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“Asia prepares for war”. In the Pacific, the scenario from 90 years ago is repeated

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For the second time in history, we observe a huge arms race off the western coast of the Pacific. Just like Japan 90 years ago, today China is trying to dominate this part of the world and push the influence of the USA and Europe out of it. The analogy is disturbing – but the memory of the Second World War can also help to avoid a new conflict on the largest of the earth’s oceans.

Xi Jinping he says he’s getting ready for war. The world should take him seriously,” warned the prestigious Foreign Affairs magazine on March 29. The Chinese leader actually spoke more about war than ever in a March series of meetings with top party and military leaders, and such militant language has not been heard in China since the days of Mao Zedong .

Over the past decade, China has already doubled its military spending, built the world’s largest naval force, and deployed a weapon that even the Americans struggle to create – hypersonic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. If that wasn’t enough, China is currently conducting more missile tests than the rest of the world combined, and is projected to at least double its nuclear arsenal over the next few years.

This rapid militarization and the rise of Chinese power alarmed almost all the other countries in the region, which as a result also intensively modernized their armed forces. Japan, after decades of disarmament and pacifism, is building one of the best armed forces in the world, Australia, together with Great Britain and the USA, creates a powerful underwater fleet of submarinesThailand, Philippines or South Korea increase the scale of joint military exercises with the Americans.

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In 2022, global defense spending according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) exceeded two trillion (million) dollars for the first time, and all three countries spending the most on defense participate in the competition in East Asia: United StatesChina and Indiawhich is quickly catching up with Japan. Thus, in Asia we are witnessing a massive arms race similar to that which took place just before and during the Second World War. The specter of the second war in the history of the world’s largest ocean – the Pacific – appears.

Valiant Shield 2020 military exercisesDavidshub – Codie Soule

SEE ALSO: Underwater nuclear coalition. A fleet is being created that can change the balance of power

Asian arms race

The first time there was such an arms race in the Pacific was in the 1930s and 1940s, when Japan tried to push American and European influence from all over East Asia and the western half of the Pacific – as far as Hawaii. At that time, Tokyo, like Beijing today, created the largest naval forces and developed modern types of weapons, such as the “long lance” (Type 93) – the best sea torpedo, or the famous Mitsubishi Zero – the best long-range fighters in the first years of the war. The Japanese militarization met with the reaction of the entire region, to which, among others, additional forces from the US and Europe.

Today, China is provoking a similar regional arms race, and their goals may seem disturbingly similar. Beijing, like Tokyo in the past, is also seeking to push American and European influence out of the region to complete its “national unification” and consolidate its central position in East Asia. Beijing counts on both strategic benefits by taking control of key islands and straits, and economic benefits by dominating Asian trade and taking over undersea deposits of natural resources. The genesis of the Japanese-induced war in the Pacific was very similar.

Military Situation in the Western PacificPAP/Reuters – Maciej Zieliński, Adam Ziemienowicz

SEE ALSO: Aircraft Carrier Race. Is Asia getting ready for war?

Indo-Pacific new center

The Pacific is even more important today than it was 90 years ago. In the past, this huge basin primarily divided, was a natural barrier separating Asia from both Americas. Today, it is quite the opposite, and the Pacific has become the most important basin for world trade – it transports more goods even than across the Atlantic.

Moreover, industrial fishing in the Pacific gained an unprecedented scale, and island, oceanic states gained importance in global politics for the first time in history. All thanks to their very extensive, exclusive economic zones, and places in the UN, where microscopic Vanuatu, Tonga or Palau have the same voice as Germany or Japan. Thanks to this, world powers today compete for their support by creating favorable coalitions at the UN that are useful for winning votes.

Therefore, in recent years, the concept of a new region has begun to function – the so-called Indo-Pacific, which is to be the world’s economic and population center. This area, stretching from the Indian Ocean to the Central Pacific, is now home to 60 percent of the world’s population. the world’s population and produces 2/3 of the world’s GDP.

That’s why it’s Indo-Pacific, not Europe or Near East, is considered by many to be a key area in the world power rivalry. Its importance was first noticed by the Americans, who recognized the Indo-Pacific as a region where the question of maintaining US hegemony and stopping the rise of China’s power would be decided. In 2019, Washington published its first comprehensive strategy for the region, even changing the official name of the Pacific Military Command from “Pacific Command” to “Indo-Pacific Command”. It was in the Indo-Pacific that a completely new, informal group of the United States, Japan, India and Australia (QUAD)which is connected by concern about the rise of China’s power.

The informal group QUAD was founded in 2007PAP – Maciej Zielinski

War for the Pacific

All this does not mean that a new great war in Asia is imminent. The situation around Taiwan is of greatest concern at the moment, the takeover of which – also by force – has been established by China as one of its official state goals. Open conflict over US-backed Taiwan potentially it could escalate into a US-China war in the Pacific, however, it is definitely not a foregone conclusion. Both Washington and Beijing are aware of the gigantic costs and risks such a war would entail.

SEE ALSO: Taiwan and China – what is it about? Is Taiwan a country and why is it so important. we answer

For the time being, the main consequence of the arms race is the formation of two powerful political and military blocs in the region, which could be simply described as China versus the rest of the world. The sense of the Chinese threat is bringing together even countries whose bilateral relations have been particularly difficult so far. And so we can observe, for example, making a connection U.S. military cooperation with Vietnamor exercises of Japanese fighters at the same airport from which in 1945 US bombers carrying atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki took off.

“Anxious Asia prepares for a war it hopes to prevent,” headlines a recent New York Times analysis that aptly sums up what’s happening in East Asia right now. The fact that the current situation may resemble the prelude of World War II in the Pacific does not mean that history must repeat itself. On the contrary: this memory should raise awareness of the importance of maintaining peace. Also among the Chinese.

SEE ALSO: Mighty ships and artificial islands. Chinese “Great Chessboard”

Main photo source: Davidshub – Codie Soule

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