【Inflection Points by Frederick Kempe】Hand out photo dated July 6, 2020 of Aircraft from Carrier Air Wing 5 and Carrier Air Wing 17 fly in formation over the Nimitz Carrier Strike Force. The aircraft carriers USS Nimitz (CVN 68), right, and USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) are conducting dual carrier operations in the Indo-Pacific as the Nimitz Carrier Strike Force. Two US Navy aircraft carriers have resumed rare dual exercises in the South China Sea, the second time this month the massive warships have teamed up in the contested waters. The USS Ronald and USS Nimitz carrier strikes groups, comprising more than 12,000 US military personnel among the two aircraft carriers and their escorting cruisers and destroyers, were operating in the South China Sea as of Friday July 17, the US Pacific Fleet said in a statement. The presence of the Nimitz and Reagan in the South China Sea earlier this month marked the first time two US aircraft carriers have operated together there since 2014 and only the second time since 2001. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Keenan Daniels via ABACAPRESS.COM
So, this is what life feels like “in the foothills of a new Cold War,” as Henry Kissinger has called it. Though perhaps the better metaphor would be “in the trenches,” for this week one could hear the steady din overhead from the escalating U.S.-Chinese conflict that will define our times.
On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blasted China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea as “completely unlawful,” and he pledged U.S. support for those countries that would wish to challenge Beijing.
For its part, China sanctioned Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, among others, in retaliation for their legislative actions against Chinese officials linked to the detention and repression of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.
On Tuesday, President Trump signed into law a bill to impose new sanctions on Chinese individuals, banks and businesses that are helping Beijing’s Hong Kong crackdown. On the same day, Prime Minister Boris Johnson made his UK the first European country to ban use of Huawei’s 5G equipment.
Meanwhile, China threatened to sanction Lockheed over its defense sales to Taiwan, a warning shot to defense companies across the world. Beijing military and political officials increasingly share with foreign counterparts their ambition to alter Taiwan’s independent status by the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party in July of next year.
This Thursday, U.S. Attorney General William Barr branded some U.S. entertainment and tech companies – Disney, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Apple among them – as “all too willing to collaborate” with the Chinese Communist Party. That followed last week’s charge by FBI director Chris Wray that Beijing pursues its ambitions through industrial espionage, theft, extortion, cyberattacks and malign influence activities.
All this comes in the face of an unprecedented Chinese global propaganda, economic and intelligence blitz to seize the myriad opportunities that present themselves to China as the first major economy to recover from the pandemic it unleashed. China this week announced 3.2% growth in its second quarter, after a 6.8% decline in the first quarter, even as the United States and Europe remain in recession.
Under the cover of the coronavirus fog, China has stepped up its repression of its ethnic Muslim minorities, tightened its grip over Hong Kong, increased its pressure on Taiwan, stepped up tensions in the South China Sea, escalated attacks on Australia for seeking a coronavirus investigation, heightened pressure on Canada for detaining a Huawei executive, unleashed fatal force on the border of India and ratcheted up its propaganda against the United States.