So much for last month's U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington, which has left U.S. security analysts convinced the United States is getting nowhere with China. This was evident as President Obama expressed concern about China's increasingly troublesome cyber and maritime behavior.
Likely reason for Chinese indifference: U.S. policymakers' empty bravado about climate change, trade and cybersecurity. Why should China be concerned about what the United States thinks when it realizes how irrelevant our nation has become on the international stage? China holds about 8 percent of U.S. debt and has no reason to be concerned as our nation continues to borrow more money to pursue and finance more wars and more conflicts. No matter what U.S. negotiators say to China, their efforts will fail.
But let's take a step back and assess what the core issues are; shall we!
On the cybersecurity front, China denies any involvement with the latest hacking of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, from which the personal information of about 4.2 million federal employees has been stolen. Similarly, the records of contractors and employees seeking security clearances were taken. At the same time, our government is engaged in a cover-up about this hacking. This conduct reveals the current state of governance of our adored government. The same government understands that majority of American citizens are intellectually lazy and unlikely to educate themselves about the issues. Sad to say, the days when the government was responsible to citizens and vise versa are long gone.
Equally Important, China realizes the importance of using the Internet as a battleground to further its interests and undermine the security infrastructure of not only nations hostile toward Beijing but also domestic opposition groups.
On the South China Sea front, China has developed infrastructure including an airstrip big enough for military aircraft, according to U.S. satellite imagery. This buildup has introduced anxiety in neighboring countries -- Japan, Brunei, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Vietnam. It also sent a message to Washington: Its days of influence over the Pacific are numbered.
This shift in China's posture highlights two things:
First, China's takeover of the world economy not only confirms a shift of wealth from West to East but boosts Beijing's confidence in its move to bypass use of the dollar for global oil customers and instead use the Yuan in oil transactions. This comes on the heels of a June 29 signing ceremony in Beijing of the 57 founding member countries of the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. China is providing nearly $30 billion of the institution's $100 billion capital base, giving Beijing between 25 percent to 30 percent of its total votes. Surprisingly, Australia agreed to join the new bank, according to Reuters.
Second, China's economic pre-eminence suggests an inevitable expansion of its military power as evidenced recently. And there's no mistaking the factors that contributed to this shift: China's long-term vision and its ability to craft and rigidly pursue economic, military and financial strategies decades ago have led to this strength.
On the military front, China's successful test of its hypersonic nuclear Wu-14 missile (more than 7,600 mph) last month rattled Washington. More worrisome, China is not the only country that acquires such technology and poses such a threat to the United States: Recently, Jane's intelligence publication reported that Russia conducted a similar test. Further, Russia's top secret program, Project 4022, revealed it has been working on a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile for several years. Luckily, Russia's test of the missile on Feb. 26 was unsuccessful.
Make no mistake; Russia will keep trying till it succeeds since the objective of the hypersonic missile program is to penetrate the U.S. missile defenses in case of a major war. The question then is: Are China, Russia, and the US on a collision course? I wonder whether the current dynamics (Turmoil in the Middle East, China's military buildup, the soon replacement of the US dollar with the Yuan as a global currency, etc...) pave the way for China and the US to cooperate. The answer is anybody's guess. Needless to say, security analysts have doubts.
For all the saber rattling in the Pacific and financial brinkmanship with the United States, China strikes me as pragmatic, even disciplined, in not wanting to throw into chaos a world system that, after all, has allowed it to acquire wealth, power, influence and status. Yet China is slowly exhibiting its ability to challenge the United States, at least regionally. I believe China will base its foreign policy in coming years on strategic decisions, rather than short-term gains.
Bottom line: Relations between the two major powers will eventually collide to a far greater degree. And should China decide to adopt an assertive national security strategy in the upcoming years, look for U.S. leadership in the Pacific to significantly decline as yet other crises beckon.
It is time for Washington to quit its squabbling and focus on what lies ahead regarding China and Russia. US policy makers assume that a direct conflict between US and China is unlikely. However, the possibility for such conflict exists if (a) China's economy continues to grow at a healthy rate; (b) the United States engages in another war in the Middle East that could interrupt China's access to energy sources; and (c) China embarks on an assertive foreign policy in the Middle East and East Asia. I believe the national security interests of both the US and China will collide.
Policymakers in Washington need to stop serving their personal interests that eclipse their duty to govern. If our leaders aren't careful, we could all discover a military conflict with China is no small matter.