Is 'Cold War II' underway?

Discussion in 'International Politics' started by chex3009, Dec 27, 2010.

  1. chex3009

    chex3009 Regular Member

    Oct 13, 2010
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    Is 'Cold War II' underway?

    2010-12-27 (China Military Analysis cited from and written by Yuriko Koike) -- Mesmerised by China's vast military buildup, a new constellation of strategic partnerships among its neighbours, and America's revitalised commitment to Asian security, many shrewd observers suggest that 2010 saw the first sparks of a new Cold War in Asia. But is "Cold War II" really inevitable?
    Although appeasing China's drive for hegemony in Asia is unthinkable, every realistic effort must be made to avoid militarisation of the region's diplomacy. After all, there was nothing very cold about the Cold War in Asia. First in the Chinese civil war, and then in Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Indochina – particularly Vietnam – the Cold War raged not as an ideological/propaganda battle between rival superpowers, but in dogged, often fratricidal combat that cost millions of lives and retarded economic development and political democratisation.

    It is this grim history that makes China's current disregard for Deng Xiaoping's maxim that China "disguise its ambition and hide its claws" so worrying for Asian leaders from New Delhi to Seoul and from Tokyo to Jakarta. From its refusal to condemn North Korea's unprovoked sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan and shelling of South Korean islands, to its claims of sovereignty over various Japanese, Vietnamese, Malay, and Filipino archipelagos and newly conjured claims on India's province of Arunachal Pradesh, China has revealed a neo-imperial swagger. So it should surprise no one that "containment" is coming to dominate Asian diplomatic discourse.

    But it is wrong – at least for now – to think that a formal structure of alliances to contain China is needed in the way that one was required to contain the Soviet Union. Containment, it should be recalled, was organised against a Soviet totalitarian regime that was not only ideologically aggressive and in the process of consolidating its colonisation of Eastern Europe (as well as Japan's Northern Territories), but also deliberately sealed off from the wider world economy.
    Today's China is vastly different. Overt military imperialism of the Soviet sort has, at least historically, rarely been the Chinese way. Sun Tzu, the great Chinese theorist of warfare, focused on the weakening of an adversary psychologically, not in battle. Until recently, much of China's bid for regional hegemony reflected Sun's concepts.

    More importantly, China abandoned economic autarky three decades ago. Today, its economic links in Asia are deep, and – it is to be hoped – permanent. China's export machine sucks in vast quantities of parts and components for final assembly from across Asia – Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia, as well as richer Singapore, taiwan, South Korea, and Japan. Membership of the World Trade Organisation has helped to bind China to highly sophisticated pan-Asian production networks. Everybody has benefited from these ties.
    Throughout China's three-decade rise from poverty to economic juggernaut, trade within East Asia has grown even faster than the region's trade with the rest of the world, suggesting deeper specialisation and integration. Indeed, China's rise has profoundly altered the course of Asia's trade flows. Japan no longer focuses on exporting finished goods to Europe and North America, but on exporting parts and components for assembly in China. In turn, Japan now imports from China finished goods (such as office machines and computers) that once came from America and Europe.

    Given that as many as half of China's 1.3bn people remain mired in abject poverty, it is in China's interest to ensure that these economic relationships continue to flourish. In the past, China has recognised the vital need for good neighborly relations. During the Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998, Chinese officials did not engage in competitive devaluation of the renminbi. Unfortunately, such clear-sighted and responsible policymaking is a far cry from what we are seeing today.

    China's dizzying increase in its military capacity is another obvious source of concern in Asia. But, even according to the highest estimates, China's military budget is only now about equal to that of Japan and, of course, much less than the combined military budgets of Japan, India, and Russia, all of which border China – not to mention Indonesia, South Korea, and a militarily modernising taiwan. Moreover, Russia and India possess nuclear weapons, and Japan has the technological wherewithal to reconfigure its defense posture to meet any regional nuclear threat.

    So the challenge that China poses today remains predominantly political and economic, not military. The test of China's intentions is whether its growing economic and, yes, military capacities will be used to seek to establish Asian hegemony by working to exclude America from the region and preventing regional partnerships from flourishing. The alternative is a China that becomes part of a co-operative effort to bind Asia in a rules-based system similar to that which has underpinned long-term peace in Europe.

    In this sense, Asia's rise is also a test of US competitiveness and commitment in Asia. America's historical opposition to hegemony in Asia – included as a joint aim with China in the Shanghai Communique of 1972 – remains valid. It will have to be pursued, however, primarily by political and economic means, albeit backed by US power.

    Before 2010, most Asian countries would have preferred not to choose between China and the US. But China's assertiveness has provided enormous incentives to embrace an Asian multilateral system backed by America, rather than accept the exclusionary system that China seeks to lead. In 2011 we may begin to see whether those incentives lead China's rulers to re-appraise their diplomatic conduct, which has left them with only the corrupt, basket case economies of Burma and North Korea as reliable friends in Asia.
  3. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

    Apr 17, 2009
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    Indeed, it appears that the world is moving into another phase of the Cold War, with the adversaries changed.

    Unlike USSR, China is a pragmatic adversary to the US. It has not confronted the US directly as the USSR did and entered into an arms race as also a race to control the world population through political and economic means.

    However, the progress made by China in this Cold War was very successful because they adhered to Deng Xiaoping's maxim that China "disguise its ambition and hide its claws".

    Apparently, with the runaway success of China's ascendancy in world politics, China has become over ambitious in its quest and their attempt at exercising its influence in world politics having strangulated the US economically, has killed, metaphorically, the golden goose.

    Very wisely China exploited the voids in Africa and made a mark there. However, possibly realising the exciting prospect of wealth acquisition through capitalism, has overreached itself in this mode wherein there is resentment in Africa at the manner the Chinese are operating. Fortunately, others have not jumped in to exploit the resentment in Africa towards the Chinese operating mode. It would be worth note that initially the Chinese operated without any differentiation between the Chinese workers and the Africans and that was widely appreciated. However, of late, though not totally, it is said that the Chinese have adopted the capitalist manner of functioning and that has created the schism.

    What has really toppled the boat is the aggressive manner in which China is laying claims on various areas around and in the seas on the periphery of her national boundaries. It has alarmed the Asian neighbours. In this void, the US has jumped in and is being welcomed, when only a few years ago, the US was the adversary and in other cases, was not taken to be a Honest Broker. Now the strategic aims of the neighbours of China and the US is converging. That, indeed, has put a spanner in the effort put in by the earlier Chinese Communist leaders.

    It is not that China has not realised the negative reaction their aggressive claims on their periphery has caused. While they are not changing their claims, Wen has made trips to neighbouring countries to limit the damage and while still not conceding anything, has been able to buy time by offering discussions, which they know will not change anything.

    While Chinese good will still dominate the Asian markets, the yawning gap in the trade deficit will be another area of acrimony. It can promote protectionism and that will affect China to some extent. While China is buying govt bonds in the US and elsewhere, that too is but a double edged weapon.

    With the US turning less arrogant than it was before and given China's aggressiveness, it will only push the Asian countries towards the US as alternative to stall China's hegemonic quests and have it kept under control.

    Thus, a new Cold War beckons, with Asia in central focus.

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