Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu during his speech at the 'Shangri-La Dialogue' conference, held in Singapore, on June 4, 2023. Photo: AP

Once again the issue of Taiwan increases tensions between China and the United States.

Following the passage of a US ship through the Taiwan Strait this weekend, China responded with military maneuvers.

CNN reported that a close encounter between a Chinese military vessel and the U.S. destroyer Chung-Hoon "almost resulted in a collision."

The Chinese Foreign Ministry, for its part, rejected the criticism of the United States to its maneuvers and assured that they were executed with professionalism, as a "necessary response to a provocation."

Wang Wenbin, spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry, stressed that the Chinese side never proceeded dangerously, its actions are based on international laws and respect freedom of navigation.

The Beijing official called the military operations "completely justified, lawful, safe and professional," while demanding that Washington stop creating problems in the area, underscoring his government's determination to protect national sovereignty.

Beijing has reiterated that the one-China principle is the consensus of the international community and constitutes the premise and foundation for the establishment and development of diplomatic relations between China and the United States. However, in recent months the confrontations between the two countries regarding the status of Taiwan have increased.

Some 181 countries have established diplomatic relations with China on the basis of the one-China principle, including the US.

Recently, during a meeting of China's National Security Commission, President Xi Jinping said, "We must be prepared for worst-case scenarios and extreme scenarios, be aware of potential dangers, and be ready to withstand the great test of strong winds, choppy waters, and even dangerous storms."

In this way, the president called for modernizing China's national security system and capacity, and preparing "for real combat and facing practical problems."

He also pointed out that "the complexity and severity of the national security problems" facing the Asian giant today "have increased drastically."

China "disturbing" for the West

Speaking to CNBC by the defense chiefs of Germany, Australia and Canada on the sidelines of the security conference known as the Shangri-La Dialogue, which was held this weekend in Singapore, China's growing dominance may worry countries around the world. However, they agreed, talks with Beijing must continue.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said cutting ties with China is not an option. "It's not a solution to disengage. It is not a solution to build new walls and erect new barricades. We have to find a form of coexistence that means not depending too much on anyone. And along the way do not reject dialogue and cooperation," he stressed.

For his part, Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles indicated that China is Australia's largest trading partner, although the relationship between the two nations remains "complex" due to Beijing's military presence in the region.

"China is carrying out a major military escalation, really the largest conventional military escalation we've seen by any country since the end of World War II," Richard Marles said, adding that "all the more reason to talk."

He also stressed the importance of formal defense talks with China to avoid misunderstandings and have a clear idea of what each country's strategic intention is.

Meanwhile, Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand stressed that we must "work together as partners and allies to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific, recognizing that China has become an increasingly disruptive world power."

"Open lines of communication are important, but at the same time there are actions undertaken by China that we must look at with our eyes wide open," he concluded.

Most Western countries recognize that militarily China is now a force to be reckoned with. In recent years, its People's Liberation Army has made huge strides in technology and innovation, as well as numbers.

However, Washington does not seem to care, and does not cease to add fuel to the fire with an issue that it knows is a priority for Chinese policy.

The strategy of "containment" has among its main focal points the issue of Taiwan – through the sale of arms and encouragement to separatist forces – and hindering China's relations with its neighbors. To which is added the creation of military alliances in the noses of Beijing, as well as the constant realization of joint military exercises with countries such as Japan and South Korea, among others.

The Pentagon's proposed budget of $842 billion for fiscal year 000 includes $2024.9 billion for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative; This reaffirms Washington's goal of "confronting" China's influence in the Indo-Pacific and strengthening its role in the region.

It has been announced that this amount will be used for the construction of air bases, the development of a new missile warning and tracking architecture, as well as the multinational exchange of information and training.

"A China-U.S. war would be a disaster"

In his speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue, General Li said China will not allow the naval patrols of the United States and its allies to be "a pretext to exercise hegemony in navigation." Photo: AFP

At the Shangri-La Dialogue itself, China's Defense Minister General Li Shangfu stated that "a China-US war would be an unbearable disaster for the world"; A statement that the Western media gave themselves the task of cataloging as a "warning".

In his speech, General Li Shangfu referred to the arms race waged by "some countries" in Asia. However, he considered that the world is big enough for the coexistence of powers such as China and the United States, so both nations should seek a common understanding.

The constant provocations towards China respond to the US strategy of "containment" of the Asian giant.

China's senior military official said Washington maintains a "Cold War mentality," and argued that the U.S. is "greatly increasing security risks" regionally and internationally.

Li's words were clearly linked to US accusations about "unsafe" military maneuvers near a US military vessel in the Taiwan Strait. But who challenges whom?

In the alleged friction that occurred on Saturday, the Chinese vessel sailed -according to Washington- about 140 meters away from the American one. There were also boats from Canada.

China criticized U.S. countries for "deliberately provoking risks." The United States and Canada said they were sailing where international law permitted.

Giant prepared against aggression

In his speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue, General Li said China will not allow the naval patrols of the United States and its allies to be "a pretext to exercise hegemony in navigation."

Li stressed that thanks to joint efforts of countries in the region, the situation in the surrounding seas has remained generally stable, and regional exchanges and cooperation have been expanded and strengthened.

Some countries outside the region exercise their "navigation hegemony" in the name of "freedom of navigation," he said, adding that "they want to muddy the waters to pocket profits."

The general stressed that countries in the region must be alert and firmly reject such acts. "Solidarity between countries in the region needs care," he added.

He said China and the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are connected by ties of geography, culture and family. "It's natural that there are disagreements between neighbors from time to time."

But, Li said, while countries in the region are engaged in communication and consultation to properly settle differences, some countries outside the region continue to sow discord and fan the flames.

In that regard, China's representative at the largest international security dialogue in Asia urged countries in the region to remain insightful and sensible about the benefits and risks. "The prospects for regional peace and cooperation are promising" along the path of cooperation, he said.

NATO-type military alliances

U.S. President Joe Biden attends a trilateral meeting with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese during the Aukus Summit at Point Loma Naval Base in San Diego, California, March 13, 2023. Photo: AFP

At another point in his speech, China's defense minister criticized the establishment of "NATO-like" military alliances in the Asia-Pacific region.

"In essence, attempts to push for NATO-like (alliances) in the Asia-Pacific are a way to hijack countries in the region and exaggerate conflicts and confrontations, which will only plunge the Asia-Pacific into a whirlwind of disputes and conflicts," Li said.

"Today's Asia-Pacific region needs open and inclusive cooperation, and not partnering in small cliques. We must not forget the grave disasters that the two world wars inflicted on the peoples of all countries, and we must not allow such a tragic history to repeat itself," he added.

Washington sees China as "the most serious long-term challenge to the international order."

The general did not explicitly name any country, but his words were interpreted by the media as a reference to the United States, which has been shoring up alliances and partnerships in the region.

The United States is a member of the AUKUS Alliance along with Australia and the United Kingdom. It is also a member of the QUAD group, which includes Australia, India and Japan.

China has denounced these alliances as threatening to damage regional peace and intensify the arms race in the region.

Relationships in a difficult time

In recent months, relations between China and the United States have gone through very difficult times, mainly because Washington sees the Asian nation as its main strategic rival.

To cite just a few examples, let's remember Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan, which was repeated by many other representatives of the US government, which caused important confrontations between the two countries.

Also the incident with the weather research balloon of China, which in early February accidentally entered the airspace of the United States and was shot down by Pentagon fighter jets off the coast of South Carolina, which was followed by an avalanche of publications in the Western press about the alleged plans of espionage on third parties by Beijing.

Then, the constant allusions to relations between China and Russia, the alleged axis of evil that "colludes" against Washington and its NATO partners. The war of the dollar vs the yuan. The chip war...

These are just a few examples of the growing tension between the world's two largest economies.

Washington sees China as "the most serious long-term challenge to the international order", as "a power with extraordinary reach, influence and ambition"; But it has a domestic and foreign policy agenda "worrisome" for U.S. interests.

China has reiterated that Taiwan is the first red line that should not be crossed in relations between Washington and Beijing. Foreign Minister Qin Gang has described it: "If the United States does not stop and continue to accelerate on the wrong path, there are no limits that can prevent it from derailing and then there will undoubtedly be conflict and confrontation. Who will bear the catastrophic consequences?"