‘The Hill’: Is America’s global preeminence under Chinese threat?

10:57 10.04.2023 •

If Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine has shaken the foundations of the international order, as many in the West believe, a Chinese takeover of Taiwan would usher in a new global order by ending America’s global preeminence and undermining the U.S.-led alliance system. It would change the trajectory of the 21st century in the way that World War I transformed the 20th, Brahma Chellaney, a geostrategist, author of “Water: Asia’s New Battleground” (Georgetown University Press), which won the Bernard Schwartz Award, notes at ‘The Hill’.

In fact, the longer the war in Ukraine extends, the greater is the likelihood of two tectonic developments unfolding: Russia and China cementing a strategic axis against the West…

In the second half of the Cold War, following President Nixon’s opening to China, the U.S. co-opted China against the Soviet Union, gradually turning the Sino-American relationship into an informal alliance geared toward containing and rolling back Soviet influence. This two-against-one competition contributed to the Soviet Union’s imperial overstretch and, ultimately, to the West’s triumph in the Cold War without armed conflict.

Today, the U.S. policy is helping turn two natural competitors, Russia and China, into close strategic partners. Consequently, the U.S. seriously risks accelerating its relative decline through strategic overreach.

U.S. sanctions policy is promoting a mutually beneficial partnership between Russia and China by helping advance a natural division of strategic priorities. China’s primary focus is on its periphery, stretching from Japan across Southeast Asia to India, while Russia’s attention is concentrated largely on Eastern and Central Europe. While Russia seeks to regain influence among states bordering its western flank, China’s muscular revisionism is aimed at establishing “hegemony along its periphery, especially regarding Taiwan, the South China Sea and India.”

Today, with Russia tying the U.S. down in the European theater, Xi has greater strategic room to achieve what he has called China’s “historic mission” — the  absorption of Taiwan.

In his first speech as a third-term president on March 13, Xi unambiguously linked the incorporation of Taiwan to the success of his national rejuvenation policy, saying the “essence” of his great rejuvenation drive was “the unification of the motherland.”

Before meeting Xi in Bali, Indonesia, in November, Biden had said he wanted to discuss “red lines” in the tense relationship with Beijing. But it was Xi who, in great detail, spelled out China’s No. 1 red line — Taiwan.  

Xi, in speeches at home last month, singled out the U.S. as China’s foe and then joined hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin in explicitly identifying America in a nine-point joint statement as their common adversary.

Against this backdrop, deterring China from upending the world order by invading Taiwan has become more imperative than ever for the Biden administration.

More fundamentally, the U.S. should be addressing its strategic overstretch, not exacerbating it through greater entanglement in European security. The current U.S. focus on containing Russia’s regional ambitions is at the cost of countering China’s drive to supplant America as the world’s foremost power.

The longer the U.S. is involved in the war in Ukraine, the greater will be the strategic space for China to advance its expansionist agenda, including by accelerating its accumulation of military and economic power, Brahma Chellaney stresses.


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