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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 1/28/17

How Trump Could Blunder Into War with China

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While Air/Sea Battle does not envision using nuclear weapons, it could still lead to a nuclear war. It would be very difficult to figure out whether missiles were targeting command centers or China's nukes. Under the stricture "use them or lose them" the Chinese might fear their missiles were endangered and launch them.

The last thing one wants to do with a nuclear-armed power is make it guess.

Superpower Conflict

The Trump administration has opened a broad front on China, questioning the "one China" policy, accusing Beijing of being in cahoots with Islamic terrorists, and threatening a trade war.

The first would upend more than 30 years of diplomacy, the second is bizarre -- if anything, China is overly aggressive in suppressing terrorism in its western Xinjiang Province -- and the third makes no sense.

China is the U.S.'s major trading partner and holds $1.24 trillion in U.S. treasury bonds. While Trump charges that the Chinese have hollowed out the American economy by undermining its industrial base with cheap labor and goods, China didn't force Apple or General Motors to pull up stakes and decamp elsewhere. Capital goes where wages are low and unions are weak.

A trade war would hurt China, but it would also hurt the U.S. and the global economy as well.

When Trump says he wants to make America great again, what he really means is that he wants to go back to that post-World War II period when the U.S. dominated much of the globe with a combination of economic strength and military power. But that era is gone, and dreams of a unipolar world run by Washington are a hallucination.

According to the CIA, "by 2030 Asia will have surpassed North America and Europe combined in terms of global power based on GDP, population size, military spending and technological investments." By 2025, two-thirds of the world will live in Asia, 7 percent in Europe and 5 percent in the U.S. Those are the demographics of eclipse.

If Trump starts a trade war, he will find little support among America's allies. China is the number one trading partner for Japan, Australia, South Korea, Vietnam, and India, and the third largest for Indonesia and the Philippines. Over the past year, a number of countries like Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines have also distanced themselves from Washington and moved closer to China. When President Obama tried to get U.S. allies not to sign on to China's new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, they ignored him.

But the decline of U.S. influence has a dangerous side. Washington may not be able to dictate the world's economy, but it has immense military power. Chinese military expert Yang Chengjun says "China does not stir up troubles, but we are not afraid of them when they come."

They should be. For all its modernization, China is no match for the U.S. However, defeating China is far beyond Washington's capacity. The only wars the U.S. has "won" since 1945 are Grenada and Panama.

Nonetheless, such a clash would be catastrophic. It would torpedo global trade, inflict trillions of dollars of damage on each side, and the odds are distressingly high that the war could go nuclear.

U.S. allies in the region should demand that the Trump administration back off any consideration of a blockade. Australia has already told Washington it will not take part in any such action. The U.S. should also do more than rename Air/Sea Battle -- it should junk the entire strategy. The East and South China seas are not national security issues for the U.S., but they are for China.

And China should realize that, while it has the right to security, trotting out ancient dynastic maps to lay claim to vast areas bordering scores of countries does nothing but alienate its neighbors and give the U.S. an excuse to interfere in affairs thousands of miles from its own territory.

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Conn M. Hallinan is a columnist for Foreign Policy In Focus, "A Think Tank Without Walls, and an independent journalist. He holds a PhD in Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley. He oversaw the (more...)
 
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