Connecting a series of recent major news events, I believe many people can see that the situation is likely to develop much more serious and dangerous than expected. The broad logic may be as follows: First, the intelligence brought by the defected key figures of the CCP has seriously shaken the U.S. side, making it realize that the danger Xi Jinping poses to the U.S. and the world order is not only beyond the original assessment, but also more urgent. One of the most important factors is that in the face of the new intelligence, the U.S. side can no longer lay low the possibility that the virus originated from the laboratory, and once the U.S. takes a strong stance on the traceability of the virus Once the U.S. hardens its stance on virus traceability, it will inevitably exacerbate tensions between the U.S. and China to the point of potentially triggering an early full-scale showdown. And since February, that is, since the fabled defection, various diplomatic and domestic manifestations by Xi and China have continued to confirm and reinforce the latest U.S. judgment.
Along this logic, it is better to understand why Biden has been in no hurry at all these past few months to ease U.S.-China tensions, especially to meet Xi Jinping, but has instead gone all out to coordinate with allies to organize a new mechanism to encircle China at a surprisingly fast pace, extending an olive branch even to Putin. Now we see that once Biden completed the basic deployment to contain China, he immediately sent a clear signal to Beijing that the United States would lead the international community and see the investigation into the traceability of the virus through to the end, ignoring Xi Jinping’s inevitable resistance. U.S. National Security Advisor Sullivan warned Beijing that it would face the consequences of being isolated from the world if it rejected the international investigation into the traceability of the virus. The most important implication of this warning is that the United States is fully aware not only that Xi is unlikely to accept a genuine international investigation, but also of the enormous risks the United States could pose if it issued this warning. Given this, why did Biden not choose to continue to delay the strategy of tracing the virus back to its source? I think it was the information provided by the defectors that left no U.S. political leader with no choice, the political logic of paper over fire, as I said. While fraud and concealment do often occur in a democracy, it is very difficult to cover up with one hand.
The question is, is the United States ready for a full-scale showdown with China? I suppose not, but Xi Jinping is also not ready for a full-scale showdown with the United States. In this case, the pattern of U.S.-China confrontation faces not only great medium- and long-term uncertainty, but also very great short-term uncertainty. Neither Washington nor Beijing wants an immediate showdown, but there are many crises on both sides, especially on the Chinese side, that are difficult to control, and that is the most significant reason for the current dire situation.
Over the weekend, the U.S. side suddenly provided Taiwan with 2.5 million doses of vaccines, three times what it had promised not long ago. This is not at all for humanitarian reasons, but rather because they do not want political and economic turmoil in Taiwan to overlap and resonate with all the other major risks, visible and invisible. One of the visible risks to the world right now is a renewed worsening of the epidemic, including the Chinese epidemic, with its impact on the global economy. The recent impact of the Delta variant on Shenzhen and Guangdong has already had an impact on global shipping, and if the problems at the Taishan nuclear power plant continue to fester, the economic impact of a forced shutdown, though not to the point of a nuclear accident, could ripple around the world.
Of course, the risks from all the crises combined cannot be compared to the risks that could be posed by the political situation in China. The United States and the West now realize that one of the reasons they greatly underestimated Xi Jinping’s ability to coerce the world into submission by going down with him is that they do not readily understand China’s political culture, which has no regard for the value of life and is therefore highly suicidal. Why would Xi Jinping make such an “irrational” choice? More importantly, how is it that more than a billion Chinese people have been able to create such a brilliant economic miracle, yet no one has stood up to Xi Jinping to stop him from making such a destructive choice? Although American and Western leaders cannot understand the reasons behind this, they cannot help but face the real risk of Xi Jinping’s China “playing for its life” (fighting for its life) with the world.