June 5, 2024 MEMRI Daily Brief No. 607

China Has Left The U.S. No Choice But To Increase Its Deterrence Posture

June 5, 2024 | By Andrew J. Masigan*
China | MEMRI Daily Brief No. 607

Five shifts in global conditions over the last 50 years have defined the relationship between the U.S. and China today. First, the center of economic activity has migrated east with Asia now comprising 37 percent of global GDP. Second, China has emerged as an economic, military, and diplomatic power in itself. Third, from a unipolar world, where the U.S. was the lone superpower that dictated the world order, a transition has occurred, where China now shares influence. Fourth, certain countries in the global south are gaining gravitas and asserting their influence on global affairs. India, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil are among them. Fifth, whereas Western culture used to be the global benchmark of the civilized world, today, a multi-cultural world is upon us with cultures of emerging economies coming to the mainstream.

The Allied Armies launch a general offensive on Peking Castle, by Torajirō Kasai (1900)

China Is Fighting To Recover From Its "Century Of National Humiliation"

All these threaten America's predominance. As the reigning superpower, America is doing what every threatened empire would do – resisting change to maintain its lone superpower status.

China, on the other hand, is coming from a different place. The country is fighting to recover from its "century of national humiliation"[1] – between 1842 and 1949 China lost a series of wars against foreign powers.[2] With new money and military gravitas, it feels entitled to regain its status as the world's prevalent civilization, like it was during the Tang Dynasty.

Under normal circumstances, the U.S. would never hurt, hinder, or hamper the rapid development of emerging nations. It did not stand in the way of the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, or Vietnam despite their Muslim and communist persuasions. But China is different. Under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), China developed ambitions to gain political, economic, military, and cultural dominion over others, or hegemonic ambitions, as it is called these days. Hence, China has become too dangerous to let it have its way on the world.

Worse, the CCP has become brazen in its conduct, as it pursues its ambitions. This is evident in its continued defiance of the global legal system and its persistent bad behavior in commerce & trade. It has engaged in destructive behavior too such as political interference, disinformation campaigns and leading poorer countries into debt traps.[3] It has used economic and military coercion to subsume the territories of its neighbors. Under the CCP's command, the pursuit of hegemony comes at the expense of others.

China has made no secret of its intentions to displace the U.S. as the world's predominant superpower, and to change the world order. Once established, we can expect the CCP to dismantle the U.S.-led rules-based system, embodied in the treaties and conventions of the United Nations, and replace them with a system that reflects Maoist-Marxist values. The existing frameworks for diplomacy, peace and security, territorial and maritime domains, trade and commerce, and criminal justice will shift to one designed by the CCP.

Moreover, the CCP seeks to replace the present financial system whose origins are the Bretton Woods Agreement of 1944. It will be recalled that the Bretton Woods Agreement established the U.S. dollar as the world's reserve currency and the standard currency used for international trade. The CCP has been vocal about its plan to replace the U.S. dollar with the yuan or at least a basket of currencies, including the yuan. In the latter scenario, the yuan will inevitably become the world's predominant currency by virtue of China's share of international trade.

China's ambitions are a threat for countries that value democracy, liberty, free-market capitalism, and the rules-based framework for international discourse.

Having Dominion Over The Indo Pacific Is The Power Base China Needs

Not only does China view Taiwan as the last symbol of its "century of humiliation," but a unification with the mainland would accelerate China's competence in high-tech industries. Militarily, subsuming Taiwan breaks the U.S. line of defense in the first island chain, thereby extending China's military reach. These are among the reasons why the CCP is dead set on unifying with Taiwan, even by force, as Xi has declared many times.[4]

Should China succeed in annexing Taiwan, it will signal that the U.S. is incapable of defending its allies, its democratic values, and the rules-based world order. It will give China a great moral and strategic advantage.

Correspondingly, if China is allowed to control the East and South China Seas,[5] it will give the CCP unprecedented command over world trade and the Indo-Pacific itself, which is precisely the power base China needs to project its influence worldwide. It brings it one step closer to dethroning the U.S.

Keeping The Status Quo

The best scenario is the status quo,[6] and engagement is key towards achieving this. However, great distrust between the U.S. and China looms. What one views as aggressive behavior is deemed by the other as mere defensive moves.

Still, attempts have been made by America to engage with China. Last year, President Joe Biden invited the Chinese president Xi Jinping for bilateral talks on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Conference.[7] Security and trade issues dominated the discussions.

Sadly, it was a case of one step forward, two steps back. Just weeks after the talks, China doubled down on its bad behavior. This was evident in the South China Sea, where it engaged in even more aggressive behavior towards the Philippines, a country that shares a Mutual Defense Treaty with the U.S. It was succinct signal that the CCP is not ceding to President Biden's overtures for engagement. The CCP's brazen ways have made it impossible for engagement to work.

Such behavior has left the U.S. no choice but to increase its deterrence posture, even if it means escalating tensions. So, for now, the world must live with high tensions and the specter of military confrontation in the Pacific.

*Andrew J. Masigan is the MEMRI China Media Studies Project Special Advisor. He is a Manila-based economist, businessman, and political columnist for The Philippine Star. Masigan's articles in MEMRI are also published in The Philippine Star.


[1] Influential Chinese Professor Jin Canrong said: "If the Taiwan issue is resolved, our century-old national humiliation will be completely turned over. Taiwan is the last chapter in our century-old national humiliation. Turning this page will be like turning over the century of humiliation." See Special Dispatch No. 9608, Influential Chinese Professor Jin Canrong: If China Successfully Takes Over Taiwan, We'll Replace The U.S. As The World's 'Big Boss,' October 26, 2021. See also Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1547, Presence Of The Past: 'National Humiliation' As A Central Theme In China's Worldview And Policies, By Prof. Vera Schwarcz, January 12, 2021.


[4] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 11375, All Eyes On Taiwan, June 4, 2024.

[5] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 11243, China's Militarization Of The South China Sea, April 2, 2024; Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Military Outlet: 'Japan's Perverse Actions, Such As Developing Offensive Military Strength... Will Seriously Threaten Regional Peace And Stability;' MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 11258, Japan's Defense Ministry: China Has Intensified Its 'Activities In The Maritime And Aerial Domains East China Sea, Pacific Ocean, And Sea Of Japan,' April 8, 2024.

[6] See MEMRI Daily Brief No. 406, Status Quo No More, By Heino Klinck, August 26, 2022.

[7], November 16, 2023.

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