Although American foreign policy establishmentarians across the political spectrum have grown fond of warning how dangerous Republican nominee Donald Trump’s election as president would be, their own favored policies keep bringing the United States and China ever closer to war in East Asia. Two seemingly unrelated developments in the last week alone demonstrated how Washington is escalating its military pushback versus Beijing’s expansionism in the region, while continuing to ignore ongoing American corporate activity in China that literally feeds the beast.
The pushback came in the form of an Obama administration decision to send an undisclosed number of B1 bombers to the mid-Pacific island of Guam. Their mission? According to the Air Force, to “provide a significant rapid global strike capability that enables our readiness and commitment to deterrence, offers assurance to our allies and strengthens regional security and stability.” Translation? They’ll be periodically flying missions aimed at reminding China that the United States doesn’t recognize its new territorial claims – which for the most part have recently been rejected by an international court.
A handful of such flights into contested air space have been carried out by B52 bombers, but the B1s are newer, faster, more versatile, and stealthy to boot.
The feed-the-beast activity concerned American semiconductor manufacturer Qualcomm announcing – proudly – that a Chinese government-owned joint venture had just begun producing the kinds of silicon wafers needed to make what are currently the most powerful computer chips in existence. Since semiconductors and other advanced electronics components have become integral parts of nearly every key modern weapon or other military device, American national security specialists are becoming increasingly concerned about the proliferation of such deals – as I reported last November. But so far, the Obama administration has turned a blind eye.
As I’ve written repeatedly, I oppose stationing large U.S. forces in East Asia for two main, related reasons. First, all of America’s essential interests in the region (which are economic) can be secured by wielding the immense leverage enjoyed by the United States by dint of representing the paramount end-use market for this export-dependent region’s products. In other words, as long as the Asians – including the Chinese – still desperately need to sell to the United States, there’s no special reason for Washington to care who controls the region politically.
Second, it’s still U.S. policy to use nuclear weapons if necessary to defend its Asian allies against China, North Korea, or any other adversary. And since China’s burgeoning territorial claims clash with those of neighbors that are American allies, this U.S. policy could expose the American homeland to nuclear attack. (America’s commitment to South Korea’s security, of course, creates the same kind of risk.)
Trump’s various statements about these arrangements, and about free-loading American allies, strongly indicate that he agrees. But President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and the foreign policy establishment across-the-board insist that the status quo is essential – and that anyone who dissents is a threat to regional and world peace. So, at least logically, they urgently need to curb U.S. corporate transactions that, like the above, greatly strengthen China’s military potential – as well as rethink U.S. trade and other economic policies that achieve the same result. Let’s hope a Chinese missile guided by one of those advanced Qualcomm-designed chips doesn’t shoot down a B1 before they wake up.