Australia — A day after China sent warships into the East China Sea—a less than subtle message to the Trump administration that the Asian superpower is prepared should the United States decide to make good on its vow to protect Japan—China’s foreign minister warned Tuesday there would be no victor if such a military conflict were to erupt.
“There cannot be conflict between China and the United States, as both sides will lose and both sides cannot afford that,” Wang Yi told the media in Australia’s capital of Canberra.
As Anti-Media reported Monday, President Donald Trump’s secretary of defense, James Mattis, made comments over the weekend in which he doubled down on the United States’ security obligation to Japan. China and Japan and currently locked into a South China Sea-style territorial dispute. Both nations claim a sovereign right to the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
Calling the relationship between Japan and the U.S. an “example for other nations to follow,” Mattis made it clear the U.S. would have the Pacific Rim nation’s back into the foreseeable future:
“The U.S.-Japan alliance is critical to ensuring that this region remains safe and secure—not just now, but for years to come.”
The Chinese response was not difficult to interpret. Two days after the defense secretary’s comments, China sailed three warships into the East China Sea—just 12 nautical miles off the coast of the Senkaku Island chain.
The situation is somewhat ironic in that while Mattis—through his remarks made over the weekend—was essentially warning China to back off on the East China Sea dispute, he was simultaneously suggesting the tension between the U.S. and China over the South China Sea should be settled diplomatically.
China, through a state-run editorial, praised this sentiment, calling it a “mind-soothing pill” that “dispersed the clouds of war that many feared were gathering over the South China Sea.”
This, on the same day it steamed warships past the Senkaku Islands.
The Chinese position, with regard to the United States, seems to be clear. The Asian superpower hopes for peace, but is ready for war. This appears to be the note Foreign Minister Wang Yi was trying to hit on Tuesday in Australia.
On the issue of economics—which pits Donald Trump’s “America First” protectionist policies against China’s push for economic globalization—Wang reiterated the Chinese stance.
“It is important to firmly commit to an open world economy,” he said, addressing leaders around the globe. “It is important to steer economic globalization towards greater inclusiveness, broader shared benefit in a more sustainable way.”
The core of the U.S.-China tension goes far beyond economics, however. The heart of the problem, as many are increasingly pointing out, is rooted in the speculation that China is overtaking the United States as the new world leader.
For China’s part, it has previously suggested it has not sought this role. It has suggested the role is being forced upon it as more and more countries are turning to China for guidance. This, too, was an item addressed by Wang on Tuesday—suggesting, perhaps, that for China’s sake, it would nice if other nations cooled off on such talk:
“We must remain clear headed about the various comments demanding China play a ‘leadership role.’”