may as well emerge as the leading global power group.
- Since the leading powers of the EU group – Germany and France – have already pronounced their rejection of US’ rather arrogant ‘America First’ policies which hurts European countries’ political sovereignty and economy, the EU group (in whatever form it remains) will be another global power group which will oppose US’ external domineering economic and military designs/moves.
- In the long run US is more likely to be isolated in international relations, especially economic which will result in further loss of jobs and other economic hardships for US’ However the chances, weather US’ citizens will then be able to compel their government to drop the external domineering policy, are hard to discern at this stage.
(2). CRS. “China-India Great Power Competition in the Indian Ocean Region: Issues forCongress”.https://www.everycrsreport.com/files/20180420_R45194_3d4bf676130e76924f5fea6d2e54d3a78e2200a9.pdf. p.2 (Hereinafter cited as CRS. China-India Great power Competition).
(3). Ibid. p. 3.
(4). Ibid. p. 4.
(10). Ifri. ‘Europe in the Face of US – China Rivalry’.
https://www.ifri.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/etnc_report_us-china-europe_january_2020_complete.pdf. p.p. 15 – 16. (Hereinafter cited as ifri. Europe in The face of US-China Rivalry)
(13). Google Search.
(14). CRS. China-India Great power Competition. op.cit. p. 19.
(17). The QUAD Group.
(18). Clear IAS. India-China Border Disputes – What is the Doklam Issue?
(19). Lt Gen Prakash Katoch (Indian Army)’s article in IDR.
(20). Former Indian Diplomat M.K. Bhadrakumar’s article.
(22). Ambassador Geoff Raby. “Why joining the Quad is not in Australia’s national interest”.https://www.afr.com/opinion/riding-a-quad-bike-away-from-our-national-interest-20171106-gzfi2n
(23). Ambassador M.K. Bhadrakumar. “Australia ‘Decouples’ From US China Policy”https://orientalreview.org/2020/07/30/australia-decouples-from-us-china-policy/ (Hereinafter cited as Ambassador Bhadrakumar. Australia ‘Decouples’ From US China Policy)
(24). US Department o State dated 28 July 2020.
(28). “American Bases in Japan Are Sitting Ducks”. Foreign Policy.
(29). “Trump asks Tokyo to Quadruple Payments for U.S. Troops in Japan”. Foreign Policy.