Is A Nuclear Catastrophe Possible? – OpEd



Sino-Russian alignment appears to bring the world to possible catastrophe not seen or felt after the Second World War II. With all its faults Yalta Conference agreed to a division of power structure between the West and the Soviet Union. The agreement was faulty but assured the world of a rule-based division of power. The West had to agree to Joseph Stalin’s demand to a division of Europe in which Soviet suzerainty would prevail.

Yet both the West and the Soviet Union were acutely aware of slipping away from a path that could open the nuclear war and the end of mankind.  After Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear catastrophe Japan was forced to surrender and a new Japan emerged with the support of the US. The Western political and in recent time military support to Japan has been due to the emergence of China as an aspiring super power. China wants its seat at the table that it had lost to the British many years back when England used to rule the waves. 


Kalliszcz Epanski wrote about the opium wars between the British and the Chinese about the opium wars that brought the Qing dynasty of China to its knees. For well over a thousand years, he wrote, China had been the eastern endpoint of the Silk Road, and the source of fabulous luxury items. European joint-stock trading companies, such as the British East India Company and the Dutch East India Company (VOC), were eager to elbow their way in on this ancient exchange system. 

European consumers were crazy for Chinese silks, porcelain, and tea, but China wanted nothing to do with any European manufactured goods.  However, early in the 19th century, the British East India Company hit upon a second form of payment  yet acceptable to the Chinese traders: opium from British India. This opium, primarily produced in Bengal, was stronger than the type traditionally used in Chinese medicine; in addition, Chinese users began to smoke the opium rather than eating the resin, which produced a more powerful high. By some estimates, as many as 90% of the young males along China’s east coast were addicted to smoking opium by the 1830s.


 In August 1842 the British and the Chinese concluded the Treaty of Nanking. In 1858 China was forced to sign the Treaty of Tiensin. For the Qing Dynasty, the Second Opium War marked the beginning of a slow descent into oblivion that ended with the abdication of Emperor Puyi in 1911.  It has been difficult for the Chinese to forget the humiliation at the hands of then European powers. It is no surprise for Xi-Jinping’s ambition, however unrealistic it can be under the present circumstances, more so due to his lack of experience in dealing with the lessons learnt from the US and then Soviet Union, that Xi-Jinping would aspire to be treated as a super power.

Paging to current affairs one could refer to the article Evans Osnos in his article sliding towards A NEW COLD WAR he cites Nikki Haley, a Republican contender for the Presidency in 2024, signaling her backing for something close to regime change, and that “Communist China will end up on the ash heap of history.” China on the other hand cast the uproar as a sign of America’s decline. Its most senior diplomat, Wang Yi, described the balloon shoot-down as “borderline hysterical, and an utter misuse of military force.” 


Evans Osnos adds that not since the Berlin Wall fell has the world been cleaved so deeply by the kind of conflict that John F. Kennedy called a “long, twilight struggle” over the shape of its future. In broad terms, it is a schism between the realms of democracy and autocracy, pitting the U.S. and its allies against Russia and its dominant partner, China. Excepting the poor countries of South Asia and Africa who have swallowed 


Chinese Belt and Road Initiative because these countries cannot afford the cost of infrastructural developments, some with reservations of UN vote on Russian invasion is taken as an example, who swallowed hook, line and sinker, may be staring at a possible Sri Lankan scenario in near or distant future.

A reinvigorated NATO, at its summit, to which leaders of Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand were invited, voiced unprecedented concern about China’s ambitions. Meanwhile, the Biden Administration has strengthened military ties with Australia, Japan, and India who has territorial dispute with China and plans to expand military activities in the Philippines, to bolster its ability to defend Taiwan. But the war has also delineated the limits of U.S. influence. Despite Russia’s brutality in Ukraine, it has maintained, or reinforced, ties with a host of nations. India, which is working with the U.S. to counter China, nevertheless relies heavily on weapons and oil from Russia, and has quintupled trade with it. 


Former United States Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice warned Republicans eyeing a run for president in 2024 of the dangers of appeasing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s conquest of Ukraine arguing that history has left stark examples of what happens when imperial aggression is left unchecked. Rice continues to urge the US to recognize that the Chinese-Russian relationship is perhaps more strategic than many in the US had thought, that it really is a relationship that is aimed at the heart of US power in the world. 


Critics have pointed fingers at John Mearsheimer for the wrong US policy towards Russia arguing that the West has failed to understand Russia’s security concerns and has provoked unnecessary conflict with Moscow. He has also criticized the West’s efforts to isolate Russia economically and diplomatically, arguing that such policies are counterproductive and are unlikely to change Russian behavior. He has argued that the United States should engage with Russia in a more constructive way, acknowledging Russia’s legitimate security concerns and seeking to find common ground on issues such as arms control and counterterrorism. Should one also take seriously the recent utterings of former Russian president, prime minister, and current Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev’s threats to the West that the continued supply of arms to Ukraine will lead to atomic Armageddon? Added is Vladimir Putin’s withdrawal from the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty – potentially triggering a revamped arms race.  Putin added that “If the United States conducts tests, then we will. No one should have dangerous illusions that global strategic parity can be destroyed,” .


 Harvard luminary Joseph Nye  Jr’s article in Project Syndicate illuminates that  even if Xi was the predictable product of a Leninist party system, there remains a question about timing. Modernization theory – and South Korea and Taiwan’s real-world experience – suggests that when per capita income approaches $10,000, a middle class will emerge, and autocracy becomes harder to maintain, compared to the poor peasant society that came before. But how long does this process take? While Marx argued that it took time, Lenin was more impatient, and believed that historical developments could be accelerated by a vanguard exercising control over society. 


Despite Xi’s talk of Marxism-Leninism, it is clearly Lenin who is prevailing over Marx in today’s China. Did the engagement strategy’s mistake lie in expecting meaningful change within two decades, rather than a half-century or more? It is worth remembering that when it comes to generations of CPC leadership, Xi is only the fifth. And as the China expert Orville Schell argues, it is “patronizing to assume that Chinese citizens will prove content to gain wealth and power alone without those aspects of life that other societies commonly consider fundamental to being human.” Unfortunately, policymakers are always under time pressure and must formulate strategic objectives for the here and now. The question for the years ahead is whether Joe Biden can implement his policies in ways that do not foreclose the possibility of more benign future scenarios, even while recognizing that they are distant.

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