ISSN 2330-717X

United States And China Entangling In New Type Of Cold War – OpEd

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Over the last more than two months many countries were told by World Health Organization (WHO) to opt for lockdown to fight wide spreading coronavirus pandemic. In the mean time one of the equally fast developing narratives is that it is an ongoing biological war between United States and China.

If one can recall Saddam Hussein of Iraq was accused for the production of weapons of mass destruction. A few sites were identified and destroyed, but soon it became evident that the entire propaganda was very well concocted. However, some observers went to the extent of saying that these sites produced material which was used against Iran in a war spread over more than a decade.

Coming back to my topic, it may be suspected that United States was not happy, rather afraid of growing economic might of China. Initially to keep a close watch the US companies were allowed to make huge investment in China and Chinese were allowed to invest in United States. Growing deficit in balance of trade prompted United States to impose restrictions on the entry of Chinese good, but all in vain.

One of the conspiracy theories is that United States leaked a virus in Wuhan, to ultimately reach the industrial hub of Shanghai. The move backfired as China saved its industrial hub, but virus spread to almost all the countries on the plant, except a few.

Scanning the content printed one is inclined to arrive at a conclusion that this is not a pandemic but a biological war. After more than four decades of engagement, the two superpowers have been unable to bridge the ideological gulf that separates them. A global pandemic might have served as an occasion for more cooperation; instead it has only made the divide more obvious. The two countries now stand on the brink of a new type of cold war.

The level of trust between China and the United States is at its lowest point since diplomatic ties were established in 1979. The deterioration in US-China ties began long before the pandemic and even before the Trump presidency. A fundamental shift in the relationship has taken place. American interests now diverge more than they converge.

China’s return towards communist orthodoxies since Xi Jinping became president in 2013 has had a crucial impact. Tthe fundamental difference in ideology between the US and China can be summed as, “Between 1978 and 2012, the Communist party put aside its communist roots and focused on developing economic strength. Once China succeeded economically, the CCP went back to refocus on its original intentions of building socialism. For decades, this bargain delivered impressive commercial gains; making China the prime engine for global growth. 

Tens of thousands of US companies set up business in China and bilateral trade last year amounted to US$541 billion.  China is often accused of showing less willingness to accept US global leadership and began carving out its geographical spheres of influence. One critical breach of trust was termed deployed huge military infrastructure on the islands by China. 

The insecurities of United States started mounting on rising military might of China. Images of sailors standing on the deck of a Chinese guided-missile destroyer were clear signs of defiance by China. As China’s economy grew, it showed progressively less willingness to accept US hegemony.

In US-China commercial relationship accusations of violation of intellectual property rights became a big hurdle. This prompted Washington to impose tariffs on a range of Chinese goods, triggering a 20-month trade war that was put on hold in January this year with a truce deal that remains extremely fragile.

Reportedly, total Chinese investment in the US fell to US$5 billion last year, from a recent peak of US$45 billion in 2016, when Chinese companies were much more free to acquire US businesses. On top of that Trump administration and lawmakers on Capitol Hill have been considering other moves against China, including more stringent export controls, curbs on investment flows and limits on integrated supply chains between the two countries — all in the midst of a deep global recession. 

Trump also threatened to terminate the January trade deal with China, which could lead to a new flare-up in tariffs, because of skepticism over China’s willingness to honour its pledge to buy billions of dollars of American goods.  

Apparently, both sides claim that good progress is being made and fully express willingness to meet their obligations under the agreement in a timely manner, but ongoing blame game becomes the biggest dampener. Some observers predict continued tension, with nationalist sentiment and recession supporting hardliners in both countries. It appears extremely difficult to contain deteriorating relationship. Strategic competition will remain the dominant factor.


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Shabbir H. Kazmi

Shabbir H. Kazmi

Shabbir H. Kazmi is an economic analyst from Pakistan. He has been writing for local and foreign publications for about quarter of a century. He maintains the blog ‘Geo Politics in South Asia and MENA’. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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