By - Adedoyin Shittu
The U.S. – China dispute again took the spotlight at the just concluded Asia’s premier defence summit in Singapore on the 1st and 2nd of June 2019. There were verbal confrontations between guest speakers of the two countries.
Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on Sunday, the 2nd of June, 2019, Asia’s premier defence summit; China’s Defence Minister, Wei Fenghe, said that a war with the United States would be a disaster for the world while issuing a warning to Washington not to meddle in security disputes over Taiwan and the South China Sea.
This was in response to the speech given by the U.S. Acting Defence Secretary, Patrick Shanahan, on the international stage at the same event on Saturday, June 1, 2019.
In his speech, the Acting Defence Secretary condemned China’s effort to steal technology from other nations and militarise man-made outposts in the South China Sea. According to him, this perceived hostility by Beijing must come to an end.
He also vowed that the U.S. will remain strongly committed to the Indo- Pacific region and is ready to invest billions of dollars in securing its stability.
Speaking to hundreds of delegates at the Shangri-La Dialogue who are allies and partners of the region, Shanahan made these remarks without mentioning China in early parts of his speech though he made clear who his target was.
This is not the first time that China has ben slammed by Washington in this gathering. In 2014, the then-Secretary, Chuck Hagel used the same podium to slam China for cyber-spying and said the U.S. would not look away while Beijing’s territorial claims destabilised the region and threatened Asia’s long-term progress.
Indo-Pacific Ocean dispute between China and their neighbouring countries
There have been dispute in the South China Sea that has created a dangerous international conflict with multiple countries claiming the same territory in the sea. No fewer than six countries including Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, Philippines and China have laid claim to the same territory.
The waterway rich in fishing grounds through which passes an estimated five trillion dollars in global commerce annually has become a global security hotspot and China over the last several years have claimed virtually the whole space as its territory.
The country claimed the region by building a man made island to expand their territory. This did not go down well with the U.S. who said the land to be International waters and International airspace. This has not stopped the Chinese government from militarising the land with military aircraft, warships and missile systems on the land.
In response to this act of defilement by the Chinese government, the U.S. sailed its warplanes and warships through those waters to demonstrate that it remains international waters.
This has led to exchange of words in the troubled waters while China have not backed down but continue to launch new warships on the waters and claiming that it is U.S. that endanger peace in the region.
With the escalating trade war between the U.S. and China and the opposing ends both countries have taken concerning the security issue in the Asia continent, tension have reached an all time high between the two countries as the trade dispute between both countries intensify.
Trade War between U.S. and China
Donald J. Trump before his election into office have always been vocal about his dissatisfaction with U.S. trade policies with China. He felt strongly that the U.S. is cheated annually by the eastern government and past administration looked the other way to the daylight robbery committed against the U.S.
After launching an investigation into China trade policies on resumption into office, President Trump imposed a 10% tariff on the eastern country worth billions of dollars on Chinese products last year, and Beijing retaliated in kind.
After months of hostilities, both countries agreed to halt new trade tariffs in December to allow for talks.
Trade tensions escalated sharply last month after Trump’s administration accused China of having “reneged” on its previous promises to make structural changes to its economic practices.
This caused Washington to more than doubled tariff in May 2019 by 25% on $200bn (£153.7bn) worth of Chinese products. Beijing retaliated three days later with tariff hikes on $60bn of US goods.
Washington also blacklist Huawei into its Entity List via executive order. The U.S. also lobbied other ally countries not to use Huawei equipment in next-generation 5G networks. The Commerce Department of the country issued a 90-day license for American companies doing business with Huawei to wind down their operations and find alternatives.
In retaliation, China is signalling that it may ban the export of rare earth minerals to U.S., a move that would hurt the American technology industry.
America import 80% of its rare earth minerals from China.
Huawei is the world’s No. 1 network equipment provider and second-largest smartphone maker and the move by Washington shook the telecommunication giant in light of achieving the 5G landmark.
It is said by many that the move to blacklist Huawei by the U.S. government have moved the war between the both countries beyond trade but into the technology realm as the U.S. want to hold fast to its position as the world’s technology super power.
Though Shanahan went on to restate America’s distrust of The U.S. claims Huawei is legally beholden to China’s ruling Communists, which could use the company’s products, including its next-generation wireless network known as 5G, for cyberespionage.
Shanahan said Huawei is “too close to the government” of China, which has laws requiring data be shared.
“That’s too much risk for the department,” said Shanahan. “You can’t trust that those networks are going to be protected.”
On May 31st, China warned Washington that that it was drawing up a list of “unreliable” foreign companies, organizations and individuals for targeting in what could signal retaliation for U.S. sanctions on Huawei.
The escalating trade war between the U.S. and China has given room for a growing “bromance” between Russia Putin and Xi of China.
President Xi of China is said to be visiting President Putin for the second time this year and the 29th time since 2013.
This has caused great worry as the two powers may form an alliance against their common nemesis, U.S. global leadership.
There has also been a growth in trade between China and Russia ( 24.5 % ) in 2018 to a record $108 billion.
On the ongoing trade war, which has shaken financial markets around the world, Wei said China would “fight to the end” if the United States wanted a fight. But if Washington wanted to talk, “we will keep the door open”.
Taiwan Sovereignty and The Tiananmen Square Protest Anniversary
Taiwan sovereignty was also touched in the summit.
China has been particularly angered by recent moves by President Donald Trump’s administration to increase support for self-ruled and democratic Taiwan, including U.S. Navy sailings through the Taiwan Strait that separates the island from China.
Wei Fenghe, who took to the podium on Sunday the 2nd of June, 2019, dressed in a general’s uniform of the People People’s Liberation Army (PLA) said “No attempts to split China will succeed. Any interference in the Taiwan question is doomed to failure,”. Rendering a speech peppered with threat, the Defence Minister said China “must and will be reunited” and will see to the end that his country (China) is reunited with the sacred land (Taiwan).
According to him, the United States, like most countries, has no formal ties with Taiwan, but is its strongest backer and main source of weapons and “If anyone dares to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese military has no choice but to fight at all costs … The US is indivisible, and so is China. China must be, and will be, reunified.”
Taiwan’s government condemned Wei’s remarks, saying Taiwan has never belonged to the People’s Republic of China, that Taiwan would never accept Beijing’s threats and that China’s claim of its “peaceful development” was the “lie of the century”.
Taiwan is gearing up for presidential elections in January 2020, and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has repeatedly accused Beijing of seeking to undermine Taiwan’s democracy and has vowed to defend the island and its freedoms.
In a statement issued by the Mainland Affairs Council, the body said Taiwan “will continue to strengthen its self-defense capabilities, defend the country’s sovereignty and democratic system, and uphold the right of the 23 million people of Taiwan to freely choose their future”.
These threats issued by the Chinese Defence Minister has brought to the forefront, the Chinese government approach to security threats.
4th of June will mark the 30th anniversary to a bloody military crackdown on protesters around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. The massacre have long been known as the Tiananmen Square Protest.
The demonstration was led by students protests calling for democracy, free speech and a free press in China. They were halted in a bloody crackdown, known as the Tiananmen Square Massacre, by the Chinese government on June 4 and 5, 1989.
As the events of June 4 and 5 continues to resonate round the world, the Chinese government has done everything to bury that part of history.
However Wei defended the government’s handling of the Tiananmen “incident”. He said the government was decisive in stopping the turbulence. According to him “China has enjoyed stability due to this, and if you visit China you can understand that part of history.”
As tensions escalate between the two superpowers, Wei said “China has no intention, no power, to be the boss of this world, and against the United States to fight for this status,” He also added at the event in Singapore that China still wants to resolve escalating tensions through dialogue, but it won’t be bullied. “If the U.S. wants to talk, we will keep the door open,” Wei said. “If they want to fight, we will fight to the end.”
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