Americans Favor Trade-Off On China’s Militarization

Americans Favor Trade-Off On China’s Militarization

Americans want to use trade to reign In China's aggressive military actions.

Anjali Krishnan
Anjali Krishnan

Events On The Radar

Earlier this week, twenty-eight Chinese fighter planes, including Su-30 fighters, some of China's most advanced jets, intruded on Taiwan's airspace. The Taiwanese Defense Ministry said combat aircrafts intercepted the sortie and turned them away. It is the most significant incursion since the self-ruled island began reporting on such events last year.

The Philippines has repeatedly called attention to a flotilla containing more than 200 Chinese vessels in waters located within Manila's Exclusive Economic Zone in the South China Sea. The island nation has resorted to daily patrols to monitor the situation.

The week also marks the first anniversary of the Galwan Valley clash between China and India. The deadliest attack on Indian soldiers in 45 years led to fatalities on both sides and heightened border tensions between the two nations.

Military Ambitions

Over land, air, and sea China has been frequently and strategically harassing its neighbors, raising tensions in the region, and attempting to upset the rules-based order. This aligns with the country's ambitious plans to dominate the region and curb the sovereignty of its "special status" regions.

Xi Jinping announced in 2017 that the country's objective is to upgrade its forces to a "world-class" military by the end of 2049. To this end, China continues to invest heavily in defense. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, on the opening day of China's Parliament, announced that the country had increased its defense budget for the first time to more than USD 200 billion. (Estimates of Chinese defense spending vary considerably from its government data.)

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute's recent report, the nuclear state has an arsenal of about 260 nuclear warheads. The report states, "The number which has remained relatively stable but is slowly increasing."

The U.S. Department of Defense 2020 annual report on China’s military and security development states that the People’s Liberation Army is “already ahead of the United States in certain areas.”

Trading Partner

China's defense spending is facilitated mainly by its booming economy, which rests heavily on international trade.

American high-value exports like transportation equipment and raw materials are also helping fuel the country's growth. Trade between the U.S and China was at around $560 billion in 2020.

As the country's biggest importer America is in a unique position. Flexing its trade muscle could have grave ramifications on Chinese manufacturing, agricultural and export domains.

Americans Favor Checking China

A recent TIPP Poll asked Americans what they thought of trade as a bargaining tool to curb China's militarization. The data reads -

  • 46% - Demand that China improve its military policies if the country wants to continue to enjoy its current trade status with the United States
  • 30% - Maintain good trade relations with China, despite disagreements with its military policies
  • 24% - Not sure

Irrespective of party affiliations, around half of all Americans were in favor of using trade restrictions or sops to check China’s military advancements.

  • 46% - Democrats
  • 58% - Republicans
  • 42% - Independents

The sentiment is more strongly reflected when the data is analyzed along political ideology -

  • 55% - Conservatives
  • 41% - Moderates
  • 50% - Liberals

China's ambitious military upgrades are making its neighbors wary. Taiwan and the Philippines have brought many Chinese military incursions to the notice of the international community. Beijing's agenda for the South China Sea remains contentious. Peace on its border with India remains tenuous.

Countries much farther afield, Japan and Australia, are stepping up diplomatic ties and cooperation to counter China's push.

China's pursuit of military dominance could lead to an arms race in the region. Left unchecked, its rapid militarization, aggressive conduct, and disregard for international censure could threaten peace and stability in the region.

Raghavan Mayur helped write and edit this story.

TIPP Takes

Iran Field Narrows As Candidates Quit On Campaign's Last Day

Three of the seven men who had been approved to enter the race pulled out, further bolstering the position of Raisi, in a vote expected to see record low turnout.

  • The race narrowed into a showdown between the country's hard-line judiciary chief and moderate former Central Bank chief.
  • Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned of a foreign conspiracy to undermine the vote.
  • Iran's clerical vetting body had barred a range of prominent reformists and key allies of relatively moderate President Hassan Rouhani to run in this election. Instead, it gave the green light to Raisi and several low-profile candidates, mostly hard-liners with little popular support.
  • The Guardian Council's evisceration of any viable challengers has sparked widespread criticism and fueled calls for a boycott.
  • Voter apathy was running deep even before the disqualifications, due partly to the devastated economy and subdued campaigning amid a surge in coronavirus cases.

China Says No Leak At Nuclear Plant, No Change To Detection Standards

The environment ministry says no radiation increases outside the plant.

  • China said there had been no leak at the Taishan nuclear power station, and it had not raised the allowed radiation levels near the plant, responding to a CNN report earlier this week.
  • An increase in radiation levels was detected in the primary circuit at Taishan's Unit 1 reactor, but it was within the parameters for safe operations, the ministry said.
  • The increase was caused by damage to the cladding of a small number of fuel rods, which is normal during the production, transportation, and loading of fuel, the ministry said on its Wechat social media account.
  • The ministry said it would closely monitor radioactivity levels at the reactor and maintain communications with the International Atomic Energy Agency and France's nuclear safety watchdog.
  • Framatome, the French company that designed the reactors, said it was assessing the situation at the Taishan plant, which it said was operating within the safety parameters according to data available.

North Korea’s Kim Calls Food Situation ‘Tense’ As Reports Of Shortages Mount

Kim’s admission about food shortages speaks of a problem that can’t be glossed over.

  • Kim claimed that the economy had improved this year, with industrial production up 25 percent from a year earlier, and he generally struck a more upbeat tone than in February, when he admitted that the country’s economic plan had “failed tremendously.”
  • Last year, North Korea faced its worst slump in more than two decades, experts say, largely due to the self-imposed closure of the border with China, a measure designed to keep the coronavirus pandemic at bay.
  • There were reports of acute power cuts and factory closures, with coal and fertilizer production hit by electricity shortages and a lack of spare parts.
  • Experts are not expecting widespread famine this year. They say food shortages are not going to fatally undermine the regime or force Kim to the negotiating table with the United States.
  • Kim blamed nature rather than a desperately inefficient farming sector and the border closure, as the plenum agreed to direct “all efforts to farming this year.”

China Offers Glimpse Of Tibetan Life Without The Dalai Lama

The Communist Party has been trying to Sinicise Tibetan life

  • The Associated Press joined a rare and strictly controlled media tour to Tibet, highlighting what the government describes as the region's social stability and economic development after 70 years of Communist Party rule.
  • Stops included monasteries, temples, schools, poverty alleviation projects, and tourist sites.
  • The tour appears to reflect the party's confidence that it is prevailing in the global battle of public opinion over Tibet.
  • In the courtyard of the Jokhang Temple, one of the holiest sites in Tibetan Buddhism, the head monk, Lhakpa, said the Dalai Lama is not its spiritual leader. Asked who is, he said: "Xi Jinping."
  • As a counterweight, Tibet rights groups continue to report detentions, economic marginalization, a suffocating security presence, and heavy pressure to assimilate with China's Han majority while pledging loyalty to the Communist Party.


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