Mr. Michael Collins , a top CIA official at the Aspen Security Forum remarked on China’s intentions in Asia and across the globe.
Mr. Collins claimed that Beijing is waging a “cold war” against Washington and seeking “to replace the United States as the leading power in the world.”
Diplomatic relations between US and China was first established in 1844 with the Treaty of Wanghia. This agreement allowed the US to trade in Chinese ports. After the Qing Dynasty was overthrown, in 1911, the US recognised the legitimacy of the Republic of China (ROC) government. However, this government was overthrown by the Communist Party of China, whom the US officially recognised by the 1970s. The two nations currently see each other as significant security threats due to their different approaches to global politics.
The US and China have a robust framework of trade. The US-China trade relationship supports around 2.6 million jobs in the United States. In 2015, China purchased $165 billion in goods and services from the United States. China’s trade surplus with the United States widened in 2017 and this is the reason for President Trump’s critique of China. China’s “very unfair and one-sided” trade relationship has led to the ongoing trade conflict between the two nations.
The Draft of the Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) cited Russian, North Korean, and Chinese nuclear advances as threats to the United States.As of 2017, the Arms Control Association has estimated that the United States and Russia have approximately 7000 warheads each. China is 4th in the world with 270.
The South China Sea is at the heart of a land and water dispute between China, the United States, and many South-east Asian nations. China’s claim to the region is historic going back to the Xia and Han dynasties. The US has maintained that the region is part of the international waters. The South China Sea has a vast natural gas reserve and gives control to a major trade route. Currently, Philippines and other Asian countries are particularly worried about China’s strategic bombers in the region.
Earlier this year, China initiated a Twenty-First Century Maritime Silk Road – ‘One Belt One Corridor’ that focuses primarily on connecting and encouraging cooperation among Eurasian countries. The strategy underlines China's push to take a larger role in global affairs with a China-centred trading network.
CIA official Mr. Michael Collins on China’s growing influence said,“By their own terms and what Xi enunciates, I would argue by definition what they’re waging against us is fundamentally a cold war: a country that exploits all avenues of power — licit and illicit, public and private, economic and military — to undermine the standing of your rival relative to your own standing without resorting to conflict. The Chinese do not want conflict.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray also shared Mr. Collins’ sentiments on China, he said, China “represents the broadest, most challenging, most significant threat we face as a country.”
In the recent National Defense Strategy report , the U.S. cautioned about the return to an era of “great power” conflict with adversaries such as China and Russia. The report said China is currently “leveraging military modernization, influence operations, and predatory economics to coerce neighboring countries to reorder the Indo-Pacific region to their advantage,” but noted that as it continued its economic and military ascendance it will continue to work to push the U.S. out of Asia “to achieve global preeminence in the future.”
Perhaps the most visible aspects of China’s push for preeminence has been in the South China Sea. China has made concerted efforts to cement de facto control of the South China Sea, where it has deployed anti-ship cruise missiles and anti-air missiles. Also, three of their man-made islets boast military-grade airfields. However, the US has condemned China’s move in the South China Sea by conducting freedom of navigation operations in the area.
China’s “One China” principle under which Taiwan is seen as part of its own territory, awaiting reunification is also a significant fast point, as President Xi Jinping orders ramped-up military training and actions around the self-ruled island. In the East China Sea, China’s claims over Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands has also been criticized by the US government.
Mr. Collins said that by looking at Chinese propaganda and what is known as “Xi Jinping Thought”, a world view recently enshrined in China’s constitution, it is clear that the threat China presents is the greatest global challenge the US currently faces.
Our assessment is that the perceived Chinese threats to the US are political, economic and ideological. We feel that the remarks of the top CIA officials are a reminder that despite US’s current preoccupation with Russia, it is China that is viewed as the real strategic competitor. We believe that China’s growing influence in spearheading a new global order can be witnessed through its BRI, South China Sea military projects and its countermeasures in the trade war.