In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on August 18, expatriate Dutch parliamentarian Ayaan Hirsi Ali amplified her charge that the United States was truly engaged in a clash of civilizations:
“The West is declining in relative power, Islam is exploding demographically, and Asian civilizations—especially China—are economically ascendant……………The West’s universalist pretensions are increasingly bringing it into conflict with the other civilizations, most seriously with Islam and China. Thus the survival of the West depends on Americans, Europeans and other Westerners reaffirming their shared civilization as unique—and uniting to defend it against challenges from non-Western civilizations.”
The identification of China may have surprised many. After all, the United States is China’s most important trading partner and China owns, according to the lastest reports, nearly 40% of American debt. The two nations , it is argued, are wrapped in a symbiotic relationship where armed conflict would be unthinkable.
But Hirsi Ali , without going into extensive analysis, was touching on an important development which is all but ignored by the U.S. Government. The Chinese are almost certainly preparing for an eventual military conflict with the United States.
In August, in its annual report to Congress, the U.S. Department of Defense claimed that China was ramping up investment in an array of areas including nuclear weapons, long-range missiles, submarines aircraft carriers and cyber warfare. The military report said China was “already looking at contingencies beyond Taiwan” including through a longstanding project to build a far-reaching missile that could potentially strike US carriers deep in the Pacific.
“Current trends in China’s military capabilities are a major factor in changing East Asian military balances and could provide China with a force capable of conducting a range of military operations in Asia well beyond Taiwan” it said.
“China’s military doctrine has traditionally emphasized the ability to strike within an area extending to Japan’s Okinawa Island chain and throughout the South China Sea east of Vietnam,” the report said.
But Chinese strategists are now looking to expand their reach further to be able to hit targets as far away as Guam including much of mainland Japan and the Philippines it said.
Andrew Krepinevich , the president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments wrote in Friday’s Wall Street Journal:
” China’s goal is to stop the United States from protecting its long standing interests in the region – and to draw Washington’s democratic allies and partners ( such as Japan, South Korea and Taiwan) into its orbit.”
In the piece, he claims that the Chinese military has identified U.S.’ reliance on satellites and the Internet to monitor incoming attacks as its Achilles Heel. The successful testing of a Chinese anti-satellite missile in 2007 and the prospective use of lasers to blind satellites, presents an extremely discomfiting scenario for the United States.
The imperial ambitions of China to dominate its region should not come as any historical surprise. There has been a long standing Chinese view of itself as the center of Asia and that those nations that surround it should exist as either vassal or tributary states. In fact, China could remind its Asian neighbors of the once powerful tributary system of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, when the “Middle Kingdom” was in fact at the center of an Asian system of trade, cultural eminence and respect. Though Beijing may have no aspirations of re-creating such a system, this “Middle Kingdom” mentality cannot be totally neglected today.
The Obama Administration, much like the Bush Administration before it, remains blissfully unaware of the Chinese military build up or of how, in any potential conflict breaking out over Taiwan or South Korea, U.S. forces in the Pacific could become neutralized within minutes.
China’s astonishing economic development, its bustling metropolises and embrace of the West in robust trade, should not blind us to the fact that the Chinese do not share the same civilizational values as ourselves, nor are they necessarily willing to play ball on issues of global concern – particularly when it comes to Iran’s nuclear program or even matters as hot button as global warming.
That is because to the Chinese mind, the Middle Kingdom is not a quaint historical anecdote, consigned to a storied past, but an ever present reality in the thinking of many modern Chinese political leaders and businessmen. It dictates a view of China as the cynosure of an Asian ascendancy with a concomitant indifference to Western leaders’ universalist ideals. We would be foolish to ignore this kind of thinking and to believe so implicitly in Chinese professed good intentions.