China Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe accused the United States of attempting to turn countries in the Asia-Pacific region against Bejing by pursuing its own hegemonic interests.
Fenghe was specifically referring to the recent remarks by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin earlier in the week. Austin had claimed that China was destabilizing the region with its military exercises and aggressive posture toward Taiwan.
China believes that the United States is engaging in a pattern of creating tension and conflict to frustrate the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) goals of being the regional hegemon in the South China Sea. There is no question that Fenghe is correct. The US has a deep strategic interest in frustrating the CCP’s goals.
China seeks to control the international sea lanes through treaties, area-denial weapons, and intimidation. The Western powers gambled on building up China’s economy in the hopes that it would blunt the CCP’s authoritarian and imperialistic impulses. This has proved to be one of the biggest foreign policy failures for the U.S. in the last 50 years, if not of all time.
China has the largest Navy in the world, and its economy is about to become the largest in the world. The U.S. foreign policy establishment is playing catch-up in responding to the CCP as a threat rather than a favored trading partner.
Efforts by the United States to engage the various nations in the region is an effort to slow down China’s influence in the area in order to buy time. If the U.S. can stall China from moving on Taiwan it can attempt to craft a more robust deterrent policy.
Both countries are engaging in diplomatic gamesmanship, accusing the other of engaging in the same behavior they themselves are deploying. Namely, trying to get a solid foothold in the South China Sea to prevent the other from gaining an insurmountable advantage.
The United States is coming from a place of being a historical superpower, being able to act at will without regard for consequences. China is attempting to relegate the U.S. to regional power and assert itself as the sole superpower in the world. It is a race with an unknown winner, but China appears to be gaining or being in the lead.