There's never an ideal time to antagonize the world's largest army. But this week — when China is seething over perceived American aggression — is a particularly bad moment to rile up Beijing. Yet that's exactly what the U.S. Republican Party is doing.
Patrick Winn, GlobalPost
10:13 a.m. EDT July 21, 2016Thereâ€™s never an ideal time to antagonize the worldâ€™s largest army. But this week â€” when China is seething over perceived American aggression â€” is a particularly bad moment to rile up Beijing.Yet thatâ€™s exactly what the U.S. Republican Party is doing. At its ongoing convention in Cleveland, led by nominee Donald Trump, the party is doubling down on China bashing.According to the new RepublicanÂ platform, China is guilty of â€œcultural genocide,â€ â€œbarbaric population controlâ€ and a state-backed â€œhostile takeoverâ€ of American businesses.Worse yet, Chinaâ€™s military is growing more intimidating thanks to â€” you guessed it â€” the â€œcomplacency of the Obama regime.â€This bluster comes at an extremely tense moment in US-China relations.Last week, an international tribunal at The Hague sided with the United States and eviscerated one of Chinaâ€™s most contentious claims of sovereignty.For years, Beijing has insisted that practically all of the South China Sea â€” a vital waterway that supports one-third of the worldâ€™s shipping trade â€” is the â€œblue national soilâ€ of China.Unsurprisingly, other nations who look upon the sea from their shores (namely Vietnam and the Philippines) have never agreed.The U.S.Â has urged both Vietnam and the Philippines to stand tall against China. All the while, the U.S. military has deployed its superior fleet of drones and warships into the sea to scare China into submission.Chinaâ€™s response? Transforming minuscule islands into remote military bases armed withÂ powerful missiles.Â Once little specks of rock, these islands have swelled as Chinese barges dump mountains of sand around their edges.Beijing has always paired its military maneuvers in the sea with rhetorical bombast printed in state-run media, which offers a window into the Communist Partyâ€™s thinking.But in the wake of the Hague tribunalâ€™s verdict, the governmentâ€™s mouthpiece media have spoken more forcefully about the prospects for war.One op-ed from aÂ state-run outletÂ asks, â€œIs there any chance of war in the South China Sea?â€ The same piece suggests that, if the United States did battle China over the sea, America may be vanquished: â€œThe 21st century has witnessed a series of failures of U.S. military actions.â€AnotherÂ columnÂ compares the tribunalâ€™s South China Sea ruling to the U.S.-orchestrated campaign to convince the world that Iraq possessed â€œweapons of mass destructionâ€ â€” thus making the case for invasion.According to the op-ed, this is the â€œsame trickâ€ played by the U.S., which â€œbelieves in nothing but â€˜might makes right.â€™â€ (For good measure, the state-run paper adds that former President George W. Bush should be charged as a war criminal.)In the view of Chinese communist stalwarts, the tribunalâ€™s verdict isâ€œradical and shamelessâ€Â and will be disregarded as â€œnothing but a piece of paper.â€Yet they concede this piece of paper â€œmay bring the China-U.S. contest to aÂ new climaxâ€ â€” and offers the U.S. â€œa great opportunity to humiliate and contain China.â€There is a common thread between the screeds coming from Beijing and Cleveland. Both parties, Communist and Republican, hope to project uncompromising power while satiating the nationalistic fervor that surges through their follower base.On the Republican side, this anti-China drumbeat appears to have grown much louder with the ascent of Trump, a candidate whoÂ insistsÂ that â€œwe canâ€™t continue to allow China to rape our country.â€Trumpâ€™s Democrat rival Hillary Clinton hasnâ€™t matched that level of outrageous rhetoric. But in Beijingâ€™s halls of power, she too is regarded as overly hostile. As U.S. secretary of state, sheÂ routinely castigatedÂ China. If elected, she could moreÂ forcefully challengeÂ Beijing in the South China Sea than President Obama ever did.No matter who takes the U.S. presidency, the odds of a naval war with China remain low â€” at least in the near future. The two nations are simply too intertwined to rush headlong into conflict. A Chinese state-run paperÂ rightly points outÂ that â€œonly maniacs would start a war between China and the U.S.â€But nationalistic bluster is intensifying in both countries. And each year, an increasing number of warships, missiles and drones are brought to the sea to jockey for supremacy.The sea is primed for an unintended event â€” a drone shot down, a game of chicken between warships gone too far â€” that would demand extraordinary tact from a future U.S. president seeking to avoid war.As Chinaâ€™s state-run Global TimesÂ puts it:Â â€œAn accidental gunshot might put policymakers in both countries under huge pressure from public opinion, which could unexpectedly escalate the situation and lead toÂ a grave crisis.â€ThisÂ storyÂ was first published onÂ PRI.orgÂ andÂ GlobalPost.Â Its content was created separately to USA TODAY.MORE FROM GLOBALPOST:Â GLOBALPOSTSome Black Lives Matter activists plan not to vote in NovemberGLOBALPOSTWomen are being silenced in Turkey's crackdownRead or Share this story: http://usat.ly/2adL4gA
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