Russia-China Rider-horse Alliance Failed
In the 1950s, there was a treaty alliance between Russia’s predecessor and China. The treaty had a term of 30 years, but the alliance broke and the two nations became enemies within a decade.
Perhaps it was an alliance described by Stephen Blank, a senior fellow for Russia at the American Foreign Policy Council. Blank points out, “every alliance has a horse and a rider.” In the 1950s, the Soviet Union regarded itself as the rider as it was much richer and stronger than China. However, China did not want to remain Soviet Union’s horse when it had grown stronger. It wanted to be the rider too. It began to strive to grab from the Soviet Union the leadership of their socialist camp. The fight for leadership broke the alliance in spite of a long-term treaty of alliance between them.
Marriage of Convenience
Some analysts regard Russia-China alliance as a “marriage of convenience”, a marriage based on mutual needs instead of affection. The needs are obvious as both countries are under US threat. However, in a marriage the two parties are equal. China has a much larger economy and its military is growing stronger than Russia, but China treats Russia as an equal partner. China is wise to pay attention to refraining from regarding itself as rider and Russia as horse. Its president Xi Jinping even wants Russian President Putin to be leader of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) they have jointly set up though China is much richer and stronger than Russia. Putin rejects China’s proposal and wants China to be the leader. As a result SCO is led by Russia and China jointly. Such mutual respect enables a marriage of convenience to remain strong and difficult to break by external pressure.
In addition, a marriage of convenience, though not sound as a marriage based on mutual affection, may have some firm basis for the marriage, which usually is mutual interests. If the couple are both good and their interests are compatible and even facilitate each other as they grow closer due to the alliance, mutual affection may develop gradually. That is the case of Russia-China alliance. Long-term enmity may be turned into friendship due to mutual respect and trust built up through the alliance..
The US Has No Allies to Counter Russia-China alliance
While China has won over another world military power Russia to form an alliance that will assist each other to resist the US militarily, the US only has the allies it has obligations to protect but no allies to assist it in attacking China or Russia.
US former President Obama tried to form an Asian iron triangle of US, Japan and South Korea but failed as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had upset South Korea with his visit to Yasukuni Shrine. In fact, South Korea could not help the US in its war with China but Japan will be able to if it has further developed its military.
Obama’s pivot to Asia is mainly an alliance with Japan to contain China. Japan may become an ally comparable to China’s ally Russia. Japan is willing to take an active part to join force with the US due to its history of invading China and inflicting Chinese people with great misery. Together Obama and Abe had formed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to contain China economically. Obama’s successor Trump, however, withdrew from TPP in spite of Abe’s strong opposition. Trump, in addition, plans to start a trade war with Japan. As a result, Japan is now active to improve relations with China. It is now making great efforts to establish with China Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and ASEAN + 3 Free Trade Area.
The US is pushing Japan to China’s arms and will thus lose its only possible ally. Its European allies rely on its military protect and are unwilling to increase their military spending for their own defense, let alone help the US fighting China.
The US has no one to complain as its alliance with others is rider-horse alliance. It certainly cannot hope that its horse will protect it.
Can the US Be a Third Party that Disrupts the “Marriage” with an “Affair”?
The United States regards China as its only rival for world hegemony. As China is rising while the US is declining, normally, the US has to form alliance with some other countries to counter Russia-China alliance or instead make efforts to break Russia-China alliance. US President Donald Trump has tried to improve relations with Russia and thus drive a wedge between Russia and China but has encountered strong opposition at home.
Will Trump succeed in leverage Russia against China?
The question will be answered in my next post.
Article by Chan Kai Yee.
Chinese leaders had the vision to see the looming trade war so that they began early their efforts to form a united front against the US.
Japan had tried hard to improve relations with China since US withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), but was always rejected by China. However, in order to form a united front for resistance of trade war, in late January 2018, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi declared China’s intention to improve ties with Japan.
Warm diplomacy soon intensified between China and Japan resulting in Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s friendly visit to Beijing from October 24 to 26, 2018.
I said in my post on October 14 before the visit that it was US pressures that had pushed China and Japan into each other’s arms.
Now, Trump’s trade war with China seems to end soon. EU and Japan will be his next targets. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent visit to Italy and France followed by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s summit with EU leaders have enabled China to win over Europe to form a united front against the US. It is indeed bizarre that the US fails to see the trend of strong defense it will encounter to its trade war attacks at EU and Japan.
Bloomberg’s report “As China Trade War Cools, Japan Braces for Its Clash With Trump” on April 11 foresees the strong resistance Trump will encounter in his trade war with Japan.
The report says that to strengthen Japan’s position Japan has signed trade agreements with EU so that China’s united front with EU has already included Japan. In addition Japan and other 10 members of TPP have established TPP excluding the US.
The report says, “Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is desperate to avoid tariffs or quotas on lucrative auto exports, while Trump wants to crack open Japan’s agricultural market and reduce a $60 billion trade deficit.” However, Japan has cheap source of agricultural products from TPP members and in addition from ASEAN if ASEAN + 3 (Japan, South Korea and China) free trade area is successfully established. Import tariffs will be zero or very low from TPP and the free trade area. Japan has been the major obstacle to the establishment of the free trade area. Now, Japan has become enthusiastic, the free trade area will soon be a reality.
China’s further opening-up and the success of China’s Road and Belt initiative (BRI) will expand Japan’s market of cars and other industrial products in China and Silk Road belt. When China-Japan ties began to improve, Japan expressed its interest to join China’s BRI. Now, US trade war against Japan will force Japan to take active part in BRI.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regards united front as one of its three magic weapons in its war of resistance against Japan and civil war. Now, it seems that united front seems to be CCP’s magic weapon again in China’s trade war with the US.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Bloomberg’s report, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.bloomberg.com/amp/news/articles/2019-04-11/as-china-trade-war-cools-japan-braces-for-its-clash-with-trump.
US President Trump has withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that aims to contain China economically. Instead, he is enthusiastic in establishing satisfactory personal ties with Chinese President Xi Jinping in order that his country may better access to China’s huge market. As a result, there has been no military pivot to Asia to contain China either since Trump came to office.
In order to keep on containing China so as to please the large number of US elite hostile to the rise of China, Trump’s previous secretary of state Rex Tillerson wanted to replace Obama’s pivot to Asia with the Quad of the US, Australia, India and Japan to contain China.
However, according to Asia Times’ article “The Quad’ is fading into obscurity”, Australia does not want to hurt its trade relations with China while India has persisted in its non-alliance doctrine, only the US and Japan remain in the Quad to counter China now.
In fact Japan has been seeking improvement of ties with China as shown in its enthusiasm in Abe’s visit to Beijing and Xi’s visit to Tokyo soon. There is no Quad to contain China at all now.
The writer of the article worries what will be done if China takes Taiwan by force for reunification of China.
Will the US fight for Taiwan alone without the assistance from its Quad allies?
In a war between China and the US, China will surely has Russia’s support but who will support the US? The US will be really isolated in the war but no one is to blame. The US pursues isolationism and gets isolation.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Asia Times article, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.asiatimes.com/2019/03/article/the-quad-is-fading-into-obscurity/.
As for fear of China’s rise, Japan’s is most serious. The US is afraid of being replaced by China as the only hegemon in the world. The fear is groundless as China has no ambition to be world hegemon seeing the heavy burdens suffered by the US in maintaining its status as the only superpower in the world.
Pragmatic Chinese may ask: What good world hegemony will bring to China? US failures in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. are enough lessons for them.
Japan’s fear is real. It fears Chinese retaliation when China has grown strong enough to do so as Japan has inflicted great sufferings to Chinese people when it invaded China from 1931 to 1945.
However, when Trump has adopted the policy of “America first” and withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership aimed at containing China, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe realized that Japan could not rely wholly on US protection. He began to make great efforts to improve Japan’s relations with China. By so doing, Japan may avoid Chinese retaliation and even be benefited in having a larger share of Chinese market due to US withdrawal from the Chinese market. In fact, the US is Japan’s major competitor in Chinese market as they both export goods with better technology to China.
Article by Chan Kai Yee.
Trump has chosen the right timing, though a little too late, in starting his trade war with China in order to stop China’s rise and prevent it from surpassing the US.
China has already begun the reform to switch from export- and investment-geared to innovation- and creation-geared economic growth.
For such a reform, it has been carrying out its Belt and Road plan to move most of its export-oriented labor intensive industries to Silk Road economic belt and Made in China 2025 plan for creation- and creation-geared economic growth.
The US fears that the Made in China 2025 plan, if completed, will eliminate US technology dominance and US hegemony along with it. Therefore, it started a trade war with China to force China to scrap the Made in China 2025 plan.
As China has only moved a few export-oriented enterprises to Silk Road economic belt and as China has only carried out its Made in China 2025 plan for a few years far from achieving its goal, Trump should be regarded as having chosen the right timing to start his trade war to stop China’s rise. If China has moved the industries and completed the Made in China 2025 plan, the US will simply be unable to attain its goal to stop China’s rise.
However, Trump underestimated China strength of resistance until he lost the first round of his tariff battle with China. China’s retaliation of tariff hikes hits hard at his stronghold, the farmers in several states whose votes enabled him to win the presidential election and become the president now. China, however, seems intact in spite of the tariff hikes on its exports.
China even has the humor to broadcast in the US a cartoon with soyabean as its protagonist to laugh at Trump.
Trump, though furious, realizes that his weapons are limited. He threatens to impose tariff hikes on all China’s $500 billion exports to the US, but US Congress opposes that. It has already adopted a bill to cut or eliminate tariffs on toasters, chemicals and roughly 1,660 other items made outside the United States, of which nearly half are produced in China according to a Reuters analysis of government records.
Trump now realizes that since it is hard to win the trade war with China, it will be utterly impossible for the US to win the worldwide trade war he plans to start with EU, Japan, South Korea, Canada, Mexico and other countries.
He was wise to have changed his mind and reached a truce with EU. He will perhaps not be too harsh in dealing with Japan, South Korea and other countries.
The problems for him are that those countries are all America’s competitors. They certainly will not join the US in its trade war with China. On the contrary, they will exploit the trade war to take over America’s share in their most profitable Chinese market.
In addition, if Trump strikes too hard at China with tariff hikes in the trade war, he will make American people suffer and thus become unpopular. As a result, he may be unable to be reelected in the 2020 election.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, however, has no such worry. Chinese people will not hate him even if the trade war gives rise to some hardship in their livelihood as they are very clear that the trade war has been started by the US and that Xi refuses to be subdued as Xi cherishes their China Dream.
Lack of popular support and ability determines that the US has no chance to win the trade war.
The above has made very clear that Trump is unable to have popular support in his trade war.
His withdraw from TPP that Obama established to contain China shows his lack of vision, understanding and skill to deal with the contradiction between his goals to protect US interests and stop China’s rise.
Article by Chan Kai Yee.
The US has to pursue isolation as world leadership is too heavy a burden and it has to boost its economic growth to maintain its number one status in world economy. That is certainly a correct move, but it gives China opportunity to grab world leadership from the US.
I have repeatedly warned China not to try to replace the US as world leader as it has not been strong enough yet, but China’s Xi seems precisely doing the opposite – making great efforts to grab from the US world leadership at least in economy and diplomacy.
Is Xi stupid in doing so? China’s gifted strategist Sun Tzu teaches us to maintain invincible position while not miss the opportunity to win. One relies on oneself to be invincible but cannot make one’s enemy lose the war, if there are no factors for the enemy to lose the war. That is why Sun Tzu says that one can know victory but cannot make victory.
Indeed one can play tricks to make one’s enemy commit mistakes and lose the war like what China’s gifted strategist Sun Bin did in his famous Battle of Maling. But what if the enemy would not be duped?
At the beginning of the Korean War, China’ talented general Peng Dehuai copied Sun Bin’s trick. His troops encountered South Korean troops first but retreated instead of winning an easy first battle as he had to avoid giving his enemy the impression that his troops were capable to fight.
On the contrary, he told his troops to throw things away while retreating to give General McArthur the false impression that his troops were in panic as they were afraid of well-equipped US troops. As a result, McArthur advanced rashly and had his troops encircled by Chinese troops. Peng’s surprise offensive caused US troops to collapse and retreat as fast as they could to the south of Seoul. The victory was brilliant, but what if General McArthur had not been arrogant but had stopped his rash advance and, instead, built fortifications along the frontline to keep the large part of North Korea he had occupied. With poor weapons, General Peng simply could not break US troops’ defense.
McArthur gave Peng the opportunity to win and Peng did not miss the opportunity to win though his troops were much weaker.
Now, China is not strong enough to win, but the US is giving China the opportunity to win. Shall China miss the opportunity? I pointed out in my post earlier that Chinese President Xi Jinping is a man of quick decision and quick actions. I now realize that Xi is taking the opportunity to win. That is why China has suddenly taken the initiative to improve relations with Japan, India and Indonesia, the most important nation of ASEAN. (See Reuters’ reports “China’s Xi, India’s Modi seek new relationship after summit” on April 28 at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-india/chinas-xi-indias-modi-seek-new-relationship-after-summit-idUSKBN1HZ019, “China Premier Li says open to increasing Indonesia palm oil import quota” on May 7 at “https://www.reuters.com/article/us-indonesia-china/china-premier-li-says-open-to-increasing-indonesia-palm-oil-import-quota-idUSKBN1I80RH and
“Japan, China hail warming ties amid troubled history” on May 9 at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-china/japan-china-hail-warming-ties-amid-troubled-history-idUSKBN1IA1GF.
The busy diplomacy shows Xi’s efforts to grab world leadership from the US as US retreat in the world is giving China the opportunity to win. Japanese PM Abe in particular has failed sadly to persuade Trump to return to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and has now to focus on ASEAN + three (China, Japan and South Korea), where China will certainly be the leader.
Under such circumstances, China may not allow the US to defeat it in trade war or how can China make others believe that it is a real rival to the US?
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters’ reports
SCMP says in its report “Japan warms to China’s belt and road plan with talks on business tie-ups, sources say” yesterday, “Japan may soon become more involved in China’s multibillion-dollar belt and road plan, with the two countries expected to begin exploring business cooperation deals in third countries, according to diplomatic and trade sources.”
Japan has become prosperous thanks to globalization. Now the US advocates protectionism while China enthusiastically advocate globalization. Which economic power is more important for Japan now? The answer is very clear. Moreover China has a market larger and growing faster than the US.
Japanese Prime Minister is very shrewd, but still lackx the resourcefulness to balance his conflicting desires:
Politically, he is not happy with China’s rise as a strong China always wants Japan to repent about the war crimes Japan committed when it invaded China, especially, his beloved grandfather is regarded by China as a war criminal.
Economically, however, he hopes that the ever growing Chinese market will provide Japan the opportunity to recover its stagnant economy. However, Japan’s exploitation of Chinese market will make China economically stronger, which is the essential factor of China’s political power. I don’t think Abe is so stupid as to believe, economical, political and military strength can be separated.
However, Reuters’ source, the anonymous diplomat, is naïve. He talked about Western countries concerns about China’s geopolitical intention in Belt and Road initiative.
Whatever China’s geopolitical intentions, its Belt and Road will greatly enhance its geopolitical influence in the world. Intention does not but the results count. However, if that is Western countries’ real concerns, they shall participate in China’s Belt and Road so that their geopolitical influence will grow along with China’s.
For Japan, it will certainly benefit from China’s globalization and be harmed by US protectionism. The US is obviously ceding the Chinese market to Japan and other countries. Japan will be benefited the greatest due to its geographical and cultural closeness to China.
Abe has tried hard to use the US to balance China but disappointed by US President Trump’s withdrawal from TPP. He shall see that the US is doomed to decline due to its protectionism while other major Asian countries Japan, Russia, South Korea and India will grow along with China. They will provide more than enough balance to China. It then depends on who is more skillful in playing the diplomatic balancing game.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s report, full text of which can be found at http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2136661/japan-warms-chinas-belt-and-road-plan-talks-business.