As Washington is mired in brinkmanship with Russia in Ukraine, the last thing the US should do is decouple with China. For years, the Pentagon has been eyeing a future war with Beijing, yet another unnecessary war which – in our lifetimes - could lead to this planet’s nuclear incineration.
America’s new Cold War with China is a bi-partisan imperial project led by the Democrats. In 2011, former President Barack Obama began it in earnest, dubbing it the “pivot to Asia.” The “pivot” entails the largest military buildup since the Second World War, shifting hundreds of bases as well as two-thirds of all US Air and Naval forces to the Asia-Pacific region. Washington is encircling China for a future war with Beijing.
In 2020, while Americans were distracted by the Covid-19 crisis, Donald Trump’s war cabinet seized the opportunity to drastically expand the US military footprint in Beijing’s near abroad by sending more warships and spy planes, conducting aerial surveillance flights, to the region and especially the South China Sea. These provocations have been vastly escalated by the Biden administration.
Americans must soon put the shoe on the other foot and ask how Washington would react if instead China was surrounding the US with weapons of war and military bases.
Ten months after Biden entered the oval office, US reconnaissance aircraft had flown over 2,000 sorties in the South China Sea, the East China Sea, and the Yellow Sea, including near China’s coast. That same year, Biden nearly doubled the deployments of aircraft carrier strike groups in the South China Sea.
In 2022, US spy planes flew 1,000 sorties in the South China Sea including, in some instances, flying just over a dozen miles from the baseline of China’s mainland territorial waters. US aircraft carrier strike groups and amphibious alert groups made eight deployments to the region. Last year, Biden sent nuclear-powered attack submarines to the South China Sea 12 times.
Concurrently, the US is attempting to wrangle its allies in the confrontation with China, bringing the north Atlantic alliance to the Indo-Pacific targeting Beijing, and building various alliances such as AUKUS and the Quad with Australia, Japan, and India, eyeing an east Asian version of NATO.
The Trump administration formally rejected almost all of China’s claims to the waters in the South China Sea. Washington has been challenging China, using the Navy’s Seventh Fleet, inserting itself into disputes between regional actors there whom all have overlapping claims on the waters including over various, sometimes unmanned, rocks, reefs, islands, islets, and archipelagos. Under Biden, the policy has been reaffirmed.
Even if it means war with China, Biden’s administration has pledged that the US will defend Japan‘s claims to the uninhabited Senkaku Islands. The Senkaku Islands are claimed by Beijing, Tokyo, and Taipei. Similarly, Washington has promised the US military will come to the Philippines’ defense in the event of a violent conflict with China, including in the South China Sea, potentially over the disputed Whitson Reef, which is claimed not only by Beijing and Manila but by Hanoi as well.
The Navy routinely conducts so-called Freedom Of Navigation Operations (FONOPS), in the waters surrounding China, sailing warships through the waters, particularly in the South China Sea, usually provocatively close to Chinese controlled or claimed islands.
Additionally, Biden’s administration has overturned almost 50 years of US-Taiwan policy, which has largely kept the cross-strait peace. Per the former approach, the US would never commit to defending or not defending the island, which the US views as part of One-China, against a potential attack on the breakaway province. Critically, “strategic ambiguity” has aimed to deter Beijing from attempting to retake the island by force and, at the same time, to discourage Taiwan’s radical factions seeking to declare independence.
Biden himself has frequently made what were thought to be “gaffes” contradicting long-standing US policy on Taiwan. The president has repeatedly insisted that America’s sons and daughters would be sent to the island to fight this war with China that his administration is actively provoking. Although, this year both the commander of US Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral John Aquilino, and the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Avril Haines have confirmed “strategic ambiguity” is dead and gone.
China has made clear that Taiwan is a “red line.” While the American side promises they only want to “deter” war with these actions, Beijing has repeatedly said that they seek a “peaceful reunification” with Taiwan but they have not ruled out using force. Washington’s actions make war more likely.
The US is now committing billions of dollars in military aid to Taiwan, expanding US National Guard training programs with the Taiwanese military, continually sending more Congressional delegations to the island, deploying higher numbers of US troops to the island, training hundreds of Taiwanese soldiers for war on US soil, converting Taiwan into a “giant weapons depot,” and sailing American warships through the sensitive Taiwan strait almost every month.
Senior Fellow at Defense Priorities and Retired Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Davis has explained that a war with China over the island of Taiwan could see American cities obliterated with nuclear weapons over an issue which does not affect our national security unless we unnecessarily involve ourselves. Davis details the dire risks of this extreme bipartisan bellicosity,
It is crucial to understand that for China, the Taiwan issue is not merely a core interest, but an emotionally charged one. They are far more willing to pay extraordinary costs, sacrifice many men, and could risk it all to eventually compel unification with Taiwan. The issue does not directly affect our national security unless we get involved.China is more often becoming the favorite excuse for our mammoth Pentagon budget, which is already closing in on $900 billion, depleting our resources and capital. As it is, we actually spend nearly $1.5 trillion on the national security state every year.
If we eventually choose war with China over Taiwan, we will at best suffer egregious losses in ships, aircraft, and troops; in a worst-case, the war could deteriorate into a nuclear exchange in which American cities are turned into nuclear wastelands, killing millions.
America should never take such risks unless our security and freedom are directly threatened. Fighting China for any reason short of that would be a foolish gamble of the highest order.
This policy which threatens all of us dearly, is implemented by entrenched bureaucrats ideologically committed to the neoconservative agenda of global domination and the military-industrial complex giants currently ensnared in a huge “price gouging” scandal are the beneficiaries.
These firms are ripping off American taxpayers so blatantly– reaping obscene profits ranging from 40% to as high as 4,000% - that last month some prominent senators sent a letter demanding an investigation to our Raytheon board member turned Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin.
During a recent 60 Minutes report, Shay Assad, who worked as a Pentagon contract negotiator for 40 years, cited numerous examples to the outlet explaining that these arms industry behemoths overcharge the DoD for everything from “radar and missiles … helicopters … planes … submarines… down to the nuts and bolts.”
Such “astronomical price increases” have sharply spiked amid Washington’s exponentially rising demand for weapons systems to both bolster Taiwan and Kiev, the report said.
Decoupling is the absolute worst policy to enact even in peacetime. But as we are nearing brinkmanship with China, it should be most unthinkable. As Otto T. Mallery, the late 19th century liberal, wrote “if soldiers are not to cross international boundaries, goods must do so. Unless the Shackles can be dropped from trade, bombs will be dropped from the sky.”
Americans are not supposed to be living and dying in service of an Empire seeking global hegemony. As the former Congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul once said:
…[H]ow much longer can we afford this unnecessary and counterproductive extravagance? While our government engages in deficit spending to fund its military exploits overseas, detracting from our own productivity, countries like China are filling the void by expanding their trade opportunities. I have never understood this talk of our military presence as a “strategic reserve of Western civilization.” Instead, the best indication of our civilization has been our prestige in international trade. We should let the best measure of our American greatness come from free and peaceful trade with other nations, not from displays of our military might.This is also the view of current Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. who in a major break with the hawks in his own party, the Democrats, offers the best option for Americans when it comes to relations with China.
During his recent Twitter space event, former Congresswoman and currently serving Army National Guard Lieutenant Colonel Tulsi Gabbard asked Kennedy whether war with Beijing was necessary. His answer was clear,
Let’s recognize the reality that China is a very ambitious nation and it does want to compete. But the reality is it doesn’t want to compete with us militarily. [China is] still relatively poor compared to [the United States]. I think we [should] be competing with them. On an economic platform, not a military one. I’m not frightened by China. That kind of competition would be good for the whole world. It would be a collaborative competition, if you will. China does not want a war with us. We were told after the Cold War period that we’d get a peace dividend. We never got that peace dividend. We now spend more on our military than the next ten countries in the world. It’s [kind of] a self-fulfilling prophecy. We should be deescalating. We should be talking with China, for god’s sake. We haven’t talked with them in five years. Any talks with China should not be about military swaggering. The Chinese have been doing a lot better than us because they’ve been projecting economic power abroad. Why are [we] trying to create a war with China? Why are [we] making Taiwan a military issue? Let Taiwan and China figure it out. They don’t want war. They want prosperity. Let’s deescalate. Let’s figure out how to have a financial relationship with them that rebuilds the American industrial base.This is not just Kennedy’s words, even DNI Haines admitted to the House Intelligence Committee that the US does not assess that China wants war.
Our nation is broke and more than $30 trillion in debt, we cannot afford decoupling or war with China. Nor can we morally afford another war, which decoupling, particularly under the current circumstances, would make exponentially more likely.
In May, new research published in a study by Brown University’s ‘Costs of War’ project found that “a reasonable and conservative estimate suggests that at least 4.5 million people have died in the major post-9/11 war zones.”
The same Republicans and Democrats responsible for those wars are now leading us down the path of violent confrontation with China. We can just say no and enact a policy of free trade, diplomacy, and peace. It does not have to be this way.
Connor Freeman is the assistant editor and a writer at the Libertarian Institute, primarily covering foreign policy. He is a co-host on the Conflicts of Interest podcast with Kyle Anzalone and Will Porter. His writing has been featured in media outlets such as Antiwar.com, where he is a news writer, as well as Counterpunch and the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity. He has also appeared on Vital Dissent, Around the Empire, Crashing the War Party, and The Scott Horton Show. You can follow him on Twitter @FreemansMind96.