Can the US and China avoid stumbling into armed conflict?

When senior Chinese and American diplomats met in Hawaii last month, for the first time in nearly a year, the stakes were unusually high amid fears their acrimonious tensions are drifting imperceptibly towards war.
The secret meeting between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Yang Jiechi, the top diplomatic aide to Chinese President Xi Jinping, took place at Pearl Harbor. The military base was the scene of a pivotal moment for the US and world history when it was bombed by the Japanese nearly 80 years ago.
The two superpowers are decoupling their economic and technological cooperation amid an unfolding new Cold War. Beijing and Washington have engaged in a global blame-game over the deadly coronavirus. They are at odds on almost every front, from trade tensions to the South China Sea, Taiwan, Xinjiang and Huawei.
Their recent wrangling over Beijing’s imposition of a draconian national security law in Hong Kong has further emboldened hardliners on both sides. It has accelerated the downward spiral and put the world’s top two economies on a headstrong – and dangerous – collision course.
Unsurprisingly, the two-day, seven-hour meeting between Yang and Pompeo appears to have done little to save their countries’ free-falling relationship, or bring about a much-needed hiatus in their rancorous war of words.
The growing distrust and hostility between Beijing and Washington have turned the China-US rivalry into a self-fulfilling prophecy and left much of the world deeply polarised. Uncertainty, confusion, and economic hardship reign as the world battles the sweeping global coronavirus crisis.
With official and academic exchanges severely restricted and traditional shock absorbers, such as trade, travel and educational links, rendered almost useless, China-US relations are unraveling at an unprecedented speed, government officials and pundits have warned.
“The remainder of 2020 could pose as severe a test for the US and China as the final five months of 1941 did for the United States and Japan,” said Graham Allison, a professor of government at Harvard University.
Allison said Japan’s surprise air strike on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, which dragged the US into World War II, had been beyond Washington’s imagination.
“But we should remember that when we say something is inconceivable, this is not a claim about what is possible in the world, but rather about what our minds can conceive,” he said.
Although there appears to be little appetite in either country to fight a catastrophic war, other analysts also said there was still a growing risk of a confrontation, which was unlikely to be premeditated or planned.
“China has seen the coronavirus as an opportunity to exploit US weaknesses, and so China might be tempted to resolve territorial disputes through force. I think there’s a real possibility of miscalculation by Beijing in assuming the US won’t or can’t respond militarily,” said Malcolm Davis, a senior analyst in the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi last week refuted claims that China was a revisionist power seeking to expand its sphere of influence at the US’s expense. “China never intends to challenge or replace the US, or have full confrontation with the US,” he said.
Wang nonetheless made a rare admission that the two countries were confronting their worst challenge since they established official relations in 1979. This was mostly due, he said, to Washington’s strategic misjudgments and McCarthy-style paranoia.
Reassurances from Beijing have become increasingly rare in the past year, after China’s foreign policy took a nationalistic shift in response to Xi’s call for a “fighting spirit” from Chinese diplomats reacting to perceived bullying and hostility from the US and its allies.
From Beijing’s perspective, the most dangerous tests to its bottom lines have included close military encounters associated with the US navy’s freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea and the provocative idea of official US recognition of the Taiwan government. The repeated flirting by Taiwan-friendly US politicians with pro-independence forces …
Topdon obd2 scanner