China Advances

China Advances

Heading for direct conflict with the USA?

Michael Ledeen

China and Iran have unleashed a harsh domestic repression against protesters, as natural disasters sweep across the two countries. China took an early lead:

Waters in 116 local rivers rose one to ten meters (3.3 feet to 32.8 feet). State news agency Xinhua quoted Chongqing city officials on July 2 saying that water levels of 12 rivers are higher than the upper limits, meaning the banks may burst at any time.

At least one person has died, and one is missing, the report said, adding that almost 60,000 have been affected by the floods in the city.

Local authorities in one area in Chongqing have warned those who live on the fourth story or below in buildings close to rivers to be prepared to evacuate.

Authorities are warning civilians to pay close attention to local rivers and streams. As of the beginning of the month, some 304 rivers had reached perilous levels.

And in Iran, official death totals due to coronavirus have reached a new high. Given that ALL Iranian data are probably falsified, the new death totals are especially dubious. They are both big countries, and do not dread a sudden or dramatic drop in population. Au contraire, the new data suggest that the threat to stability in Iran is diminishing, and therefore that internal stability is increasing.

Meanwhile, there has been a positive identification of a case of Bubonic Plague in China:

Months after the detrimental COVID-19 pandemic originated in China, the country is now reporting a positive case of the Bubonic Plague in a hospital in Bayannur, Inner Mongolia, according to the South China Morning Post.

Officials are asking residents and tourists to stay out of the grasslands overnight and avoid contact, especially consumption, of wild animals. If someone develops a fever, they are asked to report history with animals and travels in the grasslands.

Although we suffer from a lack of reliable statistics from Communist China, and while Iranian statistics are no more reliable than their official laboratory results, there can be little doubt that the regime is serious about staying away from wild animals. The disease is rare, but it can be lethal. And human beings should certainly stay away from plague-ridden wild animals.

Even promises from the supreme leader are unreliable:

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei assured a doctoral student in a 2016 meeting that there was nothing wrong with criticizing the country's top official.

"Speaking against me is neither [reprimandable] nor is it a crime, I've said it many times," Khamenei said at the July 2, 2016, meeting with a group of handpicked students, including Mohammad Ali Kamfiruzi.

The young student had directly confronted Khamenei over rights abuses in the Islamic republic, including violating people's freedom of expression.

Four years later, the former student who became a lawyer has been given a two-year suspended prison sentence for offering mild criticism of Khamenei in a 2018 speech.

Kamfiruzi was the son of a man killed in the war against Iraq, and although his family is distinguished he must show up for constant checks from the authorities. His sentence is the result of extremely mild criticism of the Regime. The open question is whether the Chinese regime will take military action against the United States.

China's intent was to broadcast its willingness to establish militarily enforced no-go zones in international waters and to improve its ability to defend these strongholds from interceding American forces. The United States's exercises were designed to show that Washington intends to match Beijing's military activity and to dissuade China from believing it can deny U.S. carrier strike groups access beyond the first island chain of waters west of Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines and north of Malaysia. That U.S. intention reflects an understanding of Chinese war planning, which seeks to deter U.S. carriers from accessing those waters in fear of China's significant anti-ship ballistic missile force.

Regardless, the risk of a miscalculation or deliberate conflict is growing significantly.

China and the United States have faced each other in several scenarios in recent years, and here we have another case in which open conflict seems altogether possible, if not actually likely. The American Navy and Air Force are clearly superior to the Chinese, and the Chinese have shied away from direct conflict in the past, if it were clear that U.S. forces were stronger. 

Will they stick to this model? Or will they change, and challenge us directly?