President Joe Biden called the Chinese spy balloon that traversed across the United States and over sensitive military bases “silly” and vowed that we’d soon be witnessing a US-China “thaw.”
He said that two weeks ago, and since then China has turned up the heat, most notably via aggressive interference with a US jet and a Navy destroyer.
This is surely not what Biden meant by a “thaw.”
At the Shangri-La Dialogue, a June 4 security summit in Singapore, China’s defense minister, Li Shangfu, delivered his first speech in the top military role.
“As the lyrics of a well-known Chinese song goes, when friends visit us, we welcome them with fine wine,” he said. “When jackals or wolves come, we will face them with shotguns.”
His remarks were more befitting an aggressive nation seeking to antagonize rather than one determined to repair relations and foster understanding.
In 2018, the United States sanctioned Li and China’s Equipment Development Department, which Li was overseeing, for illicitly purchasing Russian weapons.
Li also accused the United States of provocations and having a “Cold War mentality,” borrowing rhetoric from Russian officials who use it as pretext for military belligerence and for its outright war against Ukraine.
Yet the Chinese “heat” isn’t merely rhetorical.
The day before Li’s speech, a Chinese warship cut sharply across the path of an American destroyer, the USS Chung-Hoon.
The US ship was lawfully and responsibly conducting a routine freedom-of-navigation transit with the Canadian frigate HMCS Montreal.
The Chinese behavior forced our ship to slow to avoid collision, though the USS Chung-Hoon was not deterred from continuing its transit.
Mere days before, a Chinese J-16 fighter jet made an aggressive maneuver toward a US reconnaissance aircraft lawfully flying in international airspace over the South China Sea.
Such moves are both provocative and dangerous.
But they fit a pattern.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley warned in July that the Chinese military was becoming significantly more provocative.
The Chinese have directed a laser at an Australian P-8 maritime patrol aircraft.
They intercepted a lawfully flying Canadian reconnaissance craft and other lawfully sailing ships belonging to Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam.
And China regularly aggravates US aircraft and vessels during transits, particularly around China’s man-made islands in the South China Sea.
With the Chinese engaged in a monumental military buildup, their confidence and willingness to push around other nations, including the United States, seems to be growing.
Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) this week warned that intelligence officials have informed him China’s military budget is probably near $700 billion, which is far more than it claims and much closer to what the United States invests in its own defense budget, though the United States uses its military to defend free and open global commons for peaceful trade for the world.
That is quite obviously not China’s national aim under Xi Jinping, as Beijing harasses lawful travel and looks to coerce, intimidate and push nations out of entire regions it wrongly claims for itself.
Until the United States, in collaboration with its allies, demonstrates there are negative consequences for such dangerous Chinese behavior, there is little hope China will stop.
Rather than naively seeking a thaw, we should go in a different direction.
US officials should publicly expose the payload of the Chinese balloon, reveal to the world the size and scope of the CCP global fleet and loudly and regularly call out the Chinese for acting much more like Vladimir Putin’s Russia than a responsible global power.
At the same time, the United States should prioritize its military investments, rather than cut them, so that Xi does not calculate that going beyond harassing US ships will ever be worth the cost.
Source : NewYorkPost