Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Hugh White — A Dangerous Superpower Showdown is Brewing: China vs. America in Asia

Of course, neither side wants confrontation, let alone war. But each side expects to be able to achieve its aims without confrontation because it assumes the other will back down. And we should be under no illusion about the weight of the stakes for both countries. The maritime issues in dispute are not the cause of US–China rivalry any more than the status of Serbs in the Austro–Hungarian Empire was the cause of the First World War.
Their contest is driven by mutually incompatible visions of the future Asian order and their roles in it. For both of them, this goes to central questions of national identity and destiny. These are just the kinds of issues that great powers do go to war over, and the mutual underestimation of each other’s resolve is how such wars start when neither wants nor expects them to.…
None of this is to say that confrontation or conflict is inevitable. But it is to say that the risks are very real and the trends are negative. Turning those trends around by finding a way to deescalate the rivalry is essential for setting the conditions for peace, stability and growth in Asia over coming decades.
None of us can afford to leave this to Washington and Beijing, because we simply cannot assume they will get it right. Others with an interest in Asia’s future — and that means not just Asians but everyone else as well — ought to ask what influence can be brought to bear to help manage the transition now underway in Asia much better than it has been so far.
That means recognizing and acknowledging the existence and scale of the risks of escalating rivalry — to break through the complacency that envelopes both Washington and Beijing. It requires us to accept that the old order in Asia is no longer sustainable: we will have a new regional order whether we like it or not. We must therefore think more creatively about what that order might look like. It is too easy to assume that the only alternative to US primacy in Asia is Chinese primacy, and both Washington and Beijing have reasons of their own to encourage that assumption.
But of course there are many other possible foundations for a new Asian order, which would serve the interests of all of us, including the United States and China, much better than either a protracted struggle for regional primacy between the world’s two strongest states or a passive acceptance of Chinese hegemony. Our challenge is to explore these alternatives and how they might best be brought about. It is an extraordinarily difficult task, but the stakes could not be higher.
The National Interest
A Dangerous Superpower Showdown is Brewing: China vs. America in Asia
Hugh White | Professor of Strategic Studies at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at The Australian National University


Ryan Harris said...
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Ryan Harris said...

We've read hundreds of articles about the 1% on MNE, it is about time, these analysts, strategists and journalists synthesize what we have learned and incorporate it into their thinking. They are old generals fighting the last war. Reliving the glory of they past but completely failing to accept the new reality of our liberal system of business that sets standards, creates regulation and selects governors for elections.
In years past explorers were funded by Monarchs.
Then Industrial benefactors.
Then Governments like China or US or Russia.
Now that governments are no longer the centers of power and money, the 1% have sent the first spacecraft to another star, they are creating settlements on other planets, mining asteroids and private companies are launching rockets. The are expensive dangerous explorations that can only be paid for by the reigning powers. Talking about 'superpowers' in terms of government is very 1979, is it really relevant today? China and The US do what the respective billionaire classes want them to, governments don't give orders, they take orders.

Tom Hickey said...

Partially a done deal in the US, and there is now considerable pushback against it. Not the case with other countries — although one of the Russian oligarchs is talking about with with Stephen Hawking.

Bob said...

This is going to be a fight to the death - Tom Hickey.

Oh well, bombs away...

Tom Hickey said...

Let's hope not.

The US pretty sure it can effect regime change in Russia and China without provoking WWIII if it keeps the pressure ratcheted up but not so high as to incur hostilities that end in nuclear war. It's a very risky gamble. But the stakes are huge and the players at this level are willing to take unlimited risks, which is what nuclear war involves.

But in the end, the US will prevail and economic liberalism under rules the US sets will prevail as the world order, or the US will become just another nation that once had an empire, like Britain, France, Spain, Holland, Portugal, Greece, Persia, etc. History is littered with them.

Both sides know this and just yesterday, China was celebrating the Chinese-Russian strategic alliance, while US hawks are arguing that the US must attack China now before it becomes much stronger.