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America’s Coming War With China

Given the rise in anti-Chinese sentiment spawned by the off-shoring of America’s production base to China, the impact of COVID-19, and hyperbolic rhetoric in Washington regarding China’s alleged malevolent aspirations, any number of observers of American politics might easily conclude that Washington is on the precipice of blundering into another war—this time with China. After all, a similar climate of deep-seated paranoia and military hysteria steered the world’s great powers blindly into war in 1914.

The problem with assuming the inevitability of conflict is that many Washington politicians live by the axiom “out of sight, out of mind,” and seek constant media attention. Thus, public statements made by Washington’s publicity seekers in and out of uniform are seldom informative. They never bother to acknowledge that no one should start a war without first establishing the politically beneficial end state a war with China would achieve or how the latest Pacific war would be fought and won. But these are the questions that must be considered.

If the political purpose of a new Pacific war is to change Chinese behavior externally or internally—to render China incapable of resisting American political demands—it is worth noting that China is not Imperial Japan in 1941. Japan’s economy was roughly one-tenth the size of the U.S. economy, and it still required three years of hard fighting by U.S. forces to redeem America’s ignominious defeat at Pearl Harbor and in the Philippines. In addition, when Tokyo decided to attack U.S. forces at Pearl Harbor, Japan was already at war with a number of states including China, Great Britain, and the Netherlands.