The Threat Of China-US War



The threat of war between Iran and US has escalated in the wake of US unilateral sanctions on Iran, Iran’s partial withdrawal from the Nuclear deal and US military deployment in wake of unproven threats by Iranian proxies. The reality of the threat of war is hard to interpret especially in face of the US President’s personal type of diplomacy. It has been a perceived component of US policy to keep a balancing act in the Middle East against both the Arabs and Israel. Iran is a natural counterweight, which the US won’t erode.

The Thucydides Trap

Graham Allison in his book “Destined for War” identifies the possibility of a violent transition of power from an established superpower (the US) to an emerging superpower (China), However, the current situation could be different than the previous historical occasions, as now the financial institutions have a power and the ability to designate distribution of roles. Economic interdependence may keep the two powers at bay from engaging in violent and long war for the supremacy in global affairs. History has witnessed destructive wars whereas in contemporary affairs the US is only state who was indulged in war for around 93% of the time since its inception. It has created deterrence by engaging in war to sustain its diplomatic leverage at international forums.

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US China Trade Tensions

The Trump administration has already slapped tariffs on US$250 billion worth of Chinese products, and has threatened tariffs on US$325 billion more, in response to what the White House alleges is Chinese theft of U.S. technology and intellectual property. China, for its part, has set tariffs on US$110 billion worth of US goods, and is threatening qualitative measures that would affect US businesses operating in China. With neither side willing to back down, US-China trade tensions could erupt into a full-blown trade war. China’s own Ministry of Commerce warned that the dispute may even lead to “the largest trade war in economic history to date”.

Tension in Asia-Pacific

If these two powers will snare in conflict, the most plausible reason will be military expansionism in Asia Pacific. The Chinese military expansionism equipped with small military bases for instance in Djibouti which threatened the nerves of United States of America. In addition to this, understanding Chinese military expansionist policies, Beijing is more towards seizure of various islands in South China Sea by Limited Military Objectives (LMO). This tactic has been induced in Chinese military expansionism by observing Russia under Vladimir Putin. Initially Putin did seizure of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in early 2014 was the most consequential decision of his 16 years in power. Another strategic milestone he has achieved is construction of a bridge over the Kerch strait which connects Russia to Crimea. In connection of this annexation, Russia gets the entryway to the Sea of Azov which is in east of the Crimean peninsula which eventually is defeat of Ukraine. Categorically China is also building military bases on small islands which will lately be equipped with smart Air Defence and China will put the whole Asia Pacific Sea under air defence zone.

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Iran & US-China

Two Chinese companies ZTE and Huawei have been targeted by the US in particular over their exports to Iran claiming that US made components in their products contravened American restrictions on Iran. China-Iran trade slowed dramatically after the reimposition of U.S. secondary sanctions in November, suggesting the Chinese government had chosen to subordinate its economic relations with Iran to the much more important issue of its ongoing trade negotiations with the United States. But these negotiations have since broken down. On the same day that Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif traveled to Beijing for talks on “regional and international issues,” the Chinese oil tanker PACIFIC BRAVO began traveling eastward, having loaded approximately 2 million barrels of Iranian oil from the Soroosh and Kharg terminals in the Persian Gulf over the past few days.

BRI & US Redeployment

In March, the Commander of US Central Command (CENTCOM) told the House Armed Services Committee his concerns about China projecting its Silk Road influence from Gwadar to Africa and consequently establishing a permanent naval presence in the western end of the Afro-Asian Ocean.

The redeployment of the US in the Gulf could lead to the US trying to sabotage the BRI through overt and covert methods. This could lead to a rise in Chinese militarization of the Indian Ocean that could set the stage for a military conflict between the US and China.

It can be concluded that a host of factors such as Trade war, differences over Iran and security of strategic investments could lead both the US and China to a military confrontation.