The Biden administration is trying to build alliances in Asia to deter Beijing from attacking Taiwan, but their measures are too weak. At this late stage, America can only lead through bold action.
On Nov. 7, reports emerged of China mocking up multiple targets on its missile range in the Xinjiang region to appear as U.S. Navy ships, including two mock Ford-class U.S. aircraft carriers, at least two mock Arleigh Burke-class U.S. destroyers, and a 246-foot moveable “ship” mounted on two 20-mile long rails, set 20 feet apart, to serve as a moving “blue” naval target.
For U.S. and Chinese war planners alike, the “blue” forces are the United States, and the “red” forces are typically Russian, Chinese, or terrorist forces. The ship on rails is 67 feet longer than a Cyclone-class U.S. patrol ship.
The Chinese military’s aggressive training in the Xinjiang desert is just the latest in Beijing’s war preparations and territorial aggression, including the taking of territory in the South China Sea, India, and Bhutan, and the military pulsing of Taiwanese and Japanese islands.
Despite Xi Jinping’s reported war threats (and no denials) against Taiwan, Australia, the United States, and the Philippines, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader had the audacity on Nov. 11 to complain in a quasi-veiled manner about the United States and allies drawing “ideological lines” and forming “small circles on geopolitical grounds.”
Xi said these efforts were bound to fail—and he could be right if Washington fails to get tougher, and fast.
“The Asia-Pacific region cannot and should not relapse into the confrontation and division of the cold war era,” Xi said, without a bit of irony at his own hypocrisy.
He made the statement to a virtual summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, the leaders of which largely held their tongues due to trillions of dollars in investment and trade with China.
But Xi’s complaints show the direction that U.S. policy is starting to, and should be, taking: stronger and more rigorous alliances in Asia that explicitly require the taking of sides against Beijing—which the Biden administration rejected as recently as August.
On Nov. 11, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan signaled that the United States is now working on a “framework” for U.S. economic engagement in the region, as part of the “competition” with China.
“Whether it’s in the realm of supply chains, or the intersection of climate and trade, or digital, or investment screening and export controls. Across a number of areas that have not traditionally been part of trade agreements, we believe that there is the possibility of putting together a comprehensive vision and getting a whole bunch of countries aligned around that,” said Sullivan, as reported in the Financial Times.
This is clearly too vague for any superpower alliance worth its salt.
But when Sullivan replied to a question about why the United States joined the AUKUS alliance with Australia and the United Kingdom, he revealed an incipient hardening of the U.S. position toward a much-needed quid pro quo for real allies that demonstrate their commitment in recent and tangible ways, not just an indiscriminate U.S. security guarantee doled out to any country with paper treaties from the 1950s.
Sullivan said: “The president wanted to say not just to Australia, but to the world, that if you are a strong friend and ally and partner, and you bet with us, we will bet with you . … It’s about a statement of putting your money where your mouth is when it comes to the rhetoric around alliances.”
There are evidently circles of trust, with AUKUS countries at the center, Five Eyes, which includes Canada and New Zealand, and of course NATO countries, which adds most of continental Europe and Turkey. Japan and South Korea can be added as America’s most important allies in Asia, and India is in the process of joining as a member of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (the Quad).
The Philippines, a treaty ally of the United States since 1951, is unfortunately heading away from the circle of trust because of its rejection of permanent U.S. military bases in the early 1990s; and since 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte’s crude and public rejection of Washington and human rights in favor of Beijing and vigilante tactics against criminals.
As each “ally” demonstrates different levels of commitment to the United States and the freedoms for which it stands, through differing diplomatic, economic, and military policies on China and human rights, each ally should be treated accordingly to incentivize all to close ranks and unify in their resolve to stop the CCP’s aggression.
If one-size-fits-all, then U.S. allies have no incentive to stop playing, and benefiting from, both sides.
Countries that explicitly identify the genocide in China, reject Huawei, and welcome U.S. military bases to deter Beijing should be rewarded with a better “bet” by the Biden administration, in Sullivan’s words. Those countries that fail to show such support will likely lose preferential American policies, such as those enjoyed by Australia when it was promised highly-classified nuclear submarine propulsion technology by the United States and its closest ally, Britain. Nobody in the administration will say it out loud, but all analysts in foreign policy know that Duterte better not hold his breath in hopes of similar privileges.
Despite Sullivan’s oblique wording, this transactional approach is unfortunately the correct one, and the only one that can counter Beijing, given the CCP’s similar approach to international politics. Realpolitik is unfortunately replacing the liberal internationalism of the 1948 U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, because Beijing is forcing the world in that direction.
Gone is the naive idealism of former President Barack Obama, who, in 2016, asked Duterte to side with the United States and follow human rights just because it was the right thing to do.
At the time, China was promising tens of billions in infrastructure investment, and according to my sources, Duterte’s inner circle was receiving lucrative consulting contracts from Beijing. So Duterte had personal reasons to side with the CCP and publicly call a sitting U.S. president a “son of a whore.” At that, Beijing must have been popping champagne.
We could have done more to reverse that shocking deterioration in America’s Asian alliances. Without stronger economic repercussions, Duterte was apparently only financially compensated by following Beijing. That was a failure in American strategy that lost the Philippines, perhaps permanently, as a true American ally.
Since Beijing and many heads of state globally have stooped to that level, the United States is being forced to engage in its own forms of economic and technological “competition” with some of the same monetary and transfer tools that Beijing uses. This is unfortunate, but it is the reality of navigating the peaks of human greed to be found among the world’s statesmen and their closest associates.
Still, the Biden administration’s approach to alliance-building is too little and too late, to deter Beijing from continuing its short-term preparations for an attack on Taiwan and long-term plans for global hegemony.
As Representative Mike Waltz (R-Fla.) said on Nov. 9, Xi and the CCP “see weakness, they smell weakness in this White House, and they will continue to push, and that is incredibly dangerous for the United States, but also for the world.”
Waltz, a former Green Beret who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, hit the nail on the head when he said: “The Chinese Communist Party is preparing to be the dominant world superpower in the next decade, and [the] irony of it all, the sad thing of it all, is that they’re doing it with our money with U.S. taxpayer dollars. We’re flowing billions right into Beijing’s stock market, their economy, and fueling their military buildup that our future soldiers and sailors and airmen may have to fight against.”
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.