While President Trump and President Xi Jinping have worked well together since January 2017, this does not mean that China is not a threat to US interests in Asia.
In the South China Sea, the Chinese Navy has the capability to make islands thanks to an “island maker” vessel currently deployed in the region.
This device has already been put to use in Southeast Asia, where China has built up artificial islands complete with runaways and docks for its ships.
This policy of creating islands in the South China Sea is part of Beijing’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative that seeks to make China the dominant economic power in the world by the next decade.
President Xi and the Chinese Communist Party sincerely believe that the Western world is in decline, and that China will soon overtake the United States as the preeminent world power.
There are some problems with this idea, however.
First and foremost, the One Belt, One Road initiative is already putting other powers in Asia on high alert. For starters, Chinese designs in Central Asia strike at the heart of Russia, which considers itself a leader in that part of the world.
Similarly, Chinese naval buildup in Southeast Asia is a direct threat to Vietnam, a long-time opponent of Chinese hegemony in the region, and the Philippines, which has recently struck up a close relationship with Beijing.
Finally, China’s imperial designs could crash if North Korea, a client state, decides to start a nuclear war. In order for China to become a respected world power, it must deal with the nuisance in Pyongyang.
There are other problems facing Chinese power as well. China is currently experiencing the largest “brain drain” in human history. The government in Beijing is now trying to reverse that problem by luring young and well-educated Chinese citizens back home.
Also, China’s grand plans in the South China Sea have to deal with the issue of several “chokepoints,” or natural barriers to Chinese naval maneuvers that could be militarily exploited by Singapore, Taiwan, or a coalition of other Asian powers.
On the home front, it still remains true that the average Chinese person is poorer than the average Mexican. Both are poorer than the average working class American.
Despite these handicaps, the US should take Chinese hegemony in Asia very seriously. Not only is China guilty of manipulating currency, but the country is the biggest criminal when it comes to violating international copyright law. President Trump is aware of all of these facts, and is moving to deal with Chinese aggression.
Does China’s island building program worry you?
However, a delicate balancing act must be maintained. Although China is making militarized islands in the Pacific, it could be a valuable ally in the fight against terrorism in the Middle East. The fact that so many Chinese Uyghurs are fighting in Syria on behalf of ISIS and Al-Qaeda is a major concern to Beijing. A US-Russian-Chinese alliance against Islamic terrorism would be an unstoppable force.
America can conduct diplomacy with China, but must recognize that the CCP are not our friends.