Is China Charting A Collision Course? - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Opinion

Is China Charting A Collision Course?

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Posted: Friday, June 21, 2019 10:43 am

Will The United States and China co-exist peacefully forever, given the issues that divide us? The world’s two largest economies are linked in matters of trade and commerce but little else of significance and even that is now threatened by Trump’s tariff wars. Will our many differences eventually lead to armed conflict?

No one knows the answer to that, of course, and conflict should never be considered inevitable. China needs American markets and to a decreasing extent its technology but that may not always be the case. What then? There are many flashpoints that could trigger conflict, among them freedom of navigation in the international waters of the South China Sea claimed by China as its territorial waters, attempts to occupy Taiwan by force, continued theft of our technology, cyber warfare directed at us and the recent heavy-handed efforts to weaken Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous status.

The U.S. is a maritime nation bounded by three oceans and highly dependent upon ocean-borne commerce. Freedom of navigation is not just a principle we support but something we must defend by force if necessary. China’s efforts to colonize the vast South China Sea, through which about one-third of the world’s shipping passes, and its claim to sovereignty over it is a threat to freedom of navigation. Continued harassment of our naval vessels transiting this area that connects the Indian and Pacific Oceans could quickly escalate into conflict.

We shamefully withdrew diplomatic recognition to an ally, The Republic of China, now known as Taiwan, to comply with Beijing’s so-called One China Policy. Since then we have followed a policy that can only be described as benign ambiguity. We have, however, warned the Democratic Peoples Republic that we would oppose any effort to occupy the island, which they regard as a renegade province, by force. Chinese leaders fly into a rage whenever we provide even modest military aid to Taiwan. When I visited China, our party was warned by our guide to not even mention Taiwan or we could be detained. Taiwan has never been under Communist rule and its people would resist any attempt to occupy the island. Would we stand by our former ally?

Detaining, it seems, is something that authorities in the Peoples Republic do a lot of. With all the effort expended to convince Americans that China is an economic partner and not an enemy or even a rival, it’s easy to forget that, while it dabbles at capitalism when necessary to facilitates growth, it remains a repressive, Communist nation where the Communist Party rules supreme. It is intolerant of dissent and often even of criticism. It will put down demonstrators with whatever force it deems necessary as it did during the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.

Now, thirty years later, Xi Jinping is using tear gas and rubber bullets against demonstrators in Hong Kong who are protesting a proposed law which would permit Hong Kong residents and even visitors accused of crimes to be extradited to mainland China to be subject to the tender mercies of the Peoples Republic’s justice system. When the British turned its former crown colony, the “Pearl of the Orient,” over to China, it was designated a special semi-autonomous region under the so-called “One Country, Two Systems” principle, a concept just about as ambiguous as the “One China” policy. About one million of Hong Kong’s seven million people turned out for the peaceful demonstration, a pretty good indication of how much Hong Kong’s people cherish retaining the freedoms they enjoyed under British rule.

Washington may settle for an ambiguous policy in these matters but Beijing probably will not forever tolerate Taiwan’s independence or Hong Kong’s semi-autonomy. Would we stand idly by and watch those freedoms trampled? Hong Kong is the world’s third largest financial center and hosts about 85,000 Americans.

Beijing has made it brutally clear over the years that while it values American markets and technology, it will do whatever it takes, legally or otherwise, including by bribing or stealing, to advance China’s interests and those of its Communist Party. They will always accept whatever concessions we make and demand more. They will honor agreements only so long as it benefits them to do so. They doubtlessly look forward to a future time when they can dictate the terms of continued peaceful co-existence. These realities should help inform our policies in dealing with the Peoples Republic.

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