Prof. ST Hsieh
Director, US-China Energy Industry Forum
January 30, 2023
Let us hope that the “new” trajectory of US-China relation in 2023 does not lead to war. The world economy is in a very bad shape already without any sign of confrontation between the US and China. The following news analysis clearly is over optimistic because the US has sent strong and structured messages to China from the top, namely:
- Biden’s “relentless aggressive industrial policy moves against China — notably trying to starve its economy of certain high-tech inputs.”
- Bipartisan congressional actions against China including a special committee with the objective “to win this new Cold War with Communist China.”
- Congress and high ranking general et al. proclaimed that “My gut tells me we will fight (with China) in 2025.” The White House and DoD have yet to issue any specific rebuttal.
- Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy has promised that he will visit Taiwan soon, a major flash point between the US and China.
Then Secretary Blinken will have to elaborate that, in the next 20 months, what Biden expects to achieve in solving the many domestic challenges in the US and maintain global leadership at the same time.
Biden’s first term will come to an end and China can wait till the next US administration.
The U.S.-China relationship may be on a new trajectory this year
The BIG Idea: Washington Post, January 30, 2023
A general’s warning of war. President Biden’s aggressive diplomatic outreach. Dueling industrial policies. A demographic bombshell. Congress’s special new committee. Disputes over Russia’s expanded war in Ukraine. For fraught U.S.-China relations, 2023 looks increasingly pivotal.
But whether you say China is a “revisionist power” out to reshape the U.S.-anchored post-WWII international order, or a “strategic competitor” or hostile rival in a “new Cold War,” recent news — including mounting expressions of bipartisan concern — suggests we’re on a new trajectory in 2023.
A GENERAL’S WARNING OF WAR
One of the obvious flash points in the relationship is the fate of Taiwan, a self-governed island Beijing considers part of its territory, to be taken by force if necessary. Biden has repeatedly said the U.S. military would defend Taiwan if that happens.
So, of course heads turned and eyebrows lifted when Gen. Michael A. Minihan, who as head of Air Mobility Command oversees the Air Force’s fleet of transport and refueling aircraft, warned in a memo that China and America could be at war in two years.
My colleague Dan Lamothe quoted from the document on Friday: “‘I hope I am wrong,’ Minihan wrote. ‘My gut tells me we will fight in 2025. Xi 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.’”
Dan quoted an anonymous Defense Department official as saying the warning was “not representative” of the Pentagon’s view. But as Dan notes, other senior U.S. military officials have floated 2027, or even 2023 as possible windows for armed conflict.
CONGRESS’S SPECIAL COMMITTEE COMES TOGETHER
The House of Representatives voted by a robust bipartisan margin to create a special new committee whose full-time job will be U.S.-China relations. Its chairman, Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), says the panel’s objective is “to win this new Cold War with Communist China.”
There’s a lot of room for bipartisan action on that front. We got a recent example when Congress banned TikTok from federal government devices. And Gallagher has publicly put a premium on getting legislation backed by both parties and supported by the White House.
“There were brutal, meaningful differences and disagreements between the parties and within the parties in the first decade of the old Cold War. But by and large, we were able to build out a foundation for containment that served us well over the course of the next four decades,” he recently told Politico.
BIDEN’S STEPPED-UP DIPLOMATIC OUTREACH
The Daily 202 wrote 10 days ago about how Biden has paired pretty aggressive industrial policy moves against China — notably trying to starve its economy of certain high-tech inputs — with a blizzard of high-level contacts with Beijing.
- Secretary of State Antony Blinken is thought to be heading to China in early February.
- Biden himself will have the opportunity to see Chinese leader Xi Jinping at least twice this year. They’re both expected to attend the G-20 summit in New Delhi in September. And Biden will play host at the APEC summit in San Francisco in November. There could also be separate bilateral meetings.
China appears to be taking a softer line, too, notably sidelining one of its most prominent practitioners of confrontational “wolf-warrior diplomacy.”
Whether this is a thaw or more about ensuring aggressive competition doesn’t spill over into unintended conflict — a bit like setting up the Cold War’s “hotline” between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. — remains to be seen.
China urges McCarthy not to visit Taiwan
Mon, January 30, 2023 at 12:09 PM PST
China is warning House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) against visiting Taiwan after reports that the GOP leader is planning a trip later this year to the island, which is a flashpoint in the rising tensions between Beijing and Washington.
“We urge certain individuals in the U.S. to earnestly abide by the one-China principle,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said in a statement Monday, indirectly referring to McCarthy’s plans, adding China is “opposed to any official interactions with Taiwan.”