States so often behave badly. They pick fights or provoke each other. They often boss or abuse their citizens. If they were people we would get fed up with them, send them to coventry, seek to change them or even put them in detention.
The next few years are likely to see a continuing struggle between the USA and China. Mr Obama’s “new” jaw jaw rather than war war approach to dealing with the world neighbours has broken down in the sands of Afghanistan, and is now having a bad time along the Great Wall of China. This week-end there is sabre rattling over Taiwan. Mr Obama intends to sell them lots of armaments for “defensive” purposes. China sees such an act as one of provocation, as she thinks Taiwan is part of greater China and does not want more military hardware in the way of her ultimate “settlement” of the Taiwanese issue. The USA needs to export more whilst also still needing to borrow too much money from the Chinese. China cannot afford to overreach herself and lose face at this sensitive time in her climb to world significance.
I have always thought that one of the most important moments in the evolution of China as the other great power of the world will be the moment when China demands Taiwan. If she tries too soon the USA could well rush to Taiwan’s defence. If China judges it correctly and has prepared the ground the USA will back off and we will know there are two super powers in the world. Meanwhile many in Taiwan will be seeking to keep the USA strong and on side.
I don’t think this week-end’s sabre rattling is the start of the denouement of this long running issue. I expect China to complain, impose sanctions, cool relations but not to force any military action. The oral spat is unpleasant but I hope and expect it will not bring the world to the brink of disaster. It is important that Mr Obama is very clear about his intentions, as indecisiveness or hints of a change of position could be dangerous in such a situaiton. Mr Obama needs to remember he does still run the only world superpower when it comes to the ability to project force beyond the homeland, even if he does need to borrow a lot of money from China to pay for it all.