The relationship between China and the US is in freefall. That is dangerous. US defense secretary Mark Esper has said he wants to visitChina this year, which shows the Pentagon is worried. That Wei Fenghe, China’s defense minister, spokeat length with Mr. Esper in August shows that Beijing is worried too. Both men have agreed to keep communications open and to work to reduce risks as they arise.
Beijing meanwhile believes that the US, worried about its global primacy, has fully abandoned its supposed neutralityon the South China Sea. Haunted by economic recession and the pandemic, and desperate for re-election, President Donald Trump has also made confronting China his last-straw strategy to beat his opponent, Joe Biden.
China’s foreign minister Wang Yi has said Beijing will remain “cool headed” when there are “impulsive moves” from the US. But in many ways, China hawks such as Mr Pompeo have made it hard for subsequent administrations to de-escalate US competition with China.
How to de-risk the chance of a conflict that neither side wants but which they could nevertheless sleepwalk into?
7月美国国务卿蓬佩奥（Mike Pompeo）将里根（Ronald Reagan）关于前苏联的名言—“信任但验证”窜改成针对中国要“不信任但验证”。华盛顿怀疑中国越来越咄咄逼人希望将美国赶出印太地域。
But that ignores the chance of mishap. The air collision in 2001 between a Chinese jet fighter and a US reconnaissance plane caused the death of one Chinese pilot. In 2018, the USS Decatur and Chinese destroyer Lanzhou escaped collision by just 41 metres.
The risk of a mistake is therefore high. It is one thing for the two countries to point their fingers at each other. It is quite another if naval vessels collide in the South China Sea, triggering a DIRECT conf。
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