Cold War in the Asia Pacific region; There’s an adage, “When nations prepare for war, they are far more likely to go to war.” China’s recent high-altitude balloon flights over North America that the US intercepted tell us about China’s deep suspicion of the US of sabotaging its “One China Policy” and of attempting to surround China with an Asian NATO in the Indo-Pacific in the form of QUAD, AUKUS, AND ASEAN.
In May of last year, in response to a reporter’s question about a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan, Biden said, “Yes,” the US would intervene militarily. He then added: “We agree with the One China policy. We signed on to it and all the attendant agreements made from there, but the idea that it can be taken by force, just taken by force, is [just not] appropriate.”
Why did the US agree to the One China policy in the first place? The answer lies in the Cold War. At first, Taiwan was a member of the UNSC but afterwards, when China left the Soviet Bloc and the US needed its assistance, Beijing was inducted into the UNSC and diplomatically recognized in 1979.
After Biden’s September Statement about Taiwan, within weeks, at a Communist Party conference, Chinese President Xi Jinping responded with a strong personal commitment to the unification of Taiwan – by force if necessary. “We insist on striving for the prospect of peaceful reunification,” he said, “but we will never promise to give up the use of force and reserve the option to take all necessary measures.” Not to forget that the US depends heavily on Taiwan’s computer chip production.
CHINA’S PLAN TO ALTER WORLD ORDER
The Liberal International Order of the West is being challenged by the BRICS. In September 2019, the State Council issued a white paper outlining China’s goals to rise as a leader among Democratic nations ‘altering the International structures of power’. It said it doesn’t want to replace the US as a world power but to introduce its pattern of global governance. That we can see in SCO, Asian Bank, RCEP, and BRI.
For now, the concept of “democracy” actually suits Beijing’s interests which gives legitimacy to all nations regardless of regime type considering China is autocratic and can go on under this safe shelter.
“WOLF WARRIOR DIPLOMACY”
Chinese leaders take a broad and sweeping view of the country’s traditional territories to include areas that were at any time part of the imperial Chinese territory, even if those lands were claimed for centuries by other nations and peoples. An example is Taiwan.
US DIPLOMACY TOWARDS TAIWAN
In the final days of President Trump’s administration, U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo announced that the US would lift restrictions on official contact with Taiwan. Recently, the 2022 visit by Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan while serving as the speaker of the House of Representatives showed where the US stands. China also condemned the transit arranged for Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen’s trip to Central America.”
The US and the Taiwan authorities made arrangements for Tsai to engage in political activities in the US and framed it as a ‘transit’ to upgrade official exchanges and substantive relations with the Taiwan region,” said Mao Ning, spokeswoman for China’s Foreign Ministry.`
This once again shows that the fundamental cause of the new round of tensions in the Taiwan Strait is the Taiwan authorities’ repeated attempt to solicit US support for Taiwan’s independence and the fact that some in the US intend to use Taiwan to contain China,” she said, according to a transcript of the news briefing.
Tsai, 66, is on a 10-day trip to Guatemala and Belize, two of Taiwan’s only 13 diplomatic allies. The US is trying to end Taiwan’s diplomatic isolation. But why? Taiwan is closest to the Chinese mainland and the US wants to station its troops and bases there, in case of a swift conflict. As the US cannot let China establish its hegemony in the region.
OCEAN WAR AND CHINA’S RELATIONS WITH ITS NEIGHBORS MILITARILY and “BIG COUNTRY DIPLOMACY”
Under “Big Country Diplomacy ”, China has asserted claims in the South China Sea more boldly that about 90% of the region holds key shipping lanes and may contain oil and gas deposits. Beijing has reclaimed land from the sea to build airstrips, set up military bases, and deploy surface-to-air missiles.
The contested parties in the region are, Taiwan, Vietnam, Philippines, and Malaysia, coincidentally US allies. In response to that, the US initiated, the “Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP)” as China was changing the operation landscape in the South China Sea. But how? Let’s look into OCEAN WAR.
OCEAN WAR, CHINA, AND THE US
The Strait of Hormuz is present between Iran and UAE and is controlled by Iran. 40% of the world’s oil is transported through it. Of the Middle East, 90% of its oil passes through it. In the strait of Hormuz, at the Iranian ports both USA and China are present and are free to pass their goods from West to East and vice versa. Moreover, the USA has naval and Air bases in UAE, Oman, Qatar, and KSA to protect its ships carrying trade goods and has placed B-52 bombers there.
The Strait of Malacca is present between Malaysia and the Sumatra Island of Indonesia. 40% of Chinese trade passes through it. China is the only military presence there with its bases to protect its trade and geopolitical interests.
The Strait of Bab el Mandeb is present between Houthis-controlled Yemen backed by Iran and Djibouti and as Iran is an ally of China and China has promised to invest billions of dollars in Iran, Iran can close off this route to Europe as European trade passes through it. 10°6° Channel is present in the Bay of Bengal.
The 10° channel separates the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The 6° channel separates Indira Point and Indonesia. India controls this channel and this channel is crucial to Chinese trade.
Considering Sino-Indian conflicts over Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh, India can block the channel to China and thus has some leverage. Not to forget that India is a close ally of the US and a member of the QUAD group.
China has an air base in Sudan, a naval base in Djibouti, Military in Gwadar and influences Maldives, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Laos, Bangkok, Thailand, and Hainan islands.
STRING OF PEARLS STRATEGY
This is called the Chinese “String of Pearls’ Strategy. It is an uninterrupted Chinese-controlled route that leads China’s goods to Chabahar port of Iran where they can be transported to Turkey and thus eventually Europe. This is the Chinese strategy to expand its influence and fan it out to Europe to have trade dominance worldwide.
China excluded India from Iran by offering it developmental funds and thus broke its chain of trade that was the “Necklace of Diamonds’ strategy.
According to the 1982 Convention of the Sea, the country’s territorial waters are limited to 12 nautical miles into the sea along with the exclusive economic zone. To extend that, China is adding artificial islands called Spratly Islands to increase the extension of the waters. This is the “Cabbage Strategy ” of China.
The USA is countering it with the “3rd Offset Strategy” by weaponizing the countries close to what Chinese trade passes that includes Philippines (a former US colony), Malaysia, Thailand (US base in cold war), Vietnam, Burnei that have dispute with China over the nautical miles due to its Spratly Islands.
A NEW GLOBAL ORDER
From 1980-1990 the United States, Germany, France, and Japan made up 44.2 percent of contributions to global nominal GDP economic growth according to the International Monetary Fund.
Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa made up 4.8 percent. By 2010, the numbers had radically changed. The ‘liberal’ countries made up 25.6 percent.
The BRICS made up 27.5 percent. Other institutions are now being created under the leadership of non-Western actors with different values, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the world’s largest security regional organization in terms of geographic scope and population, or the economic Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) with China and 14 other countries in the Asia-Pacific the region with 2.2 billion people and 30% of the world’s economic output.
In 2003, China surpassed the UK and Japan to become Canada’s 3rd largest trading partner. 40% of the Canola produced by Canadian farmers is exported to China and exports of meat products to China surged between 2018 to 2019 and a record 40 million cubic meters of logs from Canadian forests reached Chinese ports in 2018.
WHO STARTED COLD WAR, ARMS RACE IN THE REGION THAT VIOLATES THE PROLIFERATION TREATY
According to China, Such cooperation is an extension of the nuclear deterrence policy of individual countries, and it is a tool for them to build an ‘Asia-Pacific version of NATO’ and maintain their hegemony,” Tan said, adding: “It has seriously impacted the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region, and many countries in the region are deeply worried about this.
The spokesman also called out the “China threat” used as an “excuse” by Western countries to increase military spending. But is this historically true?
Beijing has been using tactics for years in the Asia-Pacific region. When South Korea dared to allow the US to install the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System southeast of Seoul in response to missile threats from North Korea, Beijing was livid. It thought the system’s radar could snoop on China’s military defenses. China ordered the closing of dozens of South Korean markets as a repercussion.
CHINA, PORT DARWIN, AND THE CHINESE COMPANY LANDBRIDGE
In 2015, the government of Australia announced that Chinese company Land-bridge would take over Port Darwin for 99 years. The A$50 million deal was struck between the two. The United States was worried about the security of American military bases near Port Darwin.
The 99 years lease of the port gave the Chinese company control over a large body of water capable of harboring large ships less than 5000 km away from the contested South China Sea where Beijing continues to build artificial islands and military bases keeping its neighbors in check and depriving them of their international law right of possessing 12 nautical miles into the water body.
Controlling the waters means controlling the trade as it is cheaper and controlling the warfare as maritime warfare came to the fore in the 17th century of great importance. It liberates a state from the dangers of inland warfare. However, after Australia witnessed suspicious activities and Chinese repression of Uyghurs living in Australia, it entered the US bloc.
President Joseph Biden while hosting leaders from Australia and Britain announced that Washington would sell the ambitious state-of-the-art marine technology to Australia, and the latter would then go on to build a new model with US and British technology, in an attempt to browbeat Chinese stewardesses.
FOREIGN AGENTS REGISTRATION ACT
It is an American Law passed in 1938 requiring that agents in the US representing the interests of foreign powers in a “political or quasi-political capacity” disclose their relationship with the foreign government. Thus came intelligence sharing. The US has been sharing intelligence with its allies especially the Five Eyes which was recently leaked in Intel Leaks.
CHINESE REPERCUSSIONS TO AUSTRALIA
In 2020, Beijing suspended beef and cotton imports, slapped an 80% tariff on Australian Barley, and instructed Chinese students not to travel to Australia. In response, Morrison visited Japan, where he signed an in-principle agreement with Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga on a “mutual defense pact”. So did Chinese threats to Australia have any effect? We doubt so. But how?
India convened the Raisina Dialogue, a gathering of global thought leaders. In the last few days, New Delhi also welcomed German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. A few weeks ago, India signed a landmark deal to acquire Boeing and Airbus jets, positioning itself to become the world’s most important emerging market for the aerospace sector.
Next week, when Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese visits New Delhi, Deakin University Melbourne is expected to announce plans to establish a campus in India; it would be the first foreign university to open one there. The world is flocking to India: it is one of the globe’s fastest-growing economies and has become a critical piece in U.S.-led efforts to counter China.
SRI LANKA AND CHINA: CHINESE CASE OF DEPT ENTRAPMENT
Sri Lanka, having received funding from Beijing to finance an ambitious port project, struggled to pay installments for the roughly US $1 Billion debt and instead of relaxing the lending terms, Beijing asked Sri Lanka to hand over the port entirely. For a lease of 99 years, China now controlled the “Hambantota Port”, situated just several hundred kilometers from the shores of its most powerful Asian rival, India. Does this example corroborate the statement of Chinese officials? Let’s see.
On the US accusation of a debt trap, Mao said: “We never attach any political strings, or seek any selfish political interests. We have been helping developing countries relieve debt burdens, and made the biggest contribution to implementing the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative.”
The case that we studied earlier proves this fraudulent. One ponders, what will be the consequences of Pakistani economic alliance with China? Will Pakistan lose Gwadar due to China’s interests in having military bases close to India or will survive the blow?
CHINESE DESIGNS TO GO MILITARISTIC BEFORE WE STARTED COUNTERING IT ACCORDING TO INTEL LEAKS
Beijing contravened its principle of non-interference in other countries’ domestic affairs by opening its first overseas military bases in Djibouti, in the Horn of Africa in 2017.
Beijing said the base was necessary to protect its investments in the region but political scientists saw it as a shift in China’s willingness to expand its military power and intervene in other countries’ affairs like we see today in Chinese mediation between KSA and Iran and its emerging role in replacing US as the mediator in the Middle East controlling attitudes of countries.
Chinese AIIB enables authoritarian governments to access alternative sources of financial banking like it did to Iran for its interests thus propagating authoritarianism.
China has dramatically increased its arms sales and joint military exercises in Central Asia.
Chinese border forces have been operating inside Tajikistan to help monitor terrorist activity since Beijing is concerned about spilling. Previously only Russia had a foreign military presence there.
CURRENT U.S OPERATIONS TO COUNTER CHINA IN THE SOUTH CHINA SEA
In January, a four-star US Air Force General, Mike Minihan, sent a formal memo to his massive Air Mobility Command of 500 aircraft and 50,000 troops, ordering them to ramp up their training for war with China. “My gut tells me,” he concluded, that “we will fight in 2025.”
Instead of repudiating the general’s statement, a Pentagon spokesman simply added, “The National Defense Strategy makes clear that China is the pacing challenge for the Department of Defense.”
As early as March 2021, the head of the Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral Philip Davidson, warned Congress that China was planning to invade the island by 2027:
“Taiwan is one of their ambitions. And I think the threat will manifest during this decade, in fact, in the next six years.”
After President Biden signed a defense appropriation bill last December with $10 billion in military aid for Taiwan, an unprecedented armada of 71 Chinese aircraft and many more military drones swarmed that island’s air defenses in a single 24-hour period.
Moving on to Manila, Austin revealed that the Philippines had just granted US troops access to four more military bases, several facing Taiwan across a narrow strait. These were needed, he said, because “the People’s Republic of China continues to advance its illegitimate claims” in the South China Sea.
QUAD WORKING GROUP AND QUAD MARITIME SECURITY WORKING GROUP
QUAD meeting was held on 3rd March, 2023 in India. India joined other Quad members in calling for a “just and lasting peace in Ukraine”, and respect for a rules-based order in the South and East China Seas, in the first such statement by the group that is seen to criticize both Russia and China.
The meeting also announced the setting up of a Quad working group on counter-terrorism. The main concern was that the threat of the use of nuclear weapons was inadmissible.
The 18-paragraph statement called for greater Quad Collaboration in support of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, and opposed any “unilateral actions that seek to change the status quo or increase tensions in the area”, understood to indicate recent tensions over Taiwan.
It also announced that the “Quad Maritime Security Working Group” would meet in Washington later this month (in April).
The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD), commonly known as the Quad, is a strategic security dialogue between Australia, India, Japan, and the United States that is maintained by talks between member countries. The dialogue was initiated in 2007 by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with the support of Australian Prime Minister John Howard, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney. The dialogue was paralleled by joint military exercises of an unprecedented scale, titled Exercise Malabar.
The new cold war in the Indo-Pacific has indeed begun and the world is not addressing it. The US and China are utilizing various countries to launch attacks on each other as the Soviets and the US did in the last Cold War. The US used Thailand as a base and the Soviets used Cuba which almost led to a nuclear catastrophe. But the last Cold War ended in the dissolution of the Soviet Union. What will this one amount to? Considering the economic capacity of China and its role in the trade market, it is hard to beat China as easily. If escalated, will the war in the Indo-Pacific be a mirror image of the war in Ukraine or something decisive? Will The New Cold War Result in The New World Order? We anticipate the answers while the answers await us.
This Article is written by Dr. Hiba Imran. She is interested in International Affairs, Diplomacy, Global Politics particular focus on Asia-Pacific.