China-US war unlikely despite rising hostility

By Yang Sheng Source:Global Times Published: 2020/5/10 23:13:40

‘Mutually assured development’ offers bilateral alternative

China VS US

 The failed handling of the COVID-19 outbreak in the US has fueled Washington's hostility toward China and escalated concern that worsening bilateral ties might lead to a China-US war, prompting Chinese experts to assert that Beijing has sufficient nuclear capacity to assure mutually assured destruction (MAD) and create deterrence to  reduce the risks of any direct conflict.   

Intention and capability are two elements for judging whether or not the US wants a war with China, Chinese observers noted on Sunday.

A series of "anti-China" expressions by some senior US politicians that assign blame for the pandemic have provoked discussion about the potential for a nuclear war with China.

Chinese experts say it remains unclear what is the real intention behind the hostile narratives of US policymakers about China.

To strengthen China's nuclear arsenal was an essential way to deter hawkish and warlike US policymakers from making dangerous moves, the experts believed.

But in order to effectively prevent a war between China and the US, they urged Washington to abandon its war of words that poisons bilateral ties and risks a miscalculation of US intent by China.  

US hawks should understand China is capable of bringing destructive consequences to them after China detects a nuclear attack from the US, warned Chinese military experts. No one wants to see that kind of doomsday tragedy, they added.

CNN commentator Fareed Zakaria expressed a similar kind of concern. 

"Mike Pompeo, Donald Trump are trying to pressure the intelligence community to say we have some kind of smoking gun with regard to China. And this is the kind of politicized intelligence that led to the mistakes of the Iraq war," he said on Tuesday at CNN Tonight. 

"Again, Pompeo or Trump is trying to plat washing powder," responded one tweet about the show.

The tweet was referring to the former US secretary of state Collin Powell showing "evidence" of Iraqi weapons of massive destruction (WMD) at the UN in an attempt to legitimize a war against Sadam Hussein's regime.

Some joked the "evidence" could be a small pot of washing powder as the WMD accusation later proved a catastrophic intelligence failure.

The Pentagon is seen from an airplane over Washington D.C., the United States, on July 11, 2018. The United States will fully develop ground-launched conventional missiles after withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said Friday. Photo:Xinhua

Nuclear deterrence 

In response, Hua Chunying, a spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, posted on Twitter on Saturday that "China won't be Iraq."

Some Chinese Net users noted that the most important reason China wouldn't be another Iraq was China has real WMDs.

Hu Xijin, editor in chief of the Global Times, reinforced his call for China to strengthen its nuclear arsenal to deter the US on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo platform on Saturday after his post Friday called on China to build more nuclear warheads and DF-41 inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Hu said in the past, China might have had enough nuclear power to deter the US, but now, as the US is treating China as its major or even top strategic competitor and strengthening the US arsenal, so China's nuclear strength should not stay indifferent.

Hu said he was a "peace lover" but peace has never come from "nice words and begging." 

His two posts on Friday and Saturday received about 300,000 likes on Sina Weibo.  

Lü Xiang, a research fellow on US studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times on Sunday nuclear concerns were entirely reasonable as the US intention to treat China as an enemy was increasing in its statements and in the behavior of senior politicians like Pompeo and White House adviser Pete Navaro, even President Donald Trump.

"The key for us to judge the decision-making from the US is to analyze the real intention behind extreme and hostile words from the White House," he said.

"The performance of the Trump administration forced Chinese elites and the public to think more about the worst scenario."

The two countries were still far from a direct military conflict, said Diao Daming, a US studies expert at the Renmin University of China in Beijing.

On the one hand, China should prepare for all possibilities but on the other, there was no need to overemphasize preparation for war, Diao said. 

That might speed up the arms race with the US, he warned.

"The US is unilaterally executing major power competition, and due to US-launched stigmatization against China on the COVID-19 pandemic, China-US relationship is experiencing a profound change," Diao said.

"Although the cooperation part of the bilateral ties still exists, the competition part is increasing sharply."

Jin Canrong, the associate dean of Renmin University of China's School of International Studies in Beijing, expressed his concern over China-US decoupling. "The decoupling unilaterally pushed by the US side risks increasing strategic conflicts between the two major powers, and Taiwan, the South China Sea and the Korean Peninsula could become potential conflict zones."

China reveals its most advanced nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile, the DF-41, at the National Day parade in Beijing on October 1, 2019. Photo: Fan Lingzhi/GT

Mutually assured destruction or development

Chinese experts on nuclear weapons and arms control said there was no need to doubt China's nuclear strength and strategic deterrence.

They called on the Chinese public to remain calm as the US noticed clearly that China has enough to ensure mutually assured destruction.

Yang Chengjun, a Chinese expert on missile technology and nuclear strategy and chief scientist of quantum defense, told the Global Times that a core principle of China's nuclear policy was not to seek a warheads arms race. 

China's nuclear warheads were fewer than 1,000, Yang said but Beijing was totally capable of building more warheads if necessary.

"Although we have fewer warheads than the US, but once we detect any nuclear attack from the US, our warheads are enough to destroy the US in the counterattack. This is the effective nuclear deterrence," Yang said.

An anonymous military expert at a Beijing-based military academy said "increasing the number of warheads is a measure to increase the effectiveness of nuclear deterrence, as the US has missile defense system."

China needed to make the US believe it could effectively destroy its cities despite the US missile defense system, the anonymous expert said. 

"To improve the technology of defense penetration ability of our ICBMs is also a way."

Xu Guangyu, a senior adviser to the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, told the Global Times on Sunday that there was a common sense understanding among the five permanent member states of the UN Security Council, also the five major nuclear powers, that a nuclear war between any would "bring a doomsday tragedy to humanity."

War normally occurred when one side has an overwhelming advantage, Xu noted. 

"The US doesn't have that against China or Russia. What China needs to do, from the perspectives of military and technology, is to keep the US away from the overwhelming advantage." 

"There is another 'MAD' - mutually assured 'development,' instead of 'destruction.' If the two countries can realize this, the danger of war would be largely controlled," Lü said.

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