Saturday, June 28, 2008
The International Relations field of study has been abundant with talk of an epic scale 'clash of civilizations' between the United States and China. If there seems to be some looming conflict, a natural question emerges- what will be the nature of a Chinese-American War? Some rhetoric hints at another World War fought in a much less conventional manner. Some see the future war with China as another Cold War a la the 50 year conflict with the USSR. The real question is- what series of actions and foreign policy moves could propel two giant nations into a global battle? Many look to China's growing economy as a serious threat to the power of the West. Others see China potentially staging a campaign to establish itself as a regional hegemon in East Asia. Some feel that actions by the West may appear threatening and imperialist to China. A possibility I would like to posit is that the future conflict with China will be a global struggle over energy resources. Call it the "Green War" if you will. Both growing nations will face enormous pressures from an ever shrinking supply of oil and the economic backlash from rampant prices. The two nations will seek various avenues to capture more energy to feed their economies, often finding themselves in the same places. In the end, the urgency of their pursuits will lead to nationalistic efforts to secure the upper hand in the global energy market. In many ways, the United States has experience with such a conflict, competing in a "Space Race" with the USSR. And in a very similar manner, perhaps the United States and China will employ fabricated nationalistic concerns to rally massive support for their initiatives, leaving military action on the sidelines.
This should not stand as an endorsement of such a scheme, but carefully consider: how much progress in the United States has been spurred by the sentiments of global conflict? We can look back all the way to the War of 1812 and the Spanish-American War to see how the United States emerged from these with a superior state of the union. Unlike these wars, the US may never need to fire a gun in an energy race with China. Or perhaps the IR experts are wrong, and we may never engage with China on an epic scale...unless the government decides that a fabricated conflict without military action is just what we need to kick into high gear.