The fifth round of the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue began this Thursday in Washington. This China-US "Brotherhood" does involve a lot of talk - with no perceptible action. US Think Tankland is trying to convey the impression that Beijing is now in a more fragile position relative to Washington compared with the post-financial crisis environment in 2009. Nonsense.
It's as if the ongoing NSA (global) scandal never happened; Edward Snowden exposed how the US government has turned against its own citizens even while it keeps spying on virtually the whole planet. Then there's the meme of the Chinese economy
being "in trouble", when in fact Beijing is launching a long-reaching, complex strategy to calibrate the effects of a relative economic slowdown.
Finally, the supposed "aggressive Chinese behavior" in terms of Asian security is just spin. Beijing is building up its navy, of course - yet at the same time both China and selected members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are fine-tuning their tactics ahead of multilateral talks about a code of conduct for any serious problems in the South China Sea. Beijing would be foolish to go for diplomacy of the gunboat variety - which would certainly attract a US countercoup.
Bogged down, all over
Beijing has clearly interpreted the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's "liberation" of Libya - now reverted into failed state status; US support for the destruction of Syria; and the "pivoting" to Asia as all interlinked, targeting China's ascension and devised to rattle the complex Chinese strategy of an Eurasian energy corridor.
Yet it does not seem to be working. As Asia Times Online reported, the Iran-Pakistan (IP) pipeline may well end up as IPC, "C" being an extension to Xinjiang in western China. Beijing also knows very well how the proposed Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline has been a key reason for the emphatic attack on Syria orchestrated by actors such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Beijing calculates that if Bashar al-Assad stays and the US$10 billion pipeline ever gets completed (certainly with Chinese and Russian financial help) the top client may end up being Beijing itself, and not Western Europe.
Considering its strategic relationship with Islamabad, Beijing is also very much aware of any US moves to stir up trouble in geo-strategically crucial Balochistan in Pakistan - with a possible overspill to neighboring Sistan-Balochistan province in Iran. In parallel, Beijing interprets US bluster and intransigence about Iran's nuclear program as a cover story to upset its solid energy security partnership with Tehran.
Regarding Afghanistan, the corridors at the Zhongnanhai in Beijing must be echoing with laughter as Washington backtracks no less than 16 years, to the second Bill Clinton administration - an eternity in politics - to talk to the Taliban in Doha essentially about one of the oldest Pipelinestan gambits. "We want a pipeline" (the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India, TAPI), says Washington. "We want our cut", the Taliban reply. This is politics as Groundhog Day.
The problem is Washington has absolutely nothing to offer the Taliban. The Taliban, on the other hand, will keep their summer offensive schedule, knowing full well they will be free to do whatever they please after President Hamid Karzai slides into oblivion. As for the Washington notion that Islamabad will be able to keep the Afghan Taliban in check, even the goats in the Hindu Kush are laughing about it.