Doug Bandow January 4, 2017
Perhaps the greatest evidence of the hubris surrounding uber-hawks, both neoconservatives and liberal interventionists, is their willingness—even determination—to make multiple enemies simultaneously around the globe. Hence their constant refrain that the world is dangerous and military spending must go up, ever up.
The United States, apparently alone, since it cannot rely upon allies which are constantly whining for reassurance, must confront China, North Korea, Russia, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, the Islamic State, assorted terrorist movements and any anyone else who resists U.S. “leadership.” Neutral observers might find this disparate collection, several of whose members are at odds, somewhat less than a formidable threat compared to the United States, virtually every European nation, the majority of Asian industrial states, the most important and wealthiest powers in the Middle East, and the majority of the rest of the countries that are friendly to the West. Nevertheless, Americans are constantly told that the United States has never been more embattled—not, apparently, during the Civil War, Cold War, World War I, or even World War II.
Yet if the hawkish “perpetual threat” lobby really believes its rhetoric, it has only itself to blame. After all, increasingly treating both China and Russia as adversaries has achieved what was otherwise impossible: pushed the Cold War allies-turned-enemies into friends, and possible allies again.
Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union provided vital assistance to Mao Zedong’s Communist rebels. Without Moscow’s backing, especially turning over weapons and territory to the insurgents after Japan’s August 1945 surrender, Mao might not have had the opportunity to become a nation builder—and one of the greatest mass killers in human history.
Despite some natural tensions between the two states, Mao generally accepted Stalin’s leadership. For instance, with Stalin determined to avoid a military confrontation with America, Mao’s People’s Republic of China intervened in the Korean War to preserve North Korea, which began as a Soviet client state. However, the Soviet leader died in 1953, only four years after the PRC’s creation.
De-Stalinization by Nikita Khrushchev led to ideological disputes over which government offered an uncorrupted vision of Marxist-Leninism. Mao criticized Moscow’s willingness to accept “peaceful coexistence” with the West. The Soviet leadership worried about Mao’s reckless military measures against the remnant Nationalist government in Taiwan. By 1961 the Chinese Communist Party was denouncing Soviet leaders as “revisionist traitors.” The two countries created rival revolutionary and state networks and battled for influence within nominally Communist nations. The USSR backed India against China; the latter criticized Moscow’s willingness to compromise in the Cuban Missile Crisis and join in treaty limits on nuclear weapons.
In 1966 Beijing raised the issue of “unfair” treaties imposed by the czarist Russian Empire. Border conflict broke out three years later. Casualties were modest and fighting ceased later in the year, though a formal border agreement was not reached until 1991.
Chinese-Soviet tension continued around the world, as the two backed rival revolutionary factions in several African conflicts. They disagreed over Vietnam; Beijing supported Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge regime, which was ousted by Hanoi in 1978, and fought a brief war with the latter the following year. The two Communist giants also differed in Afghanistan. Although relations in later years were not nearly as hostile as during the Mao-Khrushchev era, the vision of a unified Communist bloc had been irretrievably destroyed.
The brief Sino-Russian shooting war apparently convinced Mao that he needed to reduce tensions with at least one of the PRC’s potential adversaries, opening the way for the Nixon administration. Rapprochement between the United States and China began with Richard Nixon relaxing trade and travel restrictions on the PRC in 1969. The same year, Beijing and Washington resuscitated the Sino-U.S. ambassadorial Talks. Nixon also used Pakistan as a diplomatic intermediary, which reported Chinese interest in improving bilateral ties.
In 1971 the two countries engaged in so-called “ping-pong diplomacy,” with the visit of an American table tennis team to China, while Nixon eliminated the last travel limits. National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger surreptitiously visited Beijing as part of an official trip to Pakistan in July 1971, setting in motion a second visit in October and U.S. support for the PRC’s entry into the United Nations and possession of the Chinese Security Council seat. Richard Nixon’s famed visit to China came in February 1972. He told Mao: “You are one who sees when an opportunity comes, and then knows that you must seize the hour and seize the day.” Actually, both leaders did so.
Although formal diplomatic ties (which required ending official relations with the Republic of China on Taiwan) did not come until 1979, under President Jimmy Carter, the United States and PRC continued to expand contacts and commerce. In no way were the two countries military allies. But Washington effectively neutralized one potential security threat and prevented the recreation of a Sino-Soviet coalition against the United States. Geopolitically, America gained flexibility and leverage in confronting the USSR. Washington could enjoy global preeminence, if not dominance, at lower cost.
Chinese-Russian relations improved as the Cold War ended and ideological conflicts waned. But tensions remain real. Beijing shows as little respect for intellectual property when it comes to Russian weapons as it does for Western consumer goods. The Central Asian republics were part of the Soviet Union, but increasingly are drawn to China economically. Russia’s Far East is virtually unpopulated, giving rise to fears of Chinese territorial absorption.
However, under President Barack Obama, the United States has courted conflict with both powers. To constrain China, the administration staged the “pivot” or “rebalance.” Washington strengthened alliance ties, added troop deployments and increased military maneuvers. The resources involved have been sufficient to irritate but not enough to scare the PRC. Beijing perceives that Washington hopes to contain China, whether or not the former is willing to admit the obvious.
Against Russia, the United States has followed what appears to be an overtly hostile policy: dismissing the former’s Balkan interests, especially breaking apart historic Slavic ally Serbia (which imperial Russia backed in World War I); bringing old Warsaw Pact members and even Soviet republics into NATO, with invitations seeming likely for Georgia and Ukraine (the latter an integral part of both the Russian Empire and Soviet Union); supporting “color” and street revolutions against Russian-friendly governments in Georgia and Ukraine; pushing regime change, including by Islamist insurgents, against Moscow’s Syrian ally; imposing economic sanctions against Russia; and building up U.S. military forces in Europe. Washington might believe all of these policies to be warranted, but no serious Russian patriot could view them as friendly.
The result has been greater cooperation between China and Russia. They are not formal military allies, but have found their dislike and distrust of Washington to be greater than their bilateral disagreements. In the short term, that means cooperating to limit American influence.
Ultimately the objective could become to deter U.S. military action against both nations. Although Washington, with allied support, today should be able to simultaneously defeat the two (short of unconditional surrender), American dominance will fade. Should Russia and China forge closer military bonds, the United States eventually might find itself facing a much less hospitable international environment. That likely would constrain Washington’s responses, and increase the costs and risks if conflict resulted.
America is a great power. But it should not needlessly create enemies and encourage them to ally with each other. If Donald Trump succeeds in improving relations with Russia, he would have the salutary side effect of discouraging creation of a common Russo-Chinese front against the United States. Richard Nixon’s China policy offers a model for the incoming Trump administration: Make up with at least one of the important powers potentially arrayed against America. The United States should not feel the need to take on the rest of the world.
Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan.
Source: Reuters “A Nixon Strategy to Break the Russia-China Axis”
Note: This is National Interest’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.
Reuters only says in its report “Seized U.S. drone issue to be resolved smoothly: China paper” that China seized the US drone, US demands its return and Chinese media regard that as an issue easy to resolve.
SCMP, however, quotes in its report “Drone snatch heralds new competition in South China Sea says think tanks, as US demands return of ‘unclassified’ ocean glider” Wu Shicun, president of the Chinese government affiliated National Institute for South China Sea Studies, as saying“China wants to send out a signal that if you spy on us underwater and threaten our national security, we have measures to deal with it… On the South China Sea issue, we took in humiliations with a humble view in past years. I think this era has finished.”
Then what will follow? It seems that there will be confrontation.
It is especially so as SCMP says, “US media quoted Pentagon sources as saying the (US warship) Bowditch was about to recover the glider when a Chinese Dalang III class Chinese warship approached within 500 yards of the Bowditch, launched a small vessel and snatched the drone out of the water.”
Obviously, Chinese warship has tracked the drone for some time but did not seize it until a US warship came to recover it in order to show Chinese navy’s capabilities in tracking and seizing US underwater drones.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters’ and SCMP’s reports, full text of which can respectively be found at http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-china-drone-idUSKBN14526J and http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2055434/drone-snatch-heralds-new-era-south-china-sea-say.
SCMP.com – Chen’s escape spawns conspiracy theories
Jerome A. Cohen, a well-known China law expert and fellow for Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations, says the various theories that seek to explain the puzzling facts surrounding Chen Guangcheng’s dramatic escape remain speculation that, while entertaining, can undermine Sino-US trust.
How could China’s protean internal security network, which costs the Chinese government more than its defense budget, has allowed this frail blind man to escape from years of illegal captivity in a remote village in Shandong and enter the American embassy in Beijing? And why, less than 48 hours after Chen left safety in the embassy, did Beijing officials open the way for the departure from China that they had just denied him?
Foreigners view Chen’s dramatic escape to the capital with admiration. Thoughtful Chinese, however, are beginning to voice suspicions on the internet and in social media.
SCMP carries Reuters report: U.S., China to counter cybersecurity risks
The United States and China both have advanced cyberwarfare capabilities and must work to avoid miscalculations that could lead to conflict, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said on Monday as he hosted the first visit to Washington by a Chinese defence minister in nine years.
According to Hong Kong’s Ming Pao newspaper, this morning blind activist Chen Guangcheng says that China and America have in the main reached agreement to allow him to leave for America and that he will be allowed to meet his friend before departure. He will leave when his health has recovered.
His good friend Jiang Tianyong said that negotiation between China and America had made smooth progress and the direction of further development had been determined. Both sides adopted “positive attitude”. A Central official who visited Chen was quite kind to Chen. When Chen requested for “meeting old friends” before going abroad, the official immediately approved. However, as Chen’s foot was injured last month when he fled house arrest, he would not leave until the injury has been healed. He said what he worried most was the safety of his relatives back home, especially his mother and nephew. Moreover, he was helped by quite a few friends when he fled house arrest. At present he has lost contact with some of them.
His wife Yuan Weijing said that they have not begun application for their travel documents and did not know when they would leave. According to relevant regulations, it takes 15 working days to get a passport or 5 in urgent case.
Previously, State Department Spokesman Victoria Nuland said that China will provide Chen and his family with travel documents “as soon as possible”. U.S.officials estimate that if things go on smoothly, in the fastest case, Chen may leave within a few days.
The hospital Chen stayed remained guarded by plainclothes police yesterday. They did not allow reporters to enter the hospital, but their number has been reduced. American embassy vehicles entered at about 3:00 pm and stayed for about one hour. Sources say that people from the embassy talked with Chen’s wife. Chen says that embassy people come to visit him everyday but are not allowed into his ward with the only exception on May 4 when they brought a doctor to check Chen’s medical record and laboratory reports.
Shandong Lawyers Association tries to accuse Chen of violation of law.
Chen Guangcheng becomes a lawyer through self-study and has not received professional legal training. Recently Shandong Lawyers Association published a signed “solemn statement” on the Internet, stating that Chen Guangcheng is not a lawyer and that passing for a lawyer in engaging in litigation violates the law and can be reported to relevant government agency.
Activist still in hospital and has not yet applied for US visit despite suggestions it would be approved
SCMP.com – Chen trip unclear as Clinton leaves
SCMP carries Agence France-Presse’s and Mini Lau’s story on State media blast blind activist as US ‘pawn’
State media said yesterday that Chen Guangcheng, the blind activist at the centre of a diplomatic row, was a “pawn” of the United States and blasted US diplomats for sheltering him.
SCMP.com – State media blast blind activist as US ‘pawn’