How the US Turns Peaceful Exchange With China into a Casus Belli

John Glaser, November 05, 2012

“Don’t treat China as an enemy. Otherwise you end up with an enemy in China.”

Those are the words of former Chinese diplomat Jia Xiudong. And they reflect the thinking in the Chinese government, as best we can tell. They don’t appreciate Obama’s “pivot” to Asia, a bellicose posture involving surging American militarism in the region and antagonizing Beijing in the hopes that US hegemony will be maintained.

China already feels squeezed by American militarism in its backyard. But it’s set to get much worse: a video report from former CNN journalist Mike Chinoy, a senior fellow at the US-China Institute at the University of Southern California, reveals that the Navy will aim to have “60 percent of its assets” in the Pacific Ocean.

“It will involve deploying six aircraft carriers, destroyers, littoral combat ships, submarines, and an increase in military exercises and port visits,” Chinoy says. This is not to mention putting additional American troops in countries like the Philippines and Australia and building new military bases at strategic points surrounding China.

Does this military surge have anything at all to do with defending the United States from attack, or any conceivable imminent threat for that matter? No, of course not. This is empire building of the first order. China’s rise threatens not the security of Americans, but the hegemony of Washington. China’s mere existence as anything other than a vassal state is the major transgression.

Here’s one attempt by an establishmentarian trying to describe the bellicose posture towards China in a polite, vacant way that avoids the unseemly geo-politics really at hand:

“The fundamental reality is we’re the two largest economies in the world for decades to come,” said Kenneth Lieberthal of the Brookings Institution. “We had better figure out how to make this work between the two of us.”

Only someone embedded in the state apparatus could possibly describe it this way: the economic rise of the American people and the Chinese people, otherwise recognizable as a positive, enriching experience, somehow requires the governments of both countries to butt heads. But in fact it’s true: market interactions where states are involved always entail coercion and hostility.

If the Chinese and American people were left to simply trade on their own, you can bet things would proceed peacefully – as they have throughout the past two decades as both economies became progressively more intertwined. For people, markets are mutually beneficial. All sides win. For states, markets are zero-sum. Peaceful, mutually beneficial interactions get turned into a casus belli.




20 Responses to “How the US Turns Peaceful Exchange With China into a Casus Belli”

  1. I generally agree with the articles on this site, but in this case I must express my concern about the rise of Chinese militarism and nationalism. Chinese claims to old colonies and lands, especially Taiwan, does in face represent a threat to stability in the region. In short, other countries there are frightened with good reason. Moreover, Chinese threats to block shipping in the area can't be ignored. President Obama's "pivot to Asia" is a sound policy based on real threats from a lawless nation.

  2. Lawless nation? China? I'd think the good old USA is a lot more deserving of that description. Aggressive wars of choice, drones, extrajudicial rendition, indefinite detention . . . . Who's the lawless nation here?

  3. I just want to mention here that jimm & Rob can be simultaneously right.

  4. Rob-Points well taken, but I don't think most countries in Asia are frightened by a strong U.S military. They are afraid of China.

  5. "Lawless nation" – wow, talk about the pot calling the kettle black! Jimm, I don't understand how you can POSSIBLY claim to agree with ANYTHING on this site if this truly represents your view of the world.

  6. I guess you haven't been able to chat with any of the good people in Okinawa – who VEHEMENTLY want the U.S. off of their island. That was true as far back as my tour at Camp Butler in '78.

    Maybe you'd like to ask the Vietnamese for their opinions as well. Although it's been several decades since we killed over a million of their people, I don't imagine they would be thrilled to see American troops landing again.

  7. Actually you'd be wrong Liberty Rising. While there are a lot of Japanese people that want the Americans gone there are also a lot that don't. This is mainly because the Japanese are by their own constitution not allowed to wage an offensive war. They can defend themselves from attack but can't be the aggressors while the Americans possess the ability to strike back at whoever attacks the Japanese on their behalf.

    Also the Vietnamese fought a war with China in the 1950's I think and also handed their butts to them as well, so they aren't the biggest fans of China either. With the current rise of Chinese claims to the whole of the South China sea and their constant harrassing of other nations shipping and fishing vessels in the area you can be damn sure that the Vietnamese aren't going to take that lying down. If that means they have to be friendly with the Yanks to counter the Chinese threat then you are sure they will do that.

    Don't get me wrong I like the Chinese people, some of my cousins are half Chinese on my dads side, but the Chinese Communist government is an authoritarian nightmare.

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