A rising power confronts a ruling power. The question of who rules becomes hard to answer. To resolve this ambiguity, there is war. Millions suffer and die. For what, exactly?
We must avoid this miserable fate. In the first half of the twentieth century, the rise of Germany toppled British hegemony, or economic and geopolitical leadership, and almost undermined the status of the United States as the only true regional hegemon in modern history.
What did Britain do about it? What did America do about it? Nothing, until it was too late, and the death toll was climbing. Democracies failed to notice the growing threat of totalitarian autocracy and faced the consequences.
Today we face the same dilemma. But we have mistaken its source. We imagine the dilapidated economy of Russia capable of supporting a prolonged military campaign in Ukraine. Perhaps it is, and perhaps it is not. But is it capable of supporting a war to undermine American hegemony and, thereby, the world peace that the United States underwrites? Hell no. By intimidating Russia by expanding the NATO alliance, explicitly originated to contain Russia in the Cold War, after hostilities had long since ceased, the West has provoked Russia into what can only be regarded as desperate and dangerous behaviour to secure its borders through the only means it knows how: expansion, albeit almost negligible in historical terms.
The West, moreover, is playing into China’s hands, sanctioning Russia into an alliance with China that boosts China’s networked power and thereby its ability to effectively undermine American hegemony in the strategic stranglehold of the South China Sea.
China is the new Wilhelmine Germany. It is the new Soviet Union. It is the new totalitarian menace that threatens to undermine the triple combination of liberal democracy, American hegemony, and world trade. If a war between China and America erupts, a war China’s rise will make increasingly likely, then none of these guarantees of life and liberty will endure for long.
Choose not war but peace. End hostilities in Ukraine by brokering a peace between Russia and Ukraine. Contain China with sanctions until it demilitarises and forfeits all external territorial claim. The further option to prevent a future war is clear: break China up. Divide it into protectorates to be governed over by democratic powers. Do not let China off the hook. Extract every concession until it completely withdraws from the South China Sea, abandons its navy, denuclearises its military, and halts this breakneck pace of economic growth. Any sign of non-compliance, and the price rises.
China knows this. It knows the price of its rise and it rises anyway. It does not think the West will act as I advise so it acts in an irresponsible way to wage a struggle it cannot possibly win — but can plausibly effect to the detriment of the lives of millions, including innocent citizens of China. Do not follow this dark path. Choose peace, not war. Choose strict enforcement of equality of nations under the American nuclear umbrella. If you want peace, prepare for war. So prepare. Or face the dire consequences of complacency.
For heaven’s sake, stop China’s rise now — before it is too late; for China, for America, and for the nine billion people living on planet Earth. We deserve a chance to survive. So, take it. Or leave it to the fates. And history knows, fortune is not favourable to the fearful. There is nothing to fear but fear itself. Do what is right. Let there be light.
Disclaimer: Any similarity between names mentioned and actual individuals is purely accidental and largely theoretical. These are fun ideas to entertain but, as always, I may be mistaken. After all, what do I know?