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The core international political issue of today is the rise of China and the relative decline of the US. Stripped of its political verbiage, the primary issue driving international affairs is this – What Does The US Do About China?
Within five years China will become the largest economy in the world. The US is in a quandry – to fight or not to fight? To talk or not to talk? To engage or to ignore? The rise of China sets new challenges for the US and, within the US, the political elite is engaged in a high-level intense debate about the way forward.
And this is the dilemma for the US – to go to war with China or to sue for peace? Both views are well represented within the US establishment – the White House, the Capitol, the Pentagon, West Point, CIA, FBI, the Joints Chief of Staff and the world of Academia. Dividing lines are drawn and political bravado, especially at Election Time, dominates public discussion.
For the US the problems are considerable. The mind set that dominates US thinking since victory in Europe in WW2 and the Far East in 1945 is that “We are #1. We saved Europe with the landings in Normandy in 1944. We forced the Japanese to surrender after Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 and, most important of all, we saw off the Soviet threat with the surrender of Gorbachev in 1990. We are #1”.
Well not quite. The US made a big strategic mistake when it sided with Chiang Kaishek against the Communist Party during the period of the Japanese Invasion of China between 1937 and 1945. The US also made a big mistake when it lost the War in Vietnam 1963-1972 to the North Vietnamese led by Ho Chi Minh.
The rise of China is not confined to a region of the world but to the world at large – Antarctic, the South Pacific Islands, and through the unique Belt and Road Initiative, countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The rise of China is all-embracing and comprehensive. It is also quite new – something the US has never previously encountered
The challenge for the US today – in July 2023 – is whether to act now or to act later or not to act at all. Looking ahead, it is more likely than not that China will grow economically more powerful and the gap between China and the US will widen in terms of economic growth. The pressure is on the White House to take military action against China whilst the US enjoys military supremacy. China does not seek military supremacy – just a sufficiently powerful military to discourage the US from taking on China. That is where it is today.
But what is China’s goal? Is it World Domination? Does China want to replace the US and become the Dominant International World Power. The answer is quite simple – No. China’s goal remains as it has always been – Prosperity and Stability so that China can continue to deliver a better standard of living for its 1.4bn people. China will not hesitate to defend it is attacked – the military barrage that greeted Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan left the US military hierarchy in little doubt as to China’s readiness to defend what belongs to China. But today the issue is the US – its options and its future actions. With every day that passes the chances that the US can inflict military setbacks on China diminish. Time is not on the US side. Hence the temptation to take on China today and not tomorrow.

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