The Coming War on China

Journalist John Pilger on how the world's greatest military power, the US, may well be on the road to war with China.

By John Pilger

A major United States military build-up is under way in Asia and the Pacific with the purpose of confronting China, according to award-winning journalist John Pilger. Nuclear war is no longer unthinkable.

In his film, The Coming War on China, Pilger warns that the world's greatest military power, the US, and the world's second economic power, China, may well be on the road.

The Coming War on China from John Pilger on Vimeo.

The rise of China is viewed in Washington as a threat to American dominance. To counter this, President Barack Obama announced a "pivot to Asia", meaning that almost two-thirds of all US naval forces would be transferred to Asia and the Pacific, their weapons aimed at China.

"If you stood on the tallest building in Beijing and looked out on the Pacific Ocean, you'd see American warships, you'd see Guam is about to sink because there are so many missiles pointed at China. You'd look up at Korea and see American armaments pointing at China, you'd see Japan which is basically a glove over the American fist," says James Bradley, author of The China Mirage.

The policy has been taken up by Obama's successor, Donald Trump, who, during his election campaign, said: "We can't continue to allow China to rape our country and that's what they're doing."

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Filmed on five possible front lines across Asia and the Pacific over the course of two years, the story is told in chapters that connect a secret and forgotten past to the rapacious actions of great power today, and to a resistance of which little is known in the West.

John Pilger Q&A: 'US missiles are pointed at China'

Al Jazeera spoke to the award-winning journalist about what inspired him to make the film. And what has changed since Donald Trump took office.

Al Jazeera: What inspired you to make The Coming War on China? 

John Pilger: I have reported from Asia for many years. In 2009, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that the South China Sea was a "security interest" of the United States.

China and the Philippines were then negotiating a dispute over the Spratly Islands - which was near to resolution. Clinton urged Manila to take the issue to an international tribunal.

In 2011, President Obama announced the "pivot to Asia" - which meant that two-thirds of US naval and air forces would concentrate in the Asia-Pacific, the biggest build-up of military forces since World War II. This was aimed, clearly, at China.

Why did you call it the Coming war "on" China, not "with" China? 

Pilger: China is surrounded by 400 US military bases; US naval forces are on the doorstep of China. US missiles are pointed at China from Okinawa and southern Korea.

There are no Chinese naval ships and no Chinese bases off California; there is no demonstrable Chinese military threat to the US, though China has made significant defensive preparations since Obama's "pivot".

What has changed since Trump, who vowed to "make America great again", came to power? 

Pilger: Trump has continued Obama's "pivot to Asia" policy. During the election campaign, Trump made threats to impose tariffs on Chinese imports but has not followed through. The one significant change is the standoff over North Korea - which is very dangerous. The Trump administration has dismissed the proposal, agreed between China and North Korea and backed by Russia, that North Korea is prepared to negotiate if the US and South Korea withdraw their fleets from North Korean waters.

With Pyongyang launching missiles, should the world be concerned about North Korea?

Pilger: Yes, of course, the world should be concerned about North Korea. But as international polls show, the world is more concerned about the US. Understanding why Pyongyang behaves the way it does is important. It wants a peace treaty that would finally end the Korean War of more than 60 years ago and de-militarise the peninsula. That would lift the threat of a US attack - as North Korea sees it. It would almost certainly ease its state of siege. In the 1990s, Pyongyang and Washington agreed what was known as a Framework Accord that opened previously shut doors and windows. George W. Bush abandoned this.

Are economic factors creating more tension or could they prevent these two powers from going to war?

Pilger: The rise of China's economy in a generation is phenomenal and barely understood in the West. The US elite - that is, those who have assumed power with the post 9/11 ascendancy of the Pentagon and the national security monoliths - regard American "dominance" of world affairs, especially Asia, as threatened by China's economic rise.

Do you think war between the US and China is inevitable?

Pilger: Nothing is inevitable; but provocation can lead to miscalculation, mistake or accident, especially when "first strike" safeguards have been removed from the deployment of nuclear weapons. My film is a warning.

This article was originally published by Al Jazeera -


China Hints That It May Back North Korea in the Event of a War; “The timing of this high-profile announcement by the [People’s Liberation Army] is also a warning to Washington and Seoul not to provoke Pyongyang any further,”

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