China US Dragon V Eagle

A timely article from The Irish Times outlines a decidedly negative turn in geopolitics which is currently taking place. All of this is happening when most of the focus is on tackling the COVID-19 virus and assessing the type of the world that will emerge. 

Criticism over China’s handling of coronavirus has led Beijing to adopt a prickly and pugnacious approach to diplomacy according to the article.

China is starting to sabre-rattle and increase diplomatic engagement with other countries over perceived negative criticism over the COVID-19 virus. A number of editorials and commentaries in state-run Chinese newspapers have begun to shape the domestic debate. The Irish Times has a quote from once such newspaper, Frontline:

“We have to face major political, diplomatic, security and military risks . . . Don’t forget that military means are always the means to guarantee we can maintain our bottom line,” it cited president Xi Jinping as saying.

“Throw away your illusions and prepare for a fight!” was the headline of an editorial in a newspaper run by China’s People’s Liberation Army recently. The headline was from a quote from Mao Zedong and the article followed on with the rest of his quote, saying: “We love peace, but peace survives through struggle, and peace is lost through compromise.” No more compromise, China should brace for battle, the article argued.

The Global Times, the English language newspaper which is linked to the People’s Daily ran a story “China-US relations at a low ebb but decoupling not the answer“, It noted that “The ever-growing nationalist tide in the US seems to have soured on China amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, while the Chinese public’s attitudes toward the US political system have continued to become less favourable. Two surveys released in one month have come to the same conclusion: There is not much “love” left between the US and China “

In a very worrying development, China has also stepped up “military activity in the disputed South China Sea and around Taiwan, prompting the US state department to accuse Beijing of taking advantage of the virus to push its positions and bully its neighbours” , according to The Irish Times article. 

At the same time, US President Trump and Secretary of State Pompeo are claiming that there is a “significant amount of evidence” that the virus originated in a laboratory in Wuhan.  Yet we have been given no indication of what this evidence is. These, as yet unsubstantiated claims, are very reminiscent of the Iraqi WMD claims! 

In its review of Christopher Clarke’s superb study of the First World War I, The Sleepwalkers. The Guardian noted in its review of the book that “no nation really meant to wage war, but each sleepwalked into it.”

Clarke notes that “since the end of the Cold War, a system of global bipolar stability has made way for a more complex and unpredictable array of forces, including declining empires and rising powers – a state of affairs that invites comparison with the Europe of 1914.” 

Clarke concludes his book with “the protagonists of 1914 were sleepwalkers, watchful but unseeing, haunted by dreams, blind to the reality of the horror they were about to bring into the world.”

Let us hope we have learned from the past!