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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 12/9/21

China: Managed Competition

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Message Jason Sibert

The rise of an aggressive People's Republic of China is one of the key security issues that confronts our country.

The Chinese military buildup is a part of the problem. The country has built hundreds of long-range and precise ballistic missiles, launching them for years at mockups of U.S. ships and bases in Asia. It has constructed the world's largest navy in terms of the number of ships, vastly exceeding the U.S. Navy's rate of warship production in recent years, as stated by Thomas Shugart in his story "Who's to Blame for Asia's Arms Race."

Some blame aspects of United States policy for escalating tensions with PRC. Actions such as former President Barack Obama's "pivot to Asia" and the forming of the Quadrilateral Security Dialog and his promotion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Former President Donald Trump's defense buildup, which has continued under President Joe Biden, also deserves criticism. The current administration has announced plans for an expanded presence in Guam--reference to the ongoing move of 5,000 U.S. Marines to Guam from Okinawa, Japan (farther away from China), which has been planned since 2006.

What's the way forward? Writer Kevin Rudd advocates a solution in his story "Keep the U.S.-Chinese Confrontation from Ending in Calamity." Rudd admits that tensions between our country and the PRC will continue to grow, but he wants to place parameters around the competition and therefore prevent catastrophe.

The PRC is a power to be reckoned with, as its economy should be bigger than the U.S. economy by decade's end. China's central bank will be able to float the yuan as the word's global currency. A new policy plan will allow the PRC to dominate all technological domains by 2035, including artificial intelligence. It aims to modernize its military by 2027. Such power moves would allow a unification with Taiwan. This would put Xi Jinping on the same level as Mao Zedong in the CCP pantheon, as stated by Rudd.

If we were to do a lot of economic decoupling, then the nation-states and city-states of the world would be forced to take sides, making it a more dangerous place. Although some decoupling might be desirable (our shortage of ventilators in the Covid-19 pandemic), Rudd's alternative is extensive: "managed strategic competition would involve establishing certain hard limits on each country's security policies and conduct but would allow for full and open competition in the diplomatic, economic, and ideological realms. It would also make it possible for Washington and Beijing to cooperate in certain areas, through bilateral arrangements and multilateral forums. Although such a framework would be difficult to construct, doing so is still possible--and the alternatives are likely to be catastrophic."

The Biden administration should work diplomatically to keep the PRC from isolating American allies like Australia and India. At the same time, the PRC and USA should cooperate to draw down carbon emissions and also to limit the number of nuclear weapons in the world. In addition, the two powers could cooperate on disarming North Korea and Iran. A convention outlawing robotic warfare would also be a big win.

The coming battle is not so much military but diplomatic and economic. China will try to peal US allies away from our orbit - Germany, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, and the United Kingdom - using a combination of economic carrots and sticks. To prevent China from succeeding, the Biden administration needs to commit itself to fully opening the U.S. economy to its major strategic partners. The US must create an economy that includes all its allies. Perhaps gains from this economy can be routed toward healthcare, childcare, education, and low and no-carbon energy.

Rudd gives us a vision of what a future China policy might entail: "Washington must return to strictly adhering to the 'one China' policy, especially by ending the Trump administration's provocative and unnecessary high-level visits to Taipei. For its part, Beijing must dial back its recent pattern of provocative military exercises, deployments, and maneuvers in the Taiwan Strait. In the South China Sea, Beijing must not reclaim or militarize any more islands and must commit to respecting freedom of navigation and aircraft movement without challenge; for its part, the United States and its allies could then (and only then) reduce the number of operations they carry out in the sea. Similarly, China and Japan could cut back their military deployments in the East China Sea by mutual agreement over time." At the same time, the US and the PRC would continue to compete in the economic and diplomatic realms. Washington should support the idea of a democratic republic and human rights while China would support authoritarianism.

There is a way forward for the PRC/US relationship if we use our imagination in the economic and diplomatic realms.

Jason Sibert is the Lead Writer for the Peace Economy Project.

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Jason Sibert worked for the Suburban Journals in the St. Louis area as a staff writer for a decade. His work has been published in a variety of publications since then and he is currently the executive director of the Peace Economy Project.
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