Why US-UK's Show of Force Failed to Deter China & How Beijing May Benefit Paris and Berlin
The US and UK's zero sum approach towards China won't benefit anyone and may even lead to a great powers conflict; in contrast, a win-win approach may open new lucrative opportunities to everyone, say Asia Pacific expert Thomas Pauken and French politician Karel Vereycken, commenting on Washington and London's Indo-Pacific manoeuvres.
Over the past two weeks, the US and UK have been engaged in a show of force in the Indo-Pacific and ramping up their anti-China rhetoric.
The USS Carl Vinson, the USS Ronald Reagan and the HMS Queen Elizabeth, joined by naval ships from Japan, Canada, New Zealand and the Netherlands, carried out naval exercises in the Philippines Sea on 3 October, according to the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative (SCSPI), a Beijing-based think tank. On 4 October, US and UK warships sailed through the South China Sea – most of which is claimed by China – SCSPI said, citing satellite images. The drills came on the heels of a landmark nuclear submarine deal with Australia
, which triggered harsh criticism from France, which was sidelined by its British and American allies.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal broke on 7 October that a US special operations unit and a contingent of Marines "have been secretly operating in Taiwan
to train military forces there" for at least a year. According to Beijing's One China vision, Taiwan is an integral part of the People's Republic.
On the same day, the CIA announced the creation of a new China Mission Center to tackle what it called "the most important geopolitical threat [the US] face[s] in the 21st century" – "an increasingly adversarial Chinese government".
Biden’s Failed 'China Containment' Strategy
Washington's increased sabre-rattling against China appears to be a response to Joe Biden's plummeting approval rating
over a blundered COVID-19 handling, slow economic recovery and disastrous Afghan withdrawal, suggests Thomas W. Pauken II, a Beijing-based Asia-Pacific affairs commentator and author of US vs. China: From Trade War to Reciprocal Deal
"The Democrats are desperate to create some unity and what they have uncovered is that many Americans stand unified on ‘anti-China’ sentiments," Pauken says.
It is unlikely that the news about the US military presence in Taiwan has caught the Chinese by surprise, since they are closely monitoring everything that's happening on the island, according to the author.
The Wall Street Journal's exposé will only prompt the Chinese to step up surveillance of Taiwan's border and customs, thus creating additional risks for US military personnel, Pauken notes, questioning the magazine's motivation. Similarly, the CIA's public announcement of the creation of the new China Mission Center appears awkward and places CIA agents at greater risk, according to the commentator. "What happened to the days when a CIA office was not publicly announced like a grand opening for a new shop?" Pauken asks rhetorically.
When it comes to the US multinational war games, it failed to produce any psychological deterrent effect on Beijing especially in the light of USS Connecticut colliding with an underwater object in the South China Sea on 2 October, according to the commentator.
"You can’t get more foolish and it shows the failures of Biden’s so-called 'China containment' strategy," Pauken says. "The US Navy can’t even keep their boats afloat when sailing at or near China’s territorial waters. If Washington hopes to look more threatening to Beijing they need to do a better job. Crashing their battleships into nondescript objects at sea does not demonstrate a 'position of strength.' And just imagine if China’s PLA Navy had to rescue the US Navy during that incident?"
Why US and UK's Stepping Up Pressure on China May End Badly for All
The multinational naval drills led by the US and UK came on the heels of China's National Day, a holiday commemorating the Kuomintang's defeat and subsequent retreat to Taiwan and the establishment of the People's Republic of China on 1 October 1949.
On 3 October, Washington issued a "warning" to Beijing over China's military activities near Taiwan, calling them "provocative" and undermining "regional peace and stability". According
to the Global Times, by this message the US sent "a very wrong and irresponsible signal". Thus, on 4 October, China dispatched a whopping 56 warplanes consisting mainly of fighters and bombers for drills near the breakaway island.
"Be it 150 Chinese fighter jets over Taiwan or a submarine collision, it is not hard to imagine a scenario whereby, by the increased density of military muscle flexing and a lack of back channel trust and communications, a misunderstood signal or action could provoke to a deadly incident," says Karel Vereycken, a political analyst, journalist, and vice president of Solidarite & Progres, a political party founded by Jacques Cheminade.
The French politician suggests that "if the Anglosphere imagines it can, by continually increasing its pressure, do a replay with China what it did with the USSR in 1989, and 'bring down Communism', it makes a deadly mistake," which could easily translate into a third world war nightmare.
"The 'perceived threat' the West sees from China and its main ally, Russia, is not military, but cultural, scientific, technological and civilisational," Vereycken says. "That is the real motive of the 'Asia Pivot' formalised by Obama and continued by both Trump and Biden as the 'Quad' and Boris Johnson’s Global Britain’s drive for AUKUS."
The French politician does not rule out that the current response of the West means that "the military-financial oligarchy is preparing for war, since the main battlefield of modern warfare is that of the mind and the soul of the world’s population".
'A Grand New Realignment'
While the US, UK and their Anglophone allies are flexing their muscles in China's backyard, the EU's major powers Germany and France appear to regard Beijing as a promising partner. In July 2021, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed the idea of quadrilateral cooperation on Africa, dubbed an "Africa Quad", to Berlin and Paris. Xi said that Africa needs assistance and at the same time offers "the greatest development potentials".
"The 'Africa Quad' was and remains an excellent perspective," says Karel Vereycken. "Africa remains the last continent of the planet with demographic growth. Economically, it can become 'a new China' and its development needs are so big it can become a driving force to pull the world out of its economic amnesia. Not assisting its development would be both stupid and immoral. On top, it would help create the conditions allowing France to end its post-colonial military presence in Africa."
The French politician lamented the fact that "geopolitical shortsightedness remains dominant in the EU". He notes that "so far, France thought that by behaving as servile lackeys to NATO, they would get more crumbs to eat". According to Vereycken, Paris should not cry about the US, UK and Australia's "treasonous behaviour" when it came to the French submarine deal: "the 'Five Eyes' empire only acted according to its own nature", he believes. For its part, "China should increase its cooperation with France and Germany as much as possible, but without illusion", the politician says.
The Anglo-Saxon "tilt" vis-à-vis China on the one hand and European powers' interest in deepening cooperation with Beijing on the other hand show "a grand new realignment", according to Thomas Pauken. He believes that "China will come out the winner as they can capture better relations with Brussels, Paris and Berlin."
"The UK keeps thinking the 'international assertiveness' strategy will work," the Asia Pacific affairs commentator notes. "But if it hasn’t worked before, why will it work now? It’s better to scrap ‘Cold War’ notions and to embrace cooperation. All sides can be winners if they choose to cooperate."