Is World War Three between China and the West inevitable?


It should be a strategic priority to nurture and strengthen the group of regional powers directly affected by Chinese behaviour

On one of Margaret Thatcher’s trips to Beijing in the 1980s, Charles Moore tells us in his recent biography, the Chinese leadership hoped to pressure Britain over Hong Kong. They resorted to a most diabolical scheme: withholding gin and tonic from Dennis Thatcher. Though they later relented on such cruelty, the anecdote tells us that China is willing to turn the screws when it deems necessary. David Cameron knows this well. It has taken him years of fawning to win back Chinese favour, after he committed the sin of meeting China’s bête noire, the Dalai Lama, in 2012. But while it’s easy for us to apply an economic salve to human rights wounds, China’s meteoric rise presents more fundamental problems for others.

David Cameron’s rift with China could cost UK billions  

David Cameron is still trying to recover from the diplomatic error of meeting the Dalai Lama in 2012  Photo: PA

The United States’ large military presence in Asia has underpinned seventy years of prosperity and stability – with China one of the beneficiaries. Today that presence is threatened by the increasing reach and sophistication of Chinese military forces, such as new missiles that can strike American aircraft carriers in the Pacific. Over the past several years, China has staked a claim to large swathes of the South China Sea, built huge man-man islands and put military facilities on them, and demanded that other militaries keep out of a 12-nautical mile exclusion zone around these. This threatens the fundamental principle of freedom of navigation, through an area that conveys 30 percent of the world’s shipping. While other Asian countries have their own dubious claims, few have alienated so many others in so little time.

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