The near collision last week between a US warship and a Chinese destroyer in the Spratlys was more than two naval powers playing cat and mouse on the high sea. The incident came hot on the heels of Trump and Pence accusing China of meddling in US midterm elections, America slapping sanctions on China’s defence procurement unit and its head for buying S-400 air defense system from Russia, wild allegations that China interned more than one million Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, and the intensifying Sino-American trade war.
Such vitriol coming thick and fast from Washington perturbs and angers Beijing, even though China was the preferred scapegoat and whipping boy in past American hustings. What is different this time round is the total and full-frontal assault on the People’s Republic since the National Security Strategy report in December last year named Beijing, along with Moscow, as the foremost threats and adversaries to Washington. Already, the venom and viciousness spouted by Washington against China in recent weeks have far surpassed that directed at Russia.
America’s Unipolar Moment was well and truly over when Russia regained Crimea after the US-orchestrated coup against the democratically-elected Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014. Cold War 2.0 began in earnest when Moscow sent troops to Syria in September 2015 at the request of President Assad to help Damascus fight against ISIS terrorists sponsored, trained and armed by the US. The new Cold War expanded to include China late last year after the National Security Strategy report.
It’s against such backdrop and in such geopolitical context that the recent incident in the Spratlys should be viewed. China’s patience and tolerance with almost monthly freedom of navigation patrols or FONP by the American Navy has been tested to the limit.
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