Source: Global Times
Sailors wearing Mission-Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) gears conduct chemical decontamination aboard the guided-missile destroyer Chengdu (Hull 120) during a 3-day maritime training exercise from November 4 to 6, 2020. The sailors are assigned to a naval vessel training center under the PLA Northern Theater Command. (eng.chinamil.com.cn/Photo by Zou Xiangmin)
Japanese media reported two news stories on Sunday. First, British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth and its escort fleet will be sent and remain operational in the western Pacific. Second, the US, Japan and France will hold joint military drills on one of Japan’s uninhabited islands in May next year, which will focus on providing relief efforts during a natural disaster, but parts could also involve defense against attack. When covering the two stories, Japanese media outlets mentioned the events were scheduled to counter China.
Building a ring of encirclement against China is a prominent strategic vision of US President Donald Trump’s administration. Some Japanese forces are also enthusiastic about it. The abovementioned news can be considered a sign that the strategy has not been relaxed in the last days of the Trump administration. Joe Biden’s team has stressed on repairing the alliance between the US and Europe, and how the ring of encirclement against China under Biden develops will tell the future world geopolitics trend.
European countries have been brought to the western Pacific by Washington. Such a strategic dynamic will likely repeat. Once the trend becomes institutionalized, it will definitely turn out to be an unfavorable situation for China.
But, at the same time, when outsiders of the region come, they are usually half-hearted. Their role is to help boost the momentum led by the US, making US containment against China look more like a joint action by the Western world. However, foreign countries are obviously unwilling to be deeply involved, or play a major role, in the game between China and the US in the Western Pacific.
Neither Britain nor France has the capacity for strong and long-term operations in the western Pacific. They also don’t have the will or determination to confront China militarily in the region. Coming to the East and making an appearance should be one way for them to advance their own interests and should be more than plain loyalty to the US – that’s the real complexity of their strategy.
The point is that China does not threaten the security of Britain, France and other European countries, and they know it. The reasons why they came here are simple: they were dragged by the US to the region and it is hard for them to do nothing back. They can take the chance to show their presence in the region and use it as a bargaining chip against the US and even Japan.
For China, there are plenty of resources and ways to break through the “encirclement” of the US. First, China is an important economic partner of all these countries. For them, the interest of maintaining economic cooperation with China has become equally important as maintaining their alliance with the US. At least they are very reluctant to allow the two interests to conflict in a zero-sum relationship. For China, expanding economic cooperation with them will be a process that defuses US containment of China.
Some countries have doubts about China’s rise, but structural changes brought about by China’s rise have also given them new space to realize their interests, and they have gradually adapted to China’s rise. For example, China’s neighboring countries not only took ride of the fast train of China’s development, but also received unprecedented attention and even flattery from the US and its major allies.
African countries, which were once forgotten by the US, have also received new attention from the US and the West due to China’s expanded influence in Africa. The US has moved away from European countries, but China’s rise has also potentially promoted Biden’s restoration of US-Europe relations.
Perhaps not many countries are truly happy about China’s rise. After all, China’s rise is not other countries’ own business, and other countries can only benefit from China’s development. But fewer countries really hope to see China be crushed by the US and turn from prosperity to decline, or even torn apart. China has not threatened the survival of any country. China is a partner in the development of other countries, and countries that have territorial disputes with China know the extent of the so-called threat of these disputes. China is neither Japan in the first half of the 20th century, nor the Soviet Union in the second half of the 20th century. No country will be confused on these fundamental issues.
Drawing a so-called anti-China united front is a hard and thankless task for the US. Such a united front lacks a real and long-term target, as China does not have any strategic maliciousness. It is also hard to find the common interests for other countries to join the US in opposing China. It is an empty slogan, and is destined to be a bluff.
The US now is no longer in its heyday. It cannot provide any real benefits for its followers. All it can do is use the so-called alliance of values to coax other countries. But the market economy has gradually become the dominant rule between the US and its allies. There will be fewer countries that will blindly fight for ideology.