GOOD MORNING FROM LONDON
This Column has always viewed the Ukraine War, unlike World War 2, as An Avoidable War. Today the focus is on whether War Can Be Avoided between China and the US.
Yesterday, in Singapore – the FT reports – General Wei Fenghe of China met with US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Shangri-La Dialogue Security Conference. General Wei + Secretary Austin were attending the forum at a time when Sino-US relations are in their worst state since the nations normalised ties in 1979, and with anxiety rising about military action involving the two countries over Taiwan.
Tensions were on display over two days in Singapore, as both sides expressed concerns over the other’s activities. Austin accused the Chinese military of conducting dangerous aerial and maritime manoeuvres, while Wei described the US as an arrogant hegemon that was forming anti-China blocs under the guise of multilateralism.
There is a geo-political context – the rise of China and the decline of the US (which by the mid 2030’s will have fallen from First to Third as the largest economy in the world behind China and India). The US strategists – including leading academics – refer to the Thucydides Principle + to Wars between Athens and Sparta and conclude that Existing Hegemons – or in modern terminology Existing Imperialists – do not vacate their leading role without a fight. Will we see a “fight” in the Far-East between the Declining US and the Rising China. History says Yes. The tensions are considerable and the build-up of military force is immense.
Can War be Avoided? Maybe. Can any assurance be given that cataclysmic hostilities can be averted? The clash of Teutonic Plates is quite probable and it will require immense skills of statesmanship to keep the peace. The Singapore Confrontation is the start of a new phase. There are many more steps to come but the build-up to War is unmistakeably underway.