It is often said that those who fail to learn from history are inevitably bound to repeat it. On Friday, Fox Business host Neil Cavuto pondered whether the United States could stumble into a war with China – rather than Russia – and face another “Pearl Harbor” moment, one that could even eclipse the 9/11 attacks nearly 21 years ago.
While many have worried that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine could start World War III, Kazianis essentially dismissed the notion, “It is more than likely that we will have a war with China.”
Pelosi’s Taiwan Trip a Tipping Point
It could be argued that the United States is very much in a Cold War 2.0 with both Russia and China, but with Moscow tied up in a quagmire that is Ukraine, Moscow won’t likely be flexing its muscles on the world stage. However, the situation with Beijing is very different.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s proposed trip to Taiwan – which Beijing maintains is a breakaway province that will be brought back to mainland control, by force if necessary – could be a tipping point. While the actual trip won’t likely be enough to cause the People’s Republic of China to actually launch an attack, it would only take an unfortunate misstep.
It was just 108 years ago this summer that a seemingly unimportant visit by Austria-Hungary’s Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand to Sarajevo – where he was tragically assassinated proved to be the catalyst that ignited what was to become the First World War.
Kazianis said a similar incident could throw the world into an even more horrific war. The world is facing a situation not all that different from it was in the early 20th century as two main factions essentially lined up.
“History is filled with all these of these different situations where you have a rising power, like China, that meets a – I hate to say it – a relatively declining power like the United States. I say that as you compare our power advantages after World War II, and compared to that we have declined a little bit. There is nothing wrong with that,” Kazianis explained.
“The Chinese understand that in the long term the United States doesn’t want them to dominate the Indo-Pacific region and that creates tensions,” he added. “The Chinese have declared the South China Sea to be their own sovereign territory. So that is a big deal.”
Pelosi in the Crosshairs
Speaker Pelosi could be caught in the crosshairs, but that doesn’t mean any Chinese extremist seeks to assassinate the speaker. Kazianis suggested another frightening scenario playing out.
“Let’s say the Chinese decide they want to flex their muscles and they do a missile test, and let’s suppose as they fire the missiles they want them to go off 20 miles off the coast of Taiwan, and let’s say that one of the guidance systems of those missiles fails and lands in downtown Taipei or just hits Taiwan by accident. Those are very real possibilities that could trigger a war,” he warned.
Taiwan would respond in kind and then the United States moves forces to support Taiwan and China responds.
“This is how wars happen.”
Sanctions or First Strike?
Fox Business’ Neil Cavuto further pondered whether Beijing might be deterred from launching an attack out of fears that China could face similar sanctions to those that have been imposed on Russia. While that indeed has been suggested, the fact remains that China may consider all possibilities – including whether it could quickly defeat America in a first strike.
“If you look at the structure of the Chinese military,” said Kazianis. “What they have done is build it up for first powerful first strike capability.”
That could include an attack in every domain possible, including cyber as well as targeting America’s satellites. However, the biggest move could be to destroy the United States Navy’s irreplaceable aircraft carriers.
“The carrier-killer missiles that they’ve been building for the past 30 years could be used to destroy our carriers in a war,” Kazianis explained.
That could wipe out a considerable portion of the United States military’s operational capability in the Indo-Pacific in a single blow and make it virtually impossible for an instant retaliatory response. Cavuto questioned whether it would be similar to the Japanese thinking when it attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 – with a similar goal of bringing the U.S. to the negotiation table.
“It would be Pearl Harbor on steroids,” warned Kazianis.
Sooner Than Later
The most ominous aspect of this is that China – which has sought to become a global superpower and dominate the world in the 21st century – is facing a far bigger rival than the United States. Beijing is already in a race against time, and the longer it waits to take its place as the world leader; it will have fewer and fewer opportunities to do so.
Simply put, past policies have already doomed China in the long term.
“The Chinese understand that they are at the tip of the military-economic power,” said Kazianis. “By 2100, the Chinese population is going to drop from 1.4 billion people to 570 million. That is a drop of two-thirds decline.” By contrast, the U.S. population could be a little higher.
Some experts consider the next few years or decades the time that China – knowing its strengths – could decide the time is ripe to strike.
“What I worry about is that China may think this is their time. And that is scary,” noted Kazianis.
A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.