The World Today for July 27, 2021
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China is building more than 100 new nuclear missile silos in its northwestern desert, according to the California-based James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. Reported in the Washington Post, the facilities represent a significant increase in the country’s nuclear capabilities. The world’s most populous country and second-largest economy after the US is estimated to now possess as many as 350 nuclear weapons.
The deployment recalls the era of mutually assured destruction, or MAD, that marked the arms race between the US and the now-defunct Soviet Union during the Cold War in the second half of the 20th Century. Leaders in China, a growing power, understandably feel as if they need a robust military to counter the US and its many allies. But the same logic applies to the US and others who aren’t simply going to sit idle while a massive authoritarian country develops such an arsenal.
The US is already considering whether to put more missiles in the American territory of Guam, Japan or elsewhere. These escalations could foster stability, as arguably occurred in the Cold War. Or not. “Missile proliferation (could) fuel suspicions, trigger arms races, increase tensions, and ultimately cause crises and even wars,” Pacific Forum President David Santoro told Reuters.
Chinese rhetoric is already heating up. At an event celebrating the centennial of the creation of the Chinese Communist Party, Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a speech where he said “foreigners who bully China will bleed and get their heads bashed,” Vice wrote.
Meanwhile, a meeting between American diplomats and their Chinese counterparts ended Monday in a “stalemate,” cooling near-term hopes for a major summit between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, CBS News reported.
The Council on Foreign Relations in New York has determined that Taiwan is the first place where World War III could start, the Daily Beast reported. The self-declared independent country is an American ally. China considers the coastal island democracy to be a breakaway state, however. As such, it’s an affront to the autocratic central government’s image.
Analysts at the Council have a point. The New York Post’s conservative editorial board has called on President Joe Biden to take a tougher stance on Chinese aggression toward Taiwan. Chinese television has warned Japan not to come to Taiwan’s aid in a military conflict lest they want to become the target of a nuclear attack. Japanese officials have nonetheless signaled their support for Taiwan, according to the South China Morning Post.
The problem is that emotions are driving policies, wrote Tim Easton, a China and Taiwan expert, in an op-ed in the Taipei Times. Rational actors more concerned with peace rather than saving face could steer both sides away from a fight.
But pride is hard to shake, even before the fall.
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