Sputnik: Acting Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan said that "Trade runs a separate track, and we'll solve that. It is too important not to solve", he added, "I don't believe [it will] spill over into our dialogue and discussion on defence". In your view, how does the US-China trade war complicate defence discussions between Washington and Beijing?
On the other hand, Minister Wei has no authority to guarantee that the awful atmosphere at the moment can be totally irrelevant to the defence matters between the US and the PRC since he is not the person chaired the Central Military Commission.
Sputnik: How realistic is it to exclude the influence of economic wars on other aspects of the relationship?
Dr Ching Chang: It is totally unrealistic to expect that the disputes on the trade and intellectual properties may not affect other dimensions of the mutual relationship. Many impacts in both societies may cause people to loss their works and even careers. The unemployment may turn into political pressure and eventually influence the social stability. It is too naive to believe the trade war can an isolated dispute.
Sputnik: What can we expect of the planned meeting between Shanahan and Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe set to presumably take place on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue defence summit in Singapore?
Dr Ching Chang: Both sides will repeat their positions but no further development can be reasonably expected. Please remember that Acting Secretary Shanahan will reveal the new concept of the US Indo-Pacific Strategy. His performances will decide his political future soon, i.e., his possibility to conclude his acting status and formally approved as the Defence Secretary.
It is simply to hard for him to show any flexibility at this sideline engagement. Likewise, the possibility for Minister Wei to reconcile with any issue addressed by Mr. Shanahan because of the domestic pressure now. We are therefore quite pessimistic to see any constructive result may appear after this sideline meeting.
Dr Ching Chang: Although no substantial consequence may occur during these engagements before concluding the trade dispute, nonetheless, it is still important to retain the posture that two sides remain their mutual communication. It is an art of diplomacy though everybody knows what is the realities hidden behind the scene.
Sputnik: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford has previously said that if US allies proceed with Huawei's equipment, intelligence cooperation could be undermined. What consequences could this lead to?
Dr Ching Chang: It is very sad to see this conclusion ever presented by General Dunford. It is more or less to indicate that the US technology can not beat the techniques owned by a single company known as Huawei. It may surprise many US alliances that Washington has no way to defend and defeat any assumed threat possibly posed by Huawei.
The US leading technology is an essential element for those alliances to support Washington. What will those military leaders see the US military openly admit that they have no way to defend and defeat a possible threat? It may undermine the confidence of the US informational war-fighting capabilities that assuring the alliance relationship.
Sputnik: Chinese media are speculating that Beijing may cut rare earth exports to the US amid the trade war. The move will potentially affect the production of the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, requires 920 pounds of rare-earth materials. Several other systems also require these elements. How do you assess the damage to the United States if China does implement such a measure?
Dr Ching Chang: It is too early to jump into a conclusion not so mature. We need to understand the actual processing capabilities of converting the rare earth ore into practical materials applicable for industrial manufacturing operations in China and other nations. Also, what will be the side effect possibly created by cutting the export of rare earth either in the original ore form or in the form of refined materials.
Sputnik: In your opinion, what agreements need to be reached so that China does not apply such sanctions?
Dr Ching Chang: As I have already noted, if there are many innocent parties may be damaged by these export restriction scheme, it is less possible that Beijing will adopt such measures to provoke other members in the international society. Whether Washing may also concern other innocent parties whilst it put the pressure on Beijing, it seemed that it is not the case.
Sputnik: Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei or the South China Sea issues are perceived by both sides as a matter of national security. How likely is it that Chinese and American defence officials will be able to find a way to solve the conflict? In your opinion, what should be done to resolve it?
Dr Ching Chang: Both issues are artificially created by Washington as the bargain chips to retain the economic leverages, technological dominance and regional superiority. These issues are not based on "just cause" but simply "just because".
Both the defence leadership of these two nations have no position to have the final say on solving the disputes of these two states. They have no possibility to show any weak posture, either. Washington started the trade war. It can only be concluded until the decision maker in Washington eventually understands that it is impossible to get the victory he always expects but only many damages and victims as the debts of honor in the future.
Views and opinions, expressed in the article are those of Dr Ching Chang and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.