31 мая 2020 г. 18:05

China and the United States are heading towards a new Cold War – China expert

China and the United States are heading towards a new Cold War – China expert

On May 29, US President Donald Trump announced the tightening of policies on China and upcoming sanctions on bilateral trade, finance and tourism. The stated reason for this was a "failed promise" of Beijing in relation to maintaining the autonomy of Hong Kong. This came in the wake of a range of other unfriendly actions and statements, including allegations of responsibility for the coronavirus pandemic. Compiled, it gave analysts an excuse to speak about a new Cold War between world powers. In this interview for Eurasia.Expert Zhiqun Zhu, professor of political science and international relations at Bucknell University (USA), estimated how the rivalry between Beijing and Washington will develop in the near future and what role the pandemic factor will play in it.

– What will become of the US-Chinese relations after the pandemic?

– Many people worry that the United States and China are heading toward a new Cold War as hostility grows between the two countries. During the current COVID-19 crisis, America’s naming and shaming of China and China’s tit-for-tat response have exacerbated the rivalry between the two powers.

Both governments are responsible for the deterioration of relations and both have fanned nationalism at home. China mishandled the outbreak of the coronavirus at the beginning, and the United States underestimated the danger of the virus initially. When the Trump Administration failed to contain the virus, it started to blame China and the WHO for the public health crisis in America.

A certain level of competition between the United States and China is normal, but a complete breakdown of the relationship will be disastrous not only for themselves but for the world.

Moderate voices in both countries are calling their governments to refrain from confrontation and return to cooperation. Other countries are also concerned about the current situation. I think eventually cooler heads on both sides will prevail.

– The Americans have accumulated many complaints against China, and the number of them is only growing. How is Beijing going to react: comply with them or continue the economic war?

– I don’t think China will comply. There is no way that the United States can demand China do this or that, and the Hong Kong situation is not related to the COVID-19 crisis at all. However, I don’t believe China is opposed to international investigation into the origin of the coronavirus. The Chinese argument is that the global priority now should be to contain the virus first, which requires international cooperation, not finger-pointing. An international investigation led by the WHO or another international organization can follow afterwards. All possible origins of the virus should be carefully examined, not just the wet market or the bio lab in Wuhan.

To counter the US allegations, China has launched an information offensive to present its side of the story. It emphasizes the fact that the Chinese authorities have shared information with the US government regularly since early January, and it is the Trump Administration’s negligence and incompetence that have led to the high rates of infection and mortality in the United States. Blaming China does not absolve the Trump Administration of its own responsibility and does not solve America’s problems.

– The clash of the United States and China interests in the South China Sea is another side of the confrontation between the two powers in addition to the trade war. Is there a risk of escalation in the region?

– The dispatch of a US aircraft carrier to the South China Sea will certainly raise tensions in the region, especially when relations are in woeful conditions.

In the current strategic rivalry between the United States and China, the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea have become two major flashpoints, where real military conflicts cannot be ruled out.

So both China and the United States need to rein in their aggressive impulses and ask themselves how they can lower tensions and decrease the chances of military clashes.

– In China, voices in favor of increasing the number of nuclear warheads began to emerge. What do you think of it?

– I am familiar with the article of chief-editor of Global Times Mr. Hu, which is popular among Chinese netizens and is a symbol of Chinese nationalism. One should take his views with a grain of salt. Increasing the number of nuclear warheads will not necessarily make China safer or the United States less threatening. The differences between the United States and China cannot and should not be resolved by force.

– President Donald Trump has threatened a complete cut-off of the US-China relations. Are Americans ready to go for it?

– Given the closely interwoven economic and social ties between the two countries, it is a fantasy to talk about cutting off the whole bilateral relationship. It just does not make sense. If it were to happen, it would be a “lose-lose-lose outcome”: for the United States, for China, and for the rest of the world.

– What will be the future of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative after the pandemic?

– Most countries including China have suffered enormously from the pandemic, so it will take some time for the world economy to fully recover. China’s ability to continue to invest extensively overseas is in question now due to domestic constraints and changed international conditions.

Domestically, China’s economic growth has significantly declined. Its focus will be re-oriented toward domestic reconstruction in the post-COVID-19 era.

Meanwhile, global attitudes toward China have turned less favorable as more countries are blaming China for the outbreak of the coronavirus, with some calling for independent investigation and suing China for damages. As a result, some countries along the belt and the road may not be as enthusiastic about Chinese investments as before. Some countries already faced debt, corruption, security and other problems even before the COVID-19 crisis. With many daunting challenges ahead, China may have to curtail the BRI and readjust the massive project.

– According to Chinese media, Washington’s harsh statements about “demanding compensation” from Beijing for spreading the pandemic made the Chinese leadership think about canceling the trade deal, and there is already an opinion that China’s response to US threats could be the massive sale of US Treasury securities. Would China do that?

– These are hypothetical. The high-level economic officials from the two sides held a phone conversation recently about implementing the trade deal. So it is unlikely that China will cancel the deal.

It’s exceedingly difficult for the United States to sue another sovereign country and seek compensation from China regarding the coronavirus. Beijing has already pointed out the Trump Administration is attempting to shift responsibility to others for its failure to control the virus. Some people in and outside China also ask, should China and other countries “seek compensation” from the United States regarding AIDS or the 2008 global financial crisis? I don’t think China will sell US Treasury bonds, and I don’t know how selling the US Treasury bonds can help China while punishing the United States.

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Инфографика: Силы и структуры США и НАТО в Польше и Прибалтике
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