I didn’t want to let this go by without comment. At National Interest Ted Galen Carpenter muses over whether China’s economic slowdown might encourage its leaders to foment a war:
China’s leaders likely feel increasingly uncomfortable. The implicit bargain that has been in place since the onset of market-oriented reforms in the late 1970s has been that if the public does not challenge the Communist Party’s dominant political position, the Party will deliver an ever-rising standard of living for the people. The bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989 was a graphic reminder of what happens if the Party’s position is challenged. However, until now, the economic portion of the bargain seemed secure, characterized by breathtaking, often double digit, rates of growth. It is uncertain what happens if the Party can no longer maintain its part of the implicit bargain, but it is likely that a dangerous degree of public discontent will surface.
Beijing might refrain from deliberately provoking a major foreign policy crisis, since the Chinese economy depends heavily on export markets, and access to those markets would be jeopardized by war. However, the need to preserve and strengthen national unity and distract the public from mounting economic troubles is likely to impel Chinese leaders to adopt very hardline policies in at least three areas. And all of those situations entail the danger of miscalculations that could lead to war.
Just for grim fun let’s list some of the places where a major war might break out. It could be deliberate or, as Mr. Carpenter suggests, it could be accidental.
The South China Sea
China claims about 90% of the South China Sea and China has been increasingly aggressive towards both Viet Nam and the Philippines. Will the United States actually stand up for Viet Nam or the Philippines if the Chinese press their claims? I don’t see it but stranger things could happen.
China has expressed its displeasure over Taiwan’s actions several times in recent years and has been beefing up its littoral ship capabilities, ships that might be used against Taiwan. Still, I don’t think that the U. S. would be as predisposed for rushing to Taiwan’s aid in case of attack as it might once have been.
The East China Sea
China has been chafing for the last century over Japan’s acquisition of the Senkaku Islands (as the Japanese call them). Of the areas in which a war with China might start this is the one I think most likely.
The prospects for a real shootin’ war between India and China are outlined here.
My honest opinion is that there are several prospects for war much, much more likely than any of those. For example
Russia supports the Syrian government and has been asked for help by the Syrian government. The U. S. supports, supplies, and trains the “moderate rebels” which means, incredibly, since today’s moderate rebel is tomorrow’s DAESH extremist, we may actually be supporting DAESH in Syria. We’ve been flying close air support for the rebels. Russia has moved some jet fighters into the theater. We’re escalating. What could possibly go wrong?
Russia may not be done with Ukraine yet. 8,000 people been killed so far. A few million more is about one miscalculation away.
Have I missed any?