The long awaited battle between China and the United States has begun, but it isn’t over the islands that China calls Diaoyu and Japan calls Senkaku, and which Washington now says are covered under the US-Japan security treaty.
The real battle, as it turns out, is over auto parts, with the US filing on Monday a complaint against China at the WTO
alleging Beijing subsidizes the exports worth $7.2 billion to the US market. The US is hitting back at the duties Beijing imposed ($3.3 billion) on its exports of autos and SUVs to the Chinese market.
Meanwhile, on Daiaoyu/Senkaku as such, there is a perceptible pullback. The tensions seemed to have served a valuable purpose for both Tokyo and Beijing, as the xenophobia helped whip up nationalist frenzy, which in turn diverted attention from political problems at home in both countries. No one in his right senses would have taken the beating of war drums seriously as more than rhythmic band music.
The real winner of the Daiaoyu/Senkaku tensions of the past few weeks is of course Washington. It utilized the developing tide of nationalism in Japan to get away with the deployment of the anti-ballistic missile defence system [BMD] on Japanese soil. It’s a first-class scoop. With this, the US’ BMD arc around Russia is further tightening.
The BMD deployment in Japan is supposedly against North Korea’s missiles, while Russian commentators insist it is against China
, but in reality, it is part of the US’ global strategy to establish nuclear superiority, which entails deflating Russia’s assertions of keeping a global strategic balance with the US despite its loss of superpower status.
China’s missile capability and its nuclear weapons are at a rudimentary stage of development and it will take a few decades before Beijing could challenge the US. Meanwhile, for the foreseeable future, it is Russia which is the only power on earth that can destroy the US. Plainly put, Washington would like to reduce Russia into one of the regional powers in Eurasia. The BMD deployment in Japan is in continuation of the ring that the US has put around the European part of Russia already, and along Turkey and Qatar in the Persian Gulf.
The BMD issue is unlikely to become a shared concern for Russia and China. Just as Russia is smart enough to remain “non-aligned” with regard to China’s travails in the Asia-Pacific, Beijing also may leave Russia to come to terms with the US’ BMD broth on its own. In fact, the Global Times even suggested
that the US-Russia differences over BMD issue are not to be taken seriously.
Obviously, China is concerned about the BMD deployments in Japan and its concerns are indeed similar to Russia’s
, but it would like to develop its own options its own way (with Chinese characteristics), without getting mixed up with Russia’s concerns. These are rare moments when the complexities of Russia-China “comprehensive cooperative strategic partnership of coordination” sail into view.
At the end of the day, China enjoys a far more agreeable “reputation” than Russia in the US. The latest Pew Research Centre project report should be an eyeopener. Most Americans regard China as a competitor than as an enemy. There is trust deficit, no doubt. But, interestingly, American expert opinion (and the viewpoints within the US establishment) are distinctly helpful for China.
Only about 30% of opinion within the strategic community would regard China’s emergence as a world power as posing a threat to the US. The hiatus between public perceptions of China and the informed opinion is startling — almost a mirror image of the Indian predicament. The Pew report is here