Guest Editorials, Opinion

Confrontation with China no longer seems a distant scenario

Ominous signs are growing about the potential for direct military conflict between the United States and China. It’s not every day when a top military commander predicts in a memo that military confrontation could happen by 2025 with Beijing. But that’s exactly what Gen. Michael A. Minihan warned a few days ago. Minihan heads the U.S. Air Mobility Command headquartered at Scott Air Force Base, which helps remind folks in the Midwest that, even though China is way over there, any talk of war can have major reverberations.

War with China has been and probably remains an extremely remote possibility. But the threat looms ever larger, particularly after a Chinese intelligence balloon was discovered maneuvering in the skies above the northern United States. Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed a visit to Beijing because of it.

Tensions have escalated with China ever since its construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea and subsequent construction of naval bases. China then began interfering with international shipping, claiming encroachment on sovereign Chinese territory.

New tensions are focused on China’s increasingly bold threats to take military action against Taiwan. The Biden administration is boosting military aid to Taiwan and forging tighter military ties with Japan and other Asian Pacific nations. The Philippines in January reached an agreement to restore the U.S. military presence there.

Against that backdrop, the Feb. 1 memo from Minihan takes on far more significance. Referring to Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping, Minihan wrote: “I hope I am wrong. My gut tells me we will fight in 2025. Xi secured his third term and set his war council in October 2022.” Minihan outlined specific schedules for his command staff to ramp up preparations in coming months, warning against complacency. “Go faster. Drive readiness, integration, and agility for ourselves and the Joint Force to deter, and if required, defeat China.”

The Pentagon distanced itself from the memo, but all the other preparations and China’s balloon episode speak to a scenario belying any talk of calm and cordial diplomacy. Unless cooler heads prevail, the threat of a direct superpower confrontation is looming closer to reality.

This editorial first appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. This commentary should be considered another point of view and not necessarily the opinion or editorial policy of The Dominion Post.