In recent weeks there has been a build-up of talk regarding a US war with China. Not because of any actual provocation from Beijing, but instead because of a collective resignation to its supposed inevitability.
This is best illustrated by comments made by US Air Force General Michael Minihan. In TIME Magazine’s article, “U.S. General’s Prediction of War With China ‘in 2025’ Risks Turning Worst Fears Into Reality,” General Minihan is quoted as saying:
“My gut tells me we will fight in 2025.”
The article goes on to claim:
“I hope I am wrong,” Minihan, who heads the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command, wrote in an internal memo, which circulated on social media, to the leadership of its 110,000 members. Chinese President Xi Jinping, he explains, “secured his third term and set his war council in October 2022. Taiwan’s presidential elections are in 2024 and will offer Xi a reason. United States’ presidential elections are in 2024 and will offer Xi a distracted America. Xi’s team, reason, and opportunity are all aligned for 2025.”
Yet nothing General Minihan says explains why the United States itself would conceivably find itself at war with the United States. Instead, General Minihan is more or less admitting that the US will go to war with China over Chinese actions regarding Taiwan. In fact, the article goes on to admit:
Minihan’s comments are merely the most immediate of a worrying, emerging consensus that the U.S. and China are destined to clash over Taiwan, the self-ruling island of 23 million that Beijing claims as its sovereign territory.
A clash between the United States and China over Taiwan would be the result of the United States willfully going to war with China over a matter the United States officially recognizes as China’s internal political affairs.
The current US State Department’s website regarding “U.S. Relations With Taiwan” admits that officially, “we do not support Taiwan independence.”
If the US does not support Taiwan independence then by extension the US acknowledges Taiwan is not independent and therefore Washington, officially, recognizes Beijing’s sovereignty over Taiwan. This is what defines the “One China” policy Washington and virtually every other nation on Earth has agreed to in order to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China in Beijing.
At a time when Washington regularly lectures Moscow about “violating sovereignty,” Washington’s stance toward Beijing and Taiwan should be a simple matter of respecting Chinese sovereignty. Yet it is not because of the double-game the United States plays both internationally and with China specifically.
Washington’s Deliberate Provocations
TIME Magazine and other Western media publications attempt to depict Beijing as the aggressor, omitting any discussion of either the “One China” policy or the US State Department’s own official declaration of supposedly upholding it.
Instead, Western audiences are led to believe that Taiwan somehow is independent and that Beijing is “bullying” it. The inevitable clash between the US and China is supposedly driven by America’s desire to “stand up” for Taiwan and its inferred sovereignty. In reality, a potential clash between the US and China would be the result of Washington once again violating the sovereignty of another nation thousands of miles from its own shores.
Washington’s double game of officially recognizing Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan while openly and deliberately trampling that sovereignty is best illustrated by former US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan utilizing an official US Air Force aircraft against the protests of Beijing. Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan is only one of many made by US representatives who openly use visits like this in an attempt to goad Beijing.
While the US claims American officials can travel “anywhere” they want and don’t need approval from Beijing to do so regarding Taiwan, this clearly contradicts what is written even on the US State Department’s own official website. But provocative diplomatic activity essentially encouraging separatism in Taiwan is by far the mildest of America’s provocations.
Looking at any map of US military deployments in the “Indo-Pacific” region reveals China as virtually surrounded by the US military by way of South Korea, mainland Japan, Okinawa, and with new basing agreements in the works with Manila, potentially the Philippines as well.
This puts US troops, naval assets, and hundreds of warplanes within striking distance of China, including Taiwan from north, east, and potentially the south.
The US has also poured billions of dollars’ worth of weapons into Taiwan, just as the US did in Ukraine from 2014 onward. The weapons are clearly intended for a Ukraine-style proxy war with China.
Worst of all is the small but growing presence of US military activity on Taiwan itself.
Even as the US State Department claims it does not support Taiwan independence, in 2021 Voice of America in its article, “US Nearly Doubled Military Personnel Stationed in Taiwan This Year,” admits that not only are there US troops on Taiwan, the number is increasing.
The article explains:
The increase from 20 personnel to 39 between December 31 and September 30 came with little fanfare, but it did coincide with a rare public acknowledgement by President Tsai Ing-wen in October that the U.S. military maintains a small presence in Taiwan.
Active-duty deployments now include 29 Marines as well as two service members from the Army, three from the Navy and five from the Air Force, according to the Pentagon’s Defense Manpower Data Center.
One could only imagine the reaction in Washington if Beijing and a government in, say San Juan, revealed the presence of Chinese forces in Puerto Rico. Yet as is the case in many instances regarding international relations, American “exceptionalism” not only absolves the US from any penalty for blatant violations of another nation’s sovereignty, it transfers the blame to the nation being targeted itself, in this case, China.
Why US War with China by 2025?
Despite serial provocations, Beijing has exercised exemplary patience and restraint. China has invested heavily in its military and is indeed preparing for conflict with the United States, not because it seeks to wage war with the United States but because the United States has placed its military on China’s doorstep, very clearly seeking war with China.
Taiwan’s full reintegration with the rest of China is inevitable. Already its economy is heavily dependent on access to markets across the rest of China. Harvard University’s Atlas of Economic Complexity reveals that nearly 50% of all exports from Taiwan go to the rest of China. The rest of China also accounts for the largest amount of imports to the island. Many of these imports are crucial inputs for Taiwan’s semiconductor and electronic component production which constitutes, by far, Taiwan’s largest industry.
Only through Washington’s persistent and extensive interference in Taiwan’s local political affairs has gradual reintegration been suspended. Before the US-backed Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) came to power in 2016, the incumbent Kuomintang (KMT) party was on track to sign a trade agreement with the mainland that would have increased already extensive economic integration even further.
Ironically, as the US captured Ukraine politically in 2014, it was also backing opposition protests in Taiwan dubbed the “Sunflower Movement,” paving the way for the DPP’s ascent into power 2 years later. Just like the US-installed client regime in Kiev, the DPP immediately set a course for self-destruction, irrationally rolling back ties with the mainland at the expense of the people living on Taiwan.
More recently, local elections in Taiwan saw the DPP fare poorly, serving as an unofficial referendum rejecting the DPP’s separatist platform, the damage it has consistently done to the local economy, and the instability it has created across the strait with the mainland. However, just as was the case in Ukraine where public sentiment sought peace, Washington and its client regime have every intention of overriding that sentiment in Taiwan, and pushing the island closer still to yet another US-engineered proxy war.
It is clear that it is not China rushing for war with the United States, but precisely the other way around. Time, economics, and proximity favor China. In 10 years, China will be economically and militarily stronger while the US will continue its slow decline. At that point the window of opportunity will have closed for the United States to wage any type of military conflict with China and obtain anything close to resembling “victory.”
Some could argue that the window has already closed.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) recently published the outcome of “wargames” regarding a theoretical Chinese “invasion” of Taiwan in a paper titled, “The First Battle of the Next War: Wargaming a Chinese Invasion of Taiwan.”
The paper concludes:
In most scenarios, the United States/Taiwan/Japan defeated a conventional amphibious invasion by China and maintained an autonomous Taiwan. However, this defense came at high cost. The United States and its allies lost dozens of ships, hundreds of aircraft, and tens of thousands of servicemembers. Taiwan saw its economy devastated. Further, the high losses damaged the U.S. global position for many years.
Regarding China, it says:
China also lost heavily, and failure to occupy Taiwan might destabilize Chinese Communist Party rule. Victory is therefore not enough. The United States needs to strengthen deterrence immediately.
In essence, the US will suffer unprecedented military losses and Taiwan itself will be scoured clean of its industry and infrastructure. While CSIS claims that the Chinese amphibious landing was successfully foiled in its wargames thus preserving Taiwan’s political existence, the cost is Taiwan’s physical existence.
Both the CSIS paper together with public comments made by the Pentagon about their own classified wargames indicate disparity between the US and China militarily is narrowing quickly. If there is to be a conflict between the US and China, the sooner it takes place the better chance the US has of achieving a favorable outcome. It is therefore the US racing eagerly toward war, not China. China’s military posture reflects the close proximity of US forces to Chinese territory and their obvious intent to menace China in its own territory, not a China expanding its military capabilities to threaten the United States. In fact, the CSIS paper made a specific note about China’s ability to attack the US “homeland.”
The paper claims:
Because the United States will be striking the Chinese homeland, the base case assumes that the U.S. homeland is not a sanctuary. However, the ability of the Chinese to conduct strikes against the U.S. homeland and thereby affect operations in the Western Pacific is extremely limited. A few special forces might infiltrate and attack a small number of high-value targets but not enough to materially affect military operations in the Western Pacific.
Thus, even in a war between the US and China where the US is conducting strikes on Chinese territory, CSIS admits that China has very limited means to likewise strike at the US. This reveals that US policymakers are not concerned about any real threat China poses to the US, but instead to US “interests” thousands of miles from its own shores and, in fact, within the sovereign territory of China itself.
Potential war between the US and China, if it takes place, will merely be the most recent example of US military aggression in pursuit of global hegemony targeting and attempting to undermine another nation’s sovereignty in violation of international law, not as a means to uphold it. As the US often does, the lead up to this potential war sees the US projecting its own menace toward international law, peace and stability onto the very target of US military aggression, in this case China.
Brian Berletic is a Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.