The Chinese and US militaries often provoke each other so that they can trigger a big war. Photo/Reuters
WASHINGTON – When a Chinese warship maneuvered within 150 yards (135 meters) of a United States (US) destroyer in the Taiwan Strait on Saturday (3/6/2023) and forced it to slow down, it became the latest tension. In fact, the incident occurred twice in the last few days where China and the US could result in major incidents.
Late last May, a Chinese fighter jet flew in front of a US warplane over the South China Sea. That drew a rebuke from the US. The White House accuses China of increasing aggressiveness. Meanwhile, China says that US military activity in international waters is deliberately provoking risks.
Here are 6 triggers of tension between the US and Chinese militaries.
1. China has the ambition to have the biggest and strongest military
Under President Xi Jinping’s administration, China has begun what US officials say is one of the largest peacetime military build-ups in history.
Beijing is using its growing military capabilities and economic power to push back decades of US military dominance in Asia. China regards the US as an outsider meddling in a region where it sees itself as a force for peace and stability.
2. The US Promotes Freedom of Navigation
A long-standing source of tension is the freedom of navigation patrols by the US and its coalition. The US and its allies sail naval vessels through the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea. The US says such patrols defend the right of all nations to sail in international waters.
3. Mutual Provocation
China has complained about US ships and aircraft in the Taiwan Strait and in the South China Sea close to islands it controls, claims, or builds up and converts into military installations. The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA) usually follows US ships as a form of expulsion and provocation.
Some analysts say Chinese military commanders have been pushed to act more decisively against foreign military ships and aircraft. “I think what we’re seeing is likely a general incentive, maybe even an incentive scheme for (PLA) unit commanders to be aggressive when the opportunity presents itself, which at the unit level encourages more reckless behavior,” said Jennifer Parker, a defense expert at the Policy Institute. Strategic Australia, reported by Reuters.
Another recent incident in the South China Sea saw a Chinese coast guard ship aim a “military-grade laser” at a Philippine ship in February. In May, Vietnam demanded that Beijing remove a survey vessel from its waters. China says both incidents are legal and normal.
4. Friction to Trigger War
“The approach taken by the Chinese and US militaries could degenerate into armed conflict,” said Derek Grossman, senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation, a US-based think tank.
“In my view, this is scenario number 1 that brings the US and China to war, let alone Beijing seizing disputed features in the South China Sea or attacking Taiwan,” he said.
5. Have Different Interests
What makes the situation more dangerous are the very different views the US and China have on the source of the problem. The US sees China disrupting the status quo with its threats to Taiwan, a self-governing island that China claims as its own, and its territorial claims over the resource-rich South China Sea.