By Dr Subhash Kapila
China and Russia stand rattled and fret on their inability to dent
United States global predominance in 2019 as reflected in my earlier
writings, the United States short of war, has “aggressively unleashed
its new economic arsenal to assert its power” as the latest issue of The
Economist so puts it.
Analytically, the United States seems to be paying back to China and
Russia for their military brinkmanship on their respective peripheries
by “poker style brinkmanship” applied effectively by economic strategies
as opposed to military strategies, and that to, to effect.
Analytically, China and Russia have no matching economic weapons to hurl
at United States new brand of power games at the global level.
Nor can China and Russia marshal other major powers like Japan and
India also under US trade pressures from United States to side with them
to counter US economic warfare moves. This simply arises from pragmatic
calculations by Japan and India that in longer term perspectives and
their respective national security interests it would be more prudent to
not let denouement overtake their strategic partnerships with the
The above strategic reality checks of Japan and India emerges from
their assessments that comparatively their strategic convergences tilt
heavily in favour of the United States, rather than with China or
Russia. China and Russia blew their steam of pent up frustrations where
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Putin made strident
declarations at St Petersburg in Russia on the occasion of celebrations
of 70th Anniversary of establishment of Russia-China diplomatic
relations and also the Economic Summit where the Chinese President was
the Guest Of Honour.
Notably, despite the strident declarations made by Chinese and
Russian Presidents highly publicised in the media and not being repeated
therefore, no contours of economic countermoves by them to dent US
global dominance in all domains were forthcoming. In fact, the Chinese
President parting response was that Trade Wars unleashed by United
States could be resolved by “dialogue and consultations”.
Analytically, in an overall assessment, it can be asserted that both
China and Russia feel disempowered by US President Trump’s new strategy
of economic warfare – a domain where the United States enjoyed
comparative asymmetric advantages over China and Russia. Russia is
nowhere near the United States in economic strength.
Assessments widely accepted also indicate that China also with its
trillion dollar economy is still far from United States levels of
economic strength. Notably, in global currency trading deals, 88% is
reported to be in US dollars. This underwrites US economic dominance
along with dominance of global financial institutions like the IMF.
The stark deduction from the above is that neither China nor Russian
singly or in unison as China-Russia Strategic Nexus are in a position to
effectively offer economic counterslaughts against the United States
new armoury of economic warfare weapons.
China and Russia could in a weak defence at St Petersburg could only
stress on a rules-based international order under the over-arching
umbrella of the United Nations. The United States has never cared for
the United Nations and similarly both China and Russia are more in
breach of UN conventions than in honouring them as recent developments
on Russia’s Western peripheries indicate and the sordid record of
China’s unprovoked aggression in the South China Sea against its weaker
neighbours like Vietnam and the Philippines.
China and Russia fret in deep frustration at US President Trump’s
assertive economic warfare power games because in 2019 the United States
has put China and Russia on notice firmly that the United States can no
longer be trifled with or taken for granted. This particularly applies
more to China as China had run wildly in the Indo Pacific Asia in the
last decade and a half when the United States stood strategically
distracted by its being stuck in the Iraq and Afghanistan quagmires.
China during this time in the Indo Pacific strategic vacuum so caused
by the United States built up unchecked a blue-water Navy and indulged
in aggression in South China Sea and East China Sea.
The questions that need to be analysed are many in terms of China and
Russia respones to United States unleashing its arsenal of economic
weapons, but two questions would suffice to be answered in this context.
Could China persist to continue on the same path of misreading United
States policies earlier centred on ‘Risk Aversion’ strategies? Could
Russia side with China to raise the costs for the United States in the
China would be grievously misreading American intentions currently in
play. The United States is now in the process of retrieving lost ground
in the South China Sea by not checkmating China earlier. While one does
not foresee the United States undertaking military actions against
Chinese islands/artificial fortified islands in South China Sea one does
foresee the United States intensifying its challenges to China’s
claimed sovereignty over South China Sea by sizeable increase of FNOIPS
patrols by US Navy ships, US Air Force flights along with those of
allies like Japan.
In tandem, the United States is actively engaged in assisting and
motivating Japan and India towards sizeable military buildup of their
Armed Forces. All this is geared towards providing counterweights
Russia is being subjected to US sanctions imposed after Crimea
annexation and no let-up is in sight. The United States continues to
besiege Russian backed Syrian President—long target of US regime
change moves. United States is also besieging Iran which has close links
with China and Russia. One can expect further intensifications in
While my past assessments showed that Russia would not be an active
participant in any Chinese military adventurism against the United
States but in past weeks visuals of Russian Navy ships buzzing US Navy
ships in South China Sea signals a change in Russian postures even
though optical and transient for time being. But the potential for
military challenges in support of China by Russia cannot be ruled out
with changed challenges posed to them by the United States.
Analytically, one could assert that with every riposte by China and
Russia in terms of military moves to unsettle the United States to
divert from its strategy of economic warfare to gain its national
security interests, the United States could use its economic warfare
armoury that much more intensified, regardless of the tangential impact
on world markets and globalisation efforts.
Concluding, it needs to be emphasised that China and Russia though
rattled and fretful of not being able to fling economic ripostes in kind
against the United States, are unlikely to submit tamely to American
demands to fall in line with US national security interests. Economic
warfare now emerges as a potent weapon underwriting military strategies.
China and Russia will have to factor-in this in their US policy
formulations. Notably the global economic forecasts are more negative
for China and Russia and that is a force multiplier for the US economic
warfare arsenal against China and Russia. United States dominance in
Indo Pacific Asia will continue therefore despite any limited challenges
posed by China and Russia.