By James Moules
A FULL scale war between the United States and China could be approaching, former UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn warns.
The Islington North MP appeared at a Stop the War Coalition webinar titled ‘Coronavirus, War & Empire’ alongside academic Tariq Ali and author Arundhati Roy.
During the event, Mr Corbyn cautioned that a number of potential triggers could ignite a hot war between the world’s two largest economies.
He said: “I think there is a danger of a military conflict between the USA and China, and it could be sparked off by South China sea naval manoeuvres, it could be sparked off by issues surrounding North Korea, or it could be that we begin to understand the pressures on this come from the Asia-Pacific Strategy which the Obama government started and that China has developed a much greater military capacity.
“But surely there has to be a realisation that a growing militarisation between the US and China is dangerous, is utterly disastrous and one really asks the question why the USA feels it necessary to build up this massive military presence on the sea just off the coast of China. For what purpose is it?”
Mr Corbyn pointed to the ongoing trade war raging between the two powers and expressed his concern that the dispute could turn violent.
He went on: “Anyone who wants to read the history of where trade wars lead to – read the history of the collapse of empires into war in 1914 which was in part about commercial interests around the world.”
The US-China trade war started in 2018 when Donald Trump imposed tariffs upon certain Chinese imports, leading to escalating brinkmanship between Trump and Chairman Xi Jinping.
A move towards a foreign policy focus on East Asia came under the Obama administration in what was described as a ‘pivot to Asia’.
Tensions have grown between the two powers over US naval manoeuvres in the South China sea and the Chinese claim to the waters.
China asserts that the sea is its maritime territory – a claim that is widely disputed with other surrounding nations.
Meanwhile, China’s military strength has developed in recent years, notably with its aircraft carrier programme. The nation’s first home built aircraft carrier – the Shandong – was commissioned just last year.
The prospect of war between an ascendant power – in this case China – and an established hegemon such as the United States has been labelled the ‘Thucydides Trap’ by political scientist Graham Allison.
In his book Destined for War, he describes Thucydides’ account of the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta as a model for a rising force clashing with a dominant power. He asserts that in 16 such examples of this chain of events in history, 12 have led to war.
However, Corbyn’s fellow panellist Arundhati Roy was more sceptical about the prospect of outright war.
She said: “There might be some sort of proxy wars. I don’t think there will be a direct conflict. But like I said, India has aligned itself with Trump, and Modi and Trump are great friends.
“There is trouble on the borders, which I think they are trying to settle. But it’s a very uneasy situation.
“These conflicts will not be direct. They will be proxy conflicts.”
The panel also discussed the ongoing protests in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on black people – both in the United States and globally.
Corbyn said: “The global pandemic of Covid has exposed the inequality in the health systems around the world, the inequality within societies, the disproportionate death rate of black communities compared to others in the USA and other places, and the way in which Trump and the medical insurance lobby in the United States have attacked the World Health Organisation is very very serious indeed.”
Arundhati Roy argued that the anger of protestors on streets today goes further than the killing of George Floyd.
She said: “I think the people who are raging on the streets now are raging against everything that has been done to them by the Trump regime – including the knee on the neck and the theatrical killing of George Floyd, they are raging against what coronavirus has exposed.”
She added: “It’s an explosion against an establishment that is trying to polarise people and this is a manifestation of that polarisation.”
However, Mr Corbyn said that he sees cause to be hopeful for the future beyond the pandemic, citing the potential for green industry in the aftermath of coronavirus and the mass public engagement in all these issues.
He said: “Maybe because of the huge concentration on media when many people are locked down at home, there is going to be a mobilisation that will ensure that we have a better and brighter future.”
He added: “I think this is a moment of the most enormous opportunity, and I am very very optimistic that post-corona, there is going to be that sense of world solidarity.”
The crisis in Kashmir was also on the agenda – Redaction will dive into detail on this topic in an article next week.
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