Will Uncle Sam fight Chinese lion? The China Post

The United States has no intention of fighting China. The two countries are more interdependent than before.

By Joe Hung

The China Post/Asia News Network

Napoleon Bonaparte considered China a sleeping lion. He said, "Let China sleep; when she wakes up, she will shake the world."

For two centuries after the French emperor opined, the Chinese lion has remained in sleep. China is waking up now. Is Uncle Sam, the world policeman, going to fight the lion that is rising?

What President Barack Obama is doing seems to prove that the United States appears prepared to fight a peacefully rising China. He began to contain the People's Republic of China with his "shift to Asia."

Under his "Pivot to Asia" strategy, Washington is rallying Japan, South Korea and member states of the Association of South-east Asian nations behind the United States to box up China just as President Harry S. Truman and his successors did during the Cold War to contain the Union of Soviet Socialist Russia.

When Beijing declared an East China Sea Air Defence Identification Zone over the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands - claimed by the People's Republic of China and Taiwan as Diaoyu and Diaoyutai, respectively - and South Korean-claimed Socotra Rock in 2013, the United States began flexing its military muscle to show it was prepared to enforce the containment of China by force if it needs be.

With the disintegration of the USSR, the People's Republic, which fought against the United States in the Korean War, has become the "evil empire" for American containment.

Tensions are mounting in the South China Sea after the People's Republic started building offshore oil rigs near the Paracel Islands Vietnam claims and reclaiming a few uninhabited Spratly islands, which China as well as Vietnam and the Philippines claim and where Taiwan stations a Coast Guard garrison.

Regarding these Chinese moves as the awakening old lion trying to expand its territory, Obama had the US Navy send patrols to the disputed Spratly archipelago to safeguard the right of free navigation in the summer.

When the USS Lassen of the Seventh Fleet was on a mission last month, it was shadowed by a similar-class Chinese destroyer.

The American guided missile destroyer's mission was to advise that the 12 miles of water extending from those islands are - and will remain - international territory.

As it approached and entered what China claims as its exclusive maritime exclusion zone around Subi Reef, it was warned against entering Chinese territory. It wasn't confrontation, though.

But China has begun patrols with Hainan island-based nuclear missile submarines for the first time, giving Beijing a new strategic nuclear strike capability, according to the US Strategic Command and Defence Intelligence Agency.

American intelligence and strategic nuclear officials said last week they remain uncertain whether China's four Jin-class missile submarine patrols are being carried out with nuclear-tipped JL-2 missiles on board. If so, the missiles can hit the United States.

Is the People's Liberation Army getting ready to take on the US Navy to safeguard China's sovereignty over the disputed islands that have been expanded and developed with runways and other facilities?

Maybe. But there won't be war between the two giants. Despite their disagreement over China's increasing "aggression" in the East and South China Seas, where an estimated 30 per cent of global trade transits, their national interests are so deeply entwined that they cannot afford to fight a war to the detriment of both.

Moreover, the United States is too deeply involved in an American-led crusade against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to antagonise the People's Republic.

Uncle Sam cannot fight a war on two fronts.

Even during the days leading up to the dispatch of the Lassen, the crews of Chinese and American warships operating as they do every day in the vast sea area maintained cordially professional relations.

After the Lassen's intrusion, China's Aden escort flotilla crossed the Atlantic Sea to participate in a join sea maneuver with the US Navy off Florida on Nov 7.

Eleven days later, the USS Stethem, a sister destroyer of the Lassen's, made a five-day port call at Naval Port Wusong of Shanghai. Admiral Scott Swift, commander of the US Pacific Fleet, arrived at Shanghai on the same day to call on Vice Admiral Su Zhiqian, commander of the PLA Navy's East China Sea Fleet, and took part in the Stethem's friendly port call events.

Economically, the two countries are ever more interdependent. Sino-American trade totaled US$441.6 billion in the first three quarters of 2015, making China surpass Canada as the top trading partner of the United States.

On the other hand, what is known as the Schell Adjustment School is on the rise to change the American view of Communist China. Orville Schell III, Arthur Ross director of the Center of US-China Relations at the Asia Society who gave his name to the school he formed in 2004, has suggested that Washington accept the South China Sea as China's sphere of influence like the Caribbean Sea is America's.

Thomas J. Christensen, William P. Boswell professor of world politics of peace and war and director of the China and the World Program at Princeton University, published a new book calling for stopping the containment of China. He served as deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs from 2006 to 2008.

Uncle Sam has no intention of fighting China, which on its part does not wish to go to war with the United States again. China and many other nations of Asia hope the United States will resort to non-military means - such as economic and trade exchanges, diplomacy, and cultural interchange - so that its next president can shift back to the Middle East again to contain the newly formed caliphate by peaceful means rather than force of arms.