August 18, 2017
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US-China relations facing new flashpoint
While United States, under the presidency of Donald Trump, is looking for revitalizing its prowess and attempting to regain lost glory, China is in a hurry to attain the new global superpower status by showing off its military and economic strength. The catching up time between China and US may not be too long before they can be near equals at least at some levels. Earlier it was predicted that by 2040 China can be equal to US in four strategic parameters such as military, economic, political and cultural. But the fast pace of technological innovations and ever sliding geopolitics can make it happen much faster. Thereby, Asia is going to be pretty similar like 20th century Europe where battlegrounds were tick marked and military commanders were routinely making their war preparedness in a theatre format. While China is in the ascending trajectory for power, the US is somewhat in a descending trajectory. This is largely due to cycle of history. Both are trying to have their space. In the quest for this achievement, they are ready to go to war. Yet, at this stage neither side can afford a full scale war, only they can talk of certain possibilities. Yet converting possibilities into options take long time.  Since Chinese are good students of history, they will try to play a wait and watch game about the new Trump team. But the US would like to test the Chinese bottom line by making a ‘pushing hard’ game. So one can reasonably argue a small face off can take place to test each other. That is going to upset lot of present arrangement and new geopolitical equations in Asian politics. No more small nations will be allowed to dictate terms or their importance will get any substantial hike due to change of situation. That is why China has not paid much lip service to the Philippines offer for peaceful use of natural resources in South China Sea and ways for joint explorations.

The situation in Asia is clearly resembling with early 20th century Europe where power struggle had started on the basis of strength and influence.  While China has created its own arch of friends among Asian neighbors, it is still suffering from its old mindset of judgment from history. China has a natural ability to analyze the past but it fails on most occasions judging the present. In the Korean War China made the same mistake, although it wrecked the backbone of American forces. Similarly, in Cambodia war China too fumbled when Vietnam arrived in Phnom Penh. The present establishment in Beijing has developed a strategy which makes China more unpredictable. This creates confusion for neutral countries who wish to forge a close relationship with China but refrain from doing so. This has made China’s ambitious silk route projects too hot to touch. The US on the other hand has a habit of bossism attitude which has become a bone of contention for many small and medium sized economies to join hands with. Some countries who were initially interested about the US led TPP are now rethinking about their decision. The new president has shown scant respect for continuity. In a similar fashion this is making America unreliable partner at least for some. Over all, the situation is going to be further complicated due to military ambitions in the region. Although economic and strategic moves are going to be made for more competition and more influence, military exhibitionism is creating ripple effects in a chain reaction manner. Even China which is sensing complications in the Asia Pacific region has already displayed its prowess just before Trump signaled trampling down one China policy.

Already China has shown little respect for the so-called lone superpower status of US. Indeed, Beijing is ready to challenge this phenomenon sooner than later. The Republicans due to their old mindset may like to bring Russia as an enemy nation but China will be in real their enemy. This is due to their understanding of Cold War. For them China is still an enigma. Most American strategic experts believe, except the US military, neither the professional diplomats nor intelligence community, in US are duly able to decode China. So the US would artificially recreate Russia as their prime enemy. But in reality geopolitics has drastically changed in last 20 years. In fact, by all means China is going to be anti pillar to the solo status of US. Nothing remains in a vacuum. Russia today does not have economic and political power to match up with the West. Yet, China has created an overall balance for a comprehensive national power to match with the West. Yet, it may not be at par with the power of United States, but history takes its own turn. A quantitative change is invisible in nature but a qualitative change is eye opener. This is like willful disregard of Germany in the aftermath of First World War. China’s investment into technology and power projection parameters should tell the story as where it is heading for in next 20 years. However, the US will not get a similar format of alliance what it had got in European theatre. Lack of socio-cultural understanding about Asia will make things more complicated. Therefore, altering the cycle of history needs lot of imagination about the unseen and courage to implement them.