- Tensions between Beijing and Washington put pressure on friends and neighbours of both countries to pick a side
- Analysts examine how allegiances may align if the shouting match between the two powers becomes a shooting one
This is the last in a four-part series examining the growing tensions between China and the United States and how the situation could escalate into a full-blown military conflict. You can read parts one, two and three here.The souring of relations between China and the US – now at their worst in more than 40 years – has led to increased speculation the shouting match between the global adversaries could turn into a shooting war, one that will drag in other countries.
While public comments by governments have made clear no country wants to see a direct clash between the two, military analysts say a conflict would force nations to choose sides. And most would go with the United States, because of existing treaties, alliances, and rivalries, they said.
Over the past two years, frictions between China and the US – both nuclear armed and with two of the world’s biggest armies – have ranged from trade disputes to human rights, technology theft, Taiwan, and control of the South China Sea.This year, the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the arguments, with a US presidential election in November bringing additional stresses into the mix as China becomes a target for the competing Democrat and Republican parties.
Timothy Heath, a senior international defence researcher at the Rand Corporation, an independent US think tank, said the tensions were polarising the Asia region, and both Beijing and Washington were leaning on nations in Asia and elsewhere for support.