Besides the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Asia today has many potential risks of great conflict. China’s aggressive aggression to the world has become ever more worrying, possibly signaling the end of a period of relatively stable and lasting peace in the region after the Cold War.
A few years ago, similar predictions were made as the conflict intensified in the South China Sea and South China. However, after that, the dispute did not lead to war.
At the present time, concerns about instability in the region have become more certain based on the progress of three recent events.
First, there is a border conflict between China and India in the Ladakh region of the Himalayas. The number of casualties caused by this fighting has far exceeded the number recorded in China’s prominent border disputes over the years.
In fact, fighting of any kind in the Himalayas is seen as a turning point in China’s relationship with India and the rest of Asia. China’s restraint on the use of force has exceeded its limit.
Second, Beijing is increasingly showing off its strength in the South China Sea with much more intensity and aggression than before. In recent years, the combat capability of the Chinese navy has been greatly enhanced and expanded. In addition, Beijing’s strategy of building infrastructure on the islands is like a blunt statement of China’s actual presence in these disputed waters.
Beijing has rejected claims made by both Vietnam and the Philippines in the South China Sea, and has voiced opposition to praising US forces in the region. So far, although such moves have not led to the same fighting as at the Sino-Indian border, they have significantly escalated tensions in Southeast Asia.
Third, many observers conclude that China’s enactment of a new National Security Law for Hong Kong is contrary to the Basic Law. This shows that Xi is no longer following the rules his predecessors agreed to. He became more aggressive and stronger than them in quelling threats to China’s territorial integrity.
With the new law, the Beijing government’s presence was strengthened in Hong Kong, the police were given privileges previously unavailable, and a series of arrests of protesters had occurred.
Trying to put Hong Kong on the path of dictatorship speaks volumes about the Chinese leadership’s new approach to the rest of the world, especially Taiwan. Many have realized that Beijing places a priority on national unity wherever they scramble. The prospect of escalating the conflict between Beijing and Taipei has increased.
These trends have shown that the risk of conflict in Asia is likely to happen soon. The status quo disruption is ongoing but not yet complete, but it will be complete if the US and China escalate their military conflict directly in the South China Sea.
The situation could also get worse if China intensifies fighting with Japan over the Diaoyu / Senkaku Islands; or when Beijing fiercely enforced the Security Law to suppress democracy in Hong Kong, ending its special relationship with the rest of the world.
Finally, if Beijing broadens its position similar to Hong Kong’s policy toward Taiwan, it will most likely lead to war in the Taiwan Strait.
It would not be surprising if these were to happen tomorrow, when warning signals are everywhere.