Source: Jose Nino

On March 7, 2022, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi declared in an annual press conference that the United States should not entertain building  a “Pacific version of NATO to protect Taiwan, because the situations in Ukraine and Taiwan were completely different.”

Wang asserted that the US is in the process of rolling out an Indo-Pacific strategy to prevent China from accomplishing one of its primary geopolitical goals. Namely, China’s goal of reunifying the island nation of Taiwan. 

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Bloomberg reported the following:

Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his annual news briefing Monday that the “real goal” of the U.S.’s Indo-Pacific strategy was to form Asia’s answer to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. China has often accused the U.S. of trying to form blocs to suppress its growth, a complaint that’s likely to attract greater attention after President Vladimir Putin cited similar grievances before his invasion of Ukraine.

Tyler Durden of ZeroHedge observed that “This isn’t the first time Beijing has accused Washington of trying to form ‘military blocks’ to suppress China’s military aspirations in the Pacific.”

In light of the present Russia-Ukraine military conflict,  the Bloomberg report noted that this complaint is “likely to attract greater attention after President Vladimir Putin cited similar grievances before his invasion of Ukraine.”

Wang stated that attempts to create an Asian version of NATO would be “doomed to fail.”

“The perverse actions run counter to the common aspiration of the region for peace, development, cooperation and win-win outcomes,” Wang stated. “They are doomed to fail.”

The press briefing lasted roughly two hours and was mostly directed against the US and policies that allegedly harm China’s security interests in Asia. Wang reiterated that the US is the primary culprit behind the security problems taking place across the world. In Wang’s view, the US’s efforts to bolster ties with Taiwan will further destabilize the Asia-Pacific region. 

The senior diplomat emphasized that Taiwan will eventually “return to the embrace of the motherland.” Wang warned that any form of US meddling in Taiwan would create “woeful” consequences. On top of that,  Wang accused American leaders of conflating the Ukrainian conflict with the ongoing dilemma in Taiwan. He described this as a “double standard.”

“Some, while being vocal about the principle of sovereignty on the Ukrainian issue, have kept undermining China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity on the Taiwan question,” Wang declared. “This is a blatant double standard.”

“This would not only push Taiwan into a precarious situation, but will also bring unbearable consequences for the U.S. side,” Wang continued. “Taiwan will eventually return to the embrace of the motherland.”

As China has grown stronger in the past few decades, it has used its newfound strength to assert itself in its Pacific backyard. Bloomberg has noted this:

Several Asian nations — like their counterparts on Russia’s European frontier – have sought closer security ties with the U.S. to keep from being dominated by the region’s biggest player. China has active border disputes with neighbors including Japan, India and Vietnam and has stepped up military, diplomatic and economic pressure on Taiwan, sending warplanes on some 960 forays through the island’s air defense identification zone last year.

Durden noted that Wang’s statement is “aimed at ‘the Quad’ – officially the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue – the relatively novel US-led military alliance that includes some of the region’s most militarily powerful democracies: India, Australia and Japan. 

The Quad was established in 2007 to boost Asian democracies but has expanded its focus to issues concerning military and security affairs in the Indo-Pacific region. 

According to a report by the Council on Foreign Relations, “As of 2021, leaders in all four countries have become more aligned in their shared concerns about China’s increasingly assertive behavior in the region and are more willing to define a constructive agenda of cooperation.”

Great power competition is tragic. When external actors try to enter another great powers’ backyard, this entire process invariably leads to some form of military conflict.

The US has legitimate grievances with China when it comes to espionage and questionable trade practices. However, that can be solved through immigration restriction and economic nationalist measures such as tariffs, onshoring, and even nearshoring in Latin America — a region that should be America’s primary area of strategic focus. 

As the Russian case has shown, great powers will assert themselves once they’re strong enough and feel sufficiently threatened by external actors. With China, American policymakers must exercise prudence and avoid any kind of direct military confrontation with it in its traditional sphere of influence. 

Instead, the US should help bolster the defenses of Asia’s wealthiest and most powerful countries, who are more than capable of checking China, so that they can assume their own security functions and take a stand against China should circumstances necessitate such action. This is the primary challenge facing American policymakers in the 21st century and beyond.