US – China Relations

Spoiler alert: We probably wouldn’t win.

The Nation
Date: Sep. 26, 2017
By: Alfred W. McCoy

Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado. (Reuters / Rick Wilking)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally appeared at To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from

This piece has been adapted and expanded from Alfred W. McCoy’s new book, In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power.

For the past 50 years, American leaders have been supremely confident that they could suffer military setbacks in places like Cuba or Vietnam without having their system of global hegemony, backed by the world’s wealthiest economy and finest military, affected. The country was, after all, the planet’s “indispensable nation,” as Secretary of State Madeleine Albright proclaimed in 1998 (and other presidents and politicians have insisted ever since). The United States enjoyed a greater “disparity of power” over its would-be rivals than any empire ever, Yale historian Paul Kennedy announced in 2002. Certainly, it would remain “the sole superpower for decades to come,” Foreign Affairs magazine assured us just last year. During the 2016 campaign, candidate Donald Trump promised his supporters that “we’re gonna win with military.… we are gonna win so much you may even get tired of winning.” In August, while announcing his decision to send more troops to Afghanistan, Trump reassured the nation: “In every generation, we have faced down evil, and we have always prevailed.” In this fast-changing world, only one thing was certain: When it really counted, the United States could never lose.

No longer.

The Trump White House may still be basking in the glow of America’s global supremacy but, just across the Potomac, the Pentagon has formed a more realistic view of its fading military superiority. In June, the Defense Department issued a major report on “Risk Assessment in a Post-Primacy World,” finding that the US military “no longer enjoys an unassailable position versus state competitors,” and “it no longer can…automatically generate consistent and sustained local military superiority at range.” This sober assessment led the Pentagon’s top strategists to “the jarring realization that ‘we can lose.’” Increasingly, Pentagon planners find, the “self-image of a matchless global leader” provides a “flawed foundation for forward-looking defense strategy…under post-primacy conditions.” This Pentagon report also warned that, like Russia, China is “engaged in a deliberate program to demonstrate the limits of US authority”; hence, Beijing’s bid for “Pacific primacy” and its “campaign to expand its control over the South China Sea.”


Indeed, military tensions between the two countries have been rising in the western Pacific since the summer of 2010. Just as Washington once used its wartime alliance with Great Britain to appropriate much of that fading empire’s global power after World War II, so Beijing began using profits from its export trade with the United States to fund a military challenge to its dominion over the waterways of Asia and the Pacific.   [FULL  STORY]

Date: September 26, 2017
By: Ryan Browne

(CNN)America’s top military officer, Gen. Joseph Dunford, told Congress Tuesday that China will pose the “greatest threat” of any foe to the US by 2025.

“I think China probably poses the greatest threat to our nation by about 2025,” Dunford told the Senate Armed Services Committee during a hearing on his re-appointment as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Dunford was responding to a question from Hawaii Democrat Sen. Mazie Hirono, who noted that the general had previously identified Russia, followed by China and North Korea, as representing the greatest military threats to US national security during a 2015 appearance before the same committee.

But on Tuesday Dunford took the opportunity to reshuffle his list of national security concerns, saying that North Korea now “poses the greatest threat today” due to the “sense of urgency” involved as Pyongyang’s develops its nuclear and missile programs.

Trump warns of 'devastating' military option as North Korea moves jets

Trump warns of ‘devastating’ military option as North Korea moves jets
He also said that Russia remained the greatest threat overall due to its military capabilities in the realms of nuclear weapons and electronic warfare as well as Russian military activity in places like Crimea, which it invaded and annexed in 2014, and eastern Ukraine, where Western officials accuse Moscow of backing armed separatists.    [FULL  STORY]

Washington has repeatedly expressed concerns that China’s development of artificial islands in South China Sea poses a threat to freedom of navigation in a major artery for international trade.

Date: June 05, 2017
By: Agence France-Presse

BEIJING: China has expressed “firm opposition” to remarks made by US Pentagon chief

US Navy warships have often patrolled near the disputed waters of the South China Sea. (Reuters)

Jim Mattis during a regional defence summit over the weekend, after he criticised Beijing’s “militarisation” of the South China Sea.

Washington has repeatedly expressed concerns that China’s development of artificial islands in the region poses a threat to freedom of navigation through its waters, a major artery for international trade.

Competing claims to the sea, which is believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits, have for decades made it one of Asia’s potential military flashpoints.

“The scope and effect of China’s construction activities in the South China Sea differ from other countries in several key ways,” Mattis noted, saying Beijing’s “militarisation” and “disregard for international law” showed its “contempt” for other nations’ interests.

US President Trump has brought uncertainty to Sino-American ties, ‘If a serious bilateral crisis develops, [foreigners] in China may become unacceptably vulnerable to expulsion or detention,’ said Matthew Brazil.

The News Lens
Date: 2017/05/13
By: Matthew Brazil

Since the 2016 General Election, American relations with the People’s Republic of China

Photo Credit: Reuters/達志影像

(PRC) have followed a rollercoaster-like trajectory. Days before his inauguration, President Trump briefly reversed decades of predictable American conduct in a telephone conversation with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and hinted a departure from the “one China policy,” (, Dec. 3, 2016; Reuters, Jan. 12). During his confirmation hearings, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson proposed blocking access to China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea and triggered an outraged response from Beijing (C-SPAN, Jan. 11, Global Times, Jan. 13).

Then came the public reversals. With little explanation, Trump endorsed “One China” during his call with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in early February. (Xinhuanet, Feb. 10). PRC Prime Minister Li Keqiang subsequently expressed optimism about the U.S.-China relationship in the lead up to the Xi-Trump meeting in early April (XinhuaNet and New York Times, March 15).

During Secretary of State Tillerson’s visit to Beijing a week later, he adopted Chinese phraseology to describe the bilateral relationship, something that previous U.S. administrations had carefully avoided (Xinhuanet and Washington Post, March 19).

If this was solace for some who seek signs of stability in this important bilateral relationship, the events that followed betrayed potential for future instability. The new American president appears committed to punishing China for its trade surplus, and the U.S. Navy plans to enhance “freedom of navigation operations” near China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea (Navy Times, Feb. 12).

Meanwhile, early Chinese objections to American THAAD anti-missile defenses in South Korea became a hotter topic with their rushed deployment in March, and April brought disquiet to Chinese policymakers in the form of the U.S. missile strike against Syria and the deployment of the USS Carl Vinson strike group to Northeast Asia (Hangzhou Military television, July 11; China Daily, March 15; Navy Times, April 9). Trump now views Chinese assistance with North Korea as essential.    [FULL  STORY]

Date: Apr 28, 2017
By Jeff Mason, Stephen J. Adler and Steve Holland | WASHINGTON

U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday spurned the Taiwanese president’s suggestion that the two leaders hold another phone call, saying he did not want to create problems for Chinese President Xi Jinping when Beijing appears to be helping efforts to rein in North Korea.

In a White House interview, Trump brushed aside the idea after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen told Reuters on Thursday she would not rule out talking self-ruled Taiwan is possibly the most sensitive issue between Washington and Beijing.

“Look, my problem is I have established a very good personal relationship with President Xi. I really feel that he is doing everything in his power to help us with a big situation,” Trump told Reuters, referring to signs that China may be working to head off any new missile or nuclear test by Pyongyang, Beijing’s neighbor and ally.

“So I wouldn’t want to be causing difficulty right now for him,” Trump added. “I think he’s doing an amazing job as a leader and I wouldn’t want to do anything that comes in the way of that. So I would certainly want to speak to him first.”    [FULL  STORY]
Date: March 9, 2017
By: Clay Dillow, special to

China is lashing out at South Korea and Washington for the deployment of a powerful missile defense system known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, deposited at the Osan Air Base in South Korea on Monday evening.

The deployment of THAAD follows several ballistic missile tests by North Korea in recent months, including the launch of four missiles on Monday, three of which landed in the sea off the coast of Japan. Though THAAD would help South Korea protect itself from a North Korean missile attack, China is vocally protesting the deployment of the system, claiming it upsets the “strategic equilibrium” in the region because its radar will allow the United States to detect and track missiles launched from China.

North Korean provocations aside, THAAD’s arrival on the Korean Peninsula comes amid heightened tensions between the new U.S. administration and China, as well as uncertainty surrounding the U.S. military’s commitment to its security relationships in the region and around the world. Within that context, THAAD’s deployment packs a significant amount of symbolic firepower alongside its battery of interceptor missiles.

Already there has been a blacklash. Liu Yuan, a retired Chinese general who is generally outspoken on Chinese security matters, wrote for China’s state-run Global Times that the Chinese military could conduct a “surgical hard-kill operation that would destroy the target, paralyzing it and making it unable to hit back.”    [FULL  STORY]

Observers agree all-out conflict equals global disaster, even if nuclear weapons are not used

February 5, 2017
By: Jon Sharman

China has accused Donald Trump’s administration of putting regional stability in East Asia at risk following remarks by the President’s defense secretary that a U.S. commitment to defend Japanese territory applies to an island group that China claims.

Donald Trump with Steve Bannon, former executive of Breitbart News and the President’s chief strategist Reuters

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang has called on Trump’s administration to avoid discussion of the issue and reasserted China’s claim of sovereignty over the tiny uninhabited islands, known in Japanese as the Senkaku and Chinese as Diaoyu.

The 1960 US-Japan treaty is “a product of the Cold War, which should not impair China’s territorial sovereignty and legitimate rights,” Lu was quoted as saying in a statement posted on the ministry’s website.

“We urge the U.S. side to take a responsible attitude, stop making wrong remarks on the issue involving the Diaoyu islands’ sovereignty, and avoid making the issue more complicated and bringing instability to the regional situation,” he added.    [FULL  STORY]

The News Lens
Date: 2016/11/11
By: Hunter Marston

The election of Donald Trump to the White House now paves the way for Beijing to exert

Photo Credit: Jason Lee / Reuters / 達志影像
Photo Credit: Jason Lee / Reuters / 達志影像

more influence and control in the region. It will also leave long-time allies nervous, and puts the U.S. at economic and strategic risk, writes Hunter Marston.
With the election of Donald Trump, American voters voiced support for “America-first” isolationism, rejecting the likely continuation of Barack Obama’s liberal internationalism. Southeast Asia will almost certainly shift to the backburner and lose the high level of attention it received during the Obama years. The implications for regional trade and security are grave, and mostly negative.

Trump has openly questioned the value of U.S. alliances in Asia and even suggested that South Korea and Japan should acquire nuclear weapons to fend for themselves. This cool indifference to the security of our Asian allies belies a fundamental misunderstanding of the benefits the United States derives from overseas alliances and basing agreements, and it opens the possibility of catastrophic conflict sparked by nuclear brinkmanship.

In Southeast Asia, risk of nuclear conflict may be absent, but the withdrawal, or weakening, of the U.S. security commitment enhances China’s influence to its south and will leave the U.S. outside the regional trade architecture.

The Philippines, which under populist President Rodrigo Duterte has tilted away from the United States and sought closer relations with China, will likely continue in this direction – though Trump and Duterte, who has been dubbed “the Trump of the East,” may find something in common with each other, which could in turn warm the frosty U.S.-Philippines relationship.     [FULL  STORY]

The Courier Mail
Date: June 8, 2016
By: Rohan Smith,

WHAT is going on in the skies over the South China Sea?

A Chinese fighter jet (like the one above) conducted one of many “dangerous intercepts”. Picture: Office of the Defense Secretary/AP World
A Chinese fighter jet (like the one above) conducted one of many “dangerous intercepts”. Picture: Office of the Defense Secretary/AP

If you listen to the Americans, jet pilots behind the controls of Chinese fighter aircraft are consistently engaging them in dangerous manoeuvres.

The latest incident took place on Tuesday in international airspace when, according to the US Pacific Command, two Chinese J-10 fighter planes carried out an “unsafe” intercept of a US spy plane on a routine patrol.

“One of the intercepting Chinese jets had an unsafe excessive rate of closure on the (American) aircraft,” Pacific Command said in a statement.

“Initial assessment is that this seems to be a case of improper airmanship, as no other provocative or unsafe manoeuvres occurred.”

It’s not clear how close the Chinese fighter jet came to the US plane and it’s not the first time it’s happened.     [FULL  STORY]


Date: MAY 29, 2016
By: Tim Daiss

Just as most Americans settle in for a nice three-day Memorial Day weekend, news broke

A Chinese Navy submarine takes part in an international fleet review to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army Navy in Qingdao, Shandong province April 23, 2009. REUTERS photo
A Chinese Navy submarine takes part in an international fleet review to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army Navy in Qingdao, Shandong province April 23, 2009. REUTERS photo

that China is planning to send submarines armed with nuclear missiles to the Pacific Ocean for the first time. The U.K.-based Guardian newspaper, citing Chinese officials, first reported the news on May 27.

According to the report, Beijing is claiming that U.S. weapons systems have become so advanced and so undermine China’s existing deterrent force that Beijing has little choice but to send in the submarines armed with nukes.

Beijing claims that U.S. plans disclosed in March to station the Thaad anti-ballistic system in South Korea, and the development of hypersonic glide missiles potentially capable of hitting China less than an hour after being launched, as major threats to the effectiveness of its land-based deterrent force.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon’s latest annual report to Congress released less than two weeks ago predicted that China will probably conduct its first nuclear deterrence patrol sometime this year.    [FULL  STORY]


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