Fear sells. Fear is selling on both sides of the partisan divide and both sides of the Pacific.
U.S. national security officials seeking enhanced weapons systems, media outlets seeking ratings and elected officials seeking popularity are all in on the hustle. While this is standard operating procedure in the nation’s capital, the U.S. may be sleepwalking into a disaster.
It’s time for a wake-up call.
The view from the other side of the Pacific looks the same. Chinese political leaders, media outlets and citizens are hopped up on a century of humiliation, embracing wolf warrior diplomacy and applauding regional coercion.
Can cooler heads prevail when there are no cool heads on either side of the Pacific? As this seems unlikely, it’s worth considering the cost of where this is leading.
A former four-star U.S. admiral writing on a potential US/China military clash, concluded both countries would need economic aid from India when the shooting stopped.
The Rand Corporation has warned, “The world economy could be rocketed, and international order, such as it is, could be shattered.” A generation of economic progress would be lost both technologically and economically.
If the countries broke off relations laptops, cell phones and kitchen products, like coffeemakers would be, at least temporarily, unavailable in the U.S. When they returned to stores, they would be affordable to only the most affluent. Interest rates would climb as the Chinese sold off U.S. debt securities and U.S. incomes would decline as exports to China, and Chinese investment in the U.S., disappeared.
The U.S. could face a decade or more of persistent stagflation.
It’s possible after losing thousands of sailors and a few billion worth of military technology and hardware, the U.S. could virtually blockade China. As the country depends on exports, as well as imports of food and energy, it would be devastating. China might respond using nuclear weapons and would face crushing economic losses.
Either way, the reputation of the U.S. in the world would suffer and American standards of living would be reduced for a generation.
This march toward catastrophe can be suspended by confidence building measures on both sides of the Pacific. Both sides should seek possible agreements and work toward consensus so bilateral trust can eventually be rebuilt.