By Tom Clifford
September 17, 2021 -- "Information
Clearing House -
" - Chinese hardliners just had their
stance justified by the erratic, verging on
unhinged, behavior in the United States and
by its military.
First the storming of the capitol on Jan
6. Seen from Beijing it looked like a failed
coup, a botched but serious attempt to upend
US politics. Now, a book by journalists Bob
Woodward and Robert Costa claims US General
Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, called General Li Zuocheng
of the Peopleís Liberation Army not once but
twice. First on October 30, 2020, just four
days before the election. The second call
took place on January 8, two days after
Trump supporters stormed the Capitol. Milley
sought to assure Li that the United States
was stable and not going to attack. However,
he said, if there were to be an attack, he
would alert his counterpart ahead of time.
Schizophrenic? This places Li in an
impossible position. How does he tell his
boss, Xi Jinping? He would have to inform
the Chinese president that a US general had
just said that they wonít attack with
nuclear weapons but if they do they will be
notified. Can you trust him to let you know?
Is it a veiled threat? At the very least you
would have to put your forces on alert.
Imagine this in reverse. If a Chinese
general had called his US counterpart. The
US would say that China is out of control.
The response on the Capitol would be
apoplectic. Talk shows would be asking
viewers if the US should have launched a
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Thus ushers in the age of Aukus. This is
not a version of Covid. Australia the UK and
US have announced a security pact to share
advanced defense technologies.
The partnership will enable Australia to
build nuclear-powered submarines for the
The pact will also cover artificial
intelligence, quantum technologies and cyber
space. At least thatís the official version.
In reality it is targeting Beijing where it
is viewed as a fig leaf to cover the US
withdrawing from the Asia-Pacific region. A
new military alliance. Just for argumentís
sake letís suppose the PLA Navy was in a
stand-off with a UK or Australian naval
vessel. Would the US protect its allies or
US President Joe Biden has even been
snubbed by Xi. There was a time, until quite
recently, when a summit with a US president
was seen as a huge propaganda victory for
China. Not any longer. Biden suggested the
possibility of a meeting with Xi during a
phone call on September 10, but the Chinese
president rejected it. Xi hasnít left China
for more than 600 days, ostensibly because
of Covid. But the reasons he didnít want to
meet Biden are political rather than
health-related; quite simply, nothing to be
gained domestically from it.
The Nixon-Mao meetings of the early 1970s
introduced a period of mutual-interest
politics anchored by greater
engagement. For China it was a path to
modernization and growth. For the US the
meetings offered the prospect of a huge
market and the end of a threat of a Cold-War
This relationship was not derailed by the
bloodshed on and near Tiananmen Square in
1989 or Chinaís entry into the World Trade
Organization in 2001 nor its trade surpluses
with the US. It survived the US bombing of
the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in 1999 and
occasional White House decision to sell arms
to Taiwan or meet with the Dalai Lama. Nor
did clashes over censorship and human
rights, tapering off in later years, cause
too much upheaval. Nixon was the first of 10
US presidents who have managed China
relations. Xi is the third Chinese leader
since the reforming Deng Xiaoping.
China under Xi is less accommodating,
less willing to engage, and less sure of the
value of US relations. Its economic success
has fuelled a nationalism that the West has
never had to deal with before. After all,
despite the apparent success of closer ties,
a US general has nonetheless suggested that
his country could attack China. This will
have profound implications.
Trade ties have actually decoupled from
political tensions. Official Chinese data
show that bilateral trade between the two
countries has seen a surge in 2021.
Ironically, this bodes ill for future ties.
It used to be claimed that closer commercial
ties would lead to greater political
engagement. This is clearly not the case.
China has immense problems, including a
slowing economy, pollution and corruption.
But despite this, Xi feels Chinaís time has
come. He may even tell Li to put all calls
from Washington on hold.