China is now at war

First of 2 parts
As in most wars, the actual start of the conflict is often ambiguous. It is more a series of events, generating a spark that leads inevitably toward a conflagration. A case in point is World War 1. In June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austria-Hungarian Empire, was assassinated by a Serbian nationalist in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a country yearning to free itself from an empire. For a month, Austria-Hungary waited for Kaiser Wilhelm 2nd’s word that Germany would be on her side before declaring war — Serbia being allied to Russia, France and Great Britain. Upon Germany’s assurance, an ultimatum was issued with conditions so harsh that war became unavoidable. On August 4, Germany invaded France through neutral Belgium. Thus, the “Guns of August” began the war.

World War 2

WW 2 was quite different. The seeds of war were planted at the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919 when a humiliated Germany, was forced to sign the document ending WW 1 with harsh demands for reparations and ceding territories to the victorious Allied powers represented by Great Britain, France and the United States (late comer to the war).

Historians attribute additional causes leading to war — the great depression and the consequent global economic dislocations that produced fascist charismatic leaders like Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party; the rise of Japanese militarism and expansion in the Far East; and the policy of appeasement of Hitler by Britain and France, precipitated in part by guilt and later realization that the Treaty of Versailles was unfair to Germany. Appeasement only emboldened Hitler to act more aggressively, unleashing his blitzkrieg against Poland in Sept. 1, 1939. America entered the war Dec. 7, 1941, when Japan destroyed the US Fleet at Pearl Harbor.

 World War 3

Future historians would probably mark the year of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) as the veil concealing the start of the WW 3. On one side is the rising hegemon of the East, led by Chinese President Xi Jinping; and the West, by America — if President Donald Trump realizes it’s war. But this is no shooting war using guns and bullets or nuclear devices. This is a war of economic attrition and brinkmanship, but no less deadly. The prize is global trade dominance and leadership of the post-Covid-19 world that will set the agenda for the next generations. The country that emerges the winner is one that is best prepared for this type of conflict. China is.

Chinese preparations

For generations, China never wasted its resources on war. “The US has only enjoyed 16 years of peace in its 242-year history, making the country the most warlike nation in the history of the world” (Former US president James Earl Carter Jr.)

China has undergone tremendous stresses under shifting ideological experimentations in government and economy (“great leap forward,” “cultural revolution”) from the time of Mao Zedong, the founding father of the People’s Republic of China, to the socialist breakthrough in market-economy reform of Deng Xiaoping, the “architect of modern China.” His marrying the workable elements of socialist ideology and market enterprise became the templates employed by subsequent leadership, lifting 850 million Chinese out of extreme poverty from a rate of 88 percent in 1981 to 0.7 percent in 2015. And this “war on poverty” continues in 2019 propelling another 82 million of rural poor over the poverty line (World Bank Figures 2019).

This rapid change in China’s status followed a formula set by Deng Xiaoping, pursued by Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping; enshrining for the latter both his name and ideology as “Xi Jinping thought on socialism with Chinese characteristics.” From 1978 “…China has pursued export-driven industrialization, liberalized the private sector, welcomed foreign investment and embraced global trade”. (International Monetary Fund-World Bank Report)

It has likewise modernized its armed forces spending $821 billion in five years dwarfed only by the US’ equivalent of $2,450.81 trillion. It has no ambition to reach parity with America as, in their mindset, any shooting war will lead to a mutually assure destruction. Under this doctrine, China instead has become assertive in the world’s affairs, claiming ancestral territorial sovereignty over lands within its nine-dash line. To date, it has developed and garrisoned these island-reefs into virtual unsinkable aircraft carriers contesting American presence in the South China (West Philippine) Sea which, since 1945, was known as “America’s lake in the Far East.”

US irresponsibly unprepared

Padoxically, America was the country best prepared to fight any type of conflict — a shooting war, which China will not oblige, or one against the pandemic. It has tremendous resources in weaponry, technology, science, global reach, experience and prestige. America assumed global leadership since WW 2 and subsequent American presidents built on it, catapulting the country to greater heights of wealth and power. Yet this “pandemic has amplified Trump’s instincts to go it alone and exposed just how unprepared Washington is to lead a global response. US missteps have undermined confidence in the capacity and competence of US governance. [But its] legitimacy flows from [its] domestic governance, provision of global public goods, and ability and willingness to muster and coordinate a global response to crises.” (Kurt Campbell and Rush Doshi, Foreign Affairs, July/August 2020)

Then Trump happened, dismantling in three years what his predecessor had built and nurtured. And the erosion of America’s prestige continues, as the world watches with a tinge of sadness mixed with nuanced derision.

Trump declared grandiosely that he was a wartime president, referring to the war against Covid-19 — his democrat rival Joe Biden derisively referred to him as the “president who surrendered.” Indeed, he is a wartime president except that, unbeknownst to the clueless Trump, he actually fired the first salvo of WW 3 on March 22, 2018 when he imposed tariffs of $50 billion on Chinese goods as part of his MAGA — “Make America Great Again” — economic policy reducing US trade deficits. Similar tariffs were likewise imposed on America’s allies. And now the global trade war rages.

American tragedy

To date, America’s abdication of its leadership caused 130,000 Americans to die of the pandemic; that could further be exacerbated by the daily Black Lives Matter street protests. But, then again, it must be clear by now that these are just symptoms of a systemic rot deeply embedded, just now exposed. First, America’s ideals of democracy and republicanism and the practice thereof are incongruent, creating an abomination. Second, the centuries-old decay that could no longer be contained surfaced through a nondescript yet aberrant death of a black man. Racism reared its ugly head. It is an American tragedy that both anomalies find expression in the American presidency.

Chinese narrative

Thus, China saw its own “manifest destiny” as America once did in1845 when she took upon herself the idea that she is destined to spread democracy, capitalism and even slavery, eventually compressing these concepts into the expansion of global trade as a vehicle for its values and hegemony. China’s version is now onstream, the “One Belt, One Road” initiative. Thus, WW 3 is now a reality. The nations of the world may start realigning.

To be continued next week
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