If the United States has been hoping to intimidate China with all of Joe Biden’s “tough guy” rhetoric this year, it doesn’t appear to be working. If anything, the Chinese Communist Party is growing more aggressive as the months go by. This week, China’s Defense Minister blasted the United States for trying to “hijack” the support and allegiance of various Pacific Island nations and trying to create an alliance aimed at backing China into a corner. He specifically called out both the American Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State in his remarks, warning America to not “meddle” in China’s affairs. He didn’t go so far as to threaten direct military action against U.S. military forces, but he was still rattling China’s sabers even more loudly than we’ve become accustomed to. (Associated Press)
China’s defense minister accused the United States on Sunday of trying to “hijack” the support of countries in the Asia-Pacific region to turn them against Beijing, saying Washington is seeking to advance its own interests “under the guise of multilateralism.”
Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe lashed out at U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, rejecting his “smearing accusation” the day before at the Shangri-La Dialogue that China was causing instability with its claim to the self-governing island of Taiwan and its “destabilizing military activity” in the area.
Austin had stressed the need for multilateral partnerships with nations in the Indo-Pacific, which Wei suggested was an attempt to back China into a corner.
With no apparent sense of irony, the Chinese Defense Minister went on to say that “No country should impose its will on others or bully others under the guise of multilateralism.” That’s rather hilarious coming from China, since imposing its will on others is pretty much the defining foreign policy agenda of the CCP in the 21st century. They used to do it by controlling the global supply chain and holding the debt of other nations (including the United States) over their heads. But now they are increasingly leaning into bolstering their military and threatening their adversaries.
Fenghe also hinted at further military expansion. China had previously denied that it had been testing hypersonic missiles, claiming that they were simply “experimental spacecraft.” But the Defense Minister reversed that position, saying, “As for hypersonic weapons, many countries are developing weapons and I think there’s no surprise that China is doing so.”
I would have some sympathy for China’s claims that the Biden administration is trying to expand its influence in the Pacific and box China in were it not for the fact that he’s been so extraordinarily bad at it. It’s actually China that’s trying to control the entire western and southern Pacific and we’ve done very little to stop them. They recently launched a bid to nail down a “security agreement” with ten small Pacific nations. They’ve already locked down an agreement with the Solomon Islands, threatening to uproot America’s naval foothold there. They’re getting closer to costing us our longstanding relationship with the Marshall Islands as well. (And Biden’s people still haven’t addressed that nation’s complaints.) China is close to tempting New Caledonia away from France. And China has fully militarized its artificial islands in the South China Sea.
What do we do about Chinese aggression and expansion short of lighting off yet another war? On CNN this morning, Fareed Zakaria was suggesting that “the best way to contain China is to beat Russia.” In theory, that’s not a crazy idea. Weakening China’s allies in the New Axis of Evil would certainly be one way to potentially dampen Xi Jinping’s appetites. But “beating Russia” is a complicated idea that’s easier said than done. Short of intentionally lighting off the next world war, the only way to beat Russia militarily is to use Ukraine as a proxy. They’ve been fighting gamely, but it’s looking less and less likely that they will be able to push the Russians out of their country entirely. Beating Russia economically sounded like a good idea at first, but the current progress of economic warfare against Russia is turning out to be a pyrrhic victory at best, with everyone’s economies taking a beating along with the Russians.
This entire foreign policy mess is a challenging puzzle. I’m sorry to say it, but at least thus far, Joe Biden does not appear to be up to the job. And the world is becoming a more dangerous place by the day.
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