These days, the trade “war” between the Trump administration and China is regularly in the headlines and, sometimes, so are the bases the Chinese are building in the South China Sea, the ships the U.S. Navy is sending ever more provocatively close to them, and the potential clashes that might result. But the global nature of the growing conflict between Washington and Beijing has yet to be fully taken in. As it happens, at this moment, it extends from Greenland (I’m serious!) to Argentina (I’m serious again!). In Greenland, still a self-ruling part of Denmark, a panicked U.S. military and Trump administration recently turned back a Chinese plan to help bankroll and build three airports. In fact, the Pentagon itself actually offered to invest in Greenland’s airport infrastructure. Otherwise, military officials feared, China might secure an economic foothold at the far end of what that self-proclaimed “Near-Arctic State” has dubbed its future “Polar Silk Road” or “blue economic passage” across the melting north. And far worse, as the Wall Street Journal put it (undoubtedly reflecting the fears of Pentagon officials), China could have ended up with “a military foothold off Canada’s coast” — that is, the sort of military base that the U.S. already has in Greenland, the northernmost of its 800 or so bases across the planet.
Meanwhile, at the southern tip of the same planet, in Argentina’s desolate Patagonian desert, the Chinese have built a deep-space tracking station with a big-dish radar for “peaceful research.” It is, however, run by that country’s military and U.S. military officials are already in a dither about the dangers it might someday pose to America’s array of satellites. (That the U.S. has similar radar equipment dotted across much of the Earth is undoubtedly just more evidence of what the Chinese might, in the future, want to do.)
Think of these Chinese forays at the planet’s antipodes, one aborted, one successful, and the hypersensitive Washington response to each of them as signs of a genuinely rising power and also of the heightening of potential conflicts between it and the still reigning superpower. I’m talking, of course, about the previously “exceptional” and “indispensable” country that Donald Trump swears he’ll make “great again.” In the process, as TomDispatch regular Michael Klare makes strikingly clear today, both countries are plunging into what can only be thought of as a new kind of war that could prove hot indeed before it’s over.