Monday, August 22, 2016

The Specter of an Accidental China-U.S. War

As Beijing flexes its muscles in the South China Sea, the risks of an inadvertent clash with the U.S. are growing
The last time America and China went to war—in Korea in 1950—they fought each other to a standstill.
Later that decade, as the Cold War ramped up, they came close to blows again; the Eisenhower administration repeatedly threatened “Red China” with nuclear devastation as tensions bubbled over Taiwan.
Today, given the astronomical stakes at play, many assume that armed conflict between the two giants is out of the question. They are each other’s largest trading partner. Military confrontation wouldn’t only threaten these huge flows but also student exchanges, scientific collaboration, joint technical projects and the myriad other ways in which the fates and fortunes of the world’s two largest economies and their peoples are inextricably linked.
Yet, as China flexes its muscles in the South China Sea and East China Sea, the risks of an inadvertent clash on the water or in the air are growing by the day.
A new RAND Corp study says that a Sino-U. S. war as a result of such a crisis “cannot be considered implausible.”
Violence could ignite quickly, the report warns. That is because each side has deployed precision-guided munitions, as well as cyber and space technologies, able to inflict devastating damage on the other’s military assets, including Chinese land-based missile batteries and American aircraft carriers. Thus they have a strong incentive to launch massive strikes first as part of a “use it or lose it” calculation.
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