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    China & the USA: Conflict, Competition & Cooperation

    China & the USA: Conflict, Competition & Cooperation



    By DR. BASHIR AHMAD VEERI


    Trade disputes, a major cyber attack, accident at sea, or misstep on the Korean Peninsula could easily spark a major war.


    Former US Secretary of State Dr. 

    Henry Kissinger, a reputed China 

    expert, having 40 years of direct 

    interaction with four generations 

    of Chinese leaders has said:


     “The 

    incoming Biden administration should 

    move quickly to restore lines of commu-

    nication with China that frayed during 

    the Trump years or risk a crisis that 

    could escalate into military confl ict….

    Unless there is some basis for some coop-

    erative action, the world will slide into a 

    catastrophe comparable to World War 

    I and military technologies available 

    today would make such a crisis “even 

    more diffi cult to control” than those of 

    earlier eras”. 

    Similarly, Graham Allison, eminent 

    Harvard Professor states that China & 

    United States are heading towards a 

    war neither wants. ‘Thucydides Trap’ 

    holds: When a rising power threatens 

    to displace a ruling one, violence is the 

    likeliest result. As has been observed 

    over the past fi ve hundred years, such 

    conditions have occurred sixteen times 

    & war broke out in twelve. Today, as 

    an unstoppable China approaches an 

    immovable America, and both Xi Jin-

    ping and outgoing Donald Trump are on 

    confrontational path promising respec-

    tive country men to make their countries 

    “great again”. Trade disputes, a major 

    cyber attack, accident at sea, or misstep 

    on the Korean Peninsula could easily 

    spark a major war. 

    The two major economies of world-G2 

    (US & China) together represent about 

    40% of the world’s GDP & 50% of its mili-

    tary spending. Both the countries were 

    thought to be ever more bound together 

    by their interdependence: Integrated 

    supply chains ( i-phones designed in the 

    US but manufactured in China), total 

    trade in 2018 ( before the trade war) of 

    $738 billion, $116 billion of US investment 

    in China and Chinese investment in the 

    USA totaling $60 billion & more around 

    4 lakh Chinese students in US Universi-

    ties, contributing $13 billion on the US 

    economy. 

    Former US President Clinton would 

    call China’s joining of WTO ( World 

    Trade Organization of 135 nations) in 

    2001 as “one of the most important for-

    eign policy developments” which in fact 

    opened the markets of two countries 

    for trade and business between them. 

    But the ‘WTO consensus’ has broken 

    down and engagement is giving way 

    to estrangement, trade wars, confl ict 

    over economic & security issues, talks 

    of “decoupling” of the two economies, 

    an arms race, and battle for economic 

    models & indeed for primacy in the rest 

    of this century which is evolving in a new 

    cold war like situation albeit of a differ-

    ent kind. However, the terrible human & 

    economic costs of the novel Coronavirus 

    epidemic in 2020 led to real decoupling as 

    travel was canceled & trade constrained, 

    recriminations mounted, and hostility 

    reached a new level. 

    China has become what Britain had 

    been during industrial revolution, the 

    manufacturing ‘workshop of the world’ 

    producing almost 50% of world steel, alu-

    minum, computers, necessary gadgets 

    for electric vehicles & wind turbines. 

    China consumed more cement than the 

    United States did in the entire twentieth 

    century & holds foreign reserves totaling 

    $3 trillion. In Year 2000 China sold 1.9 mil-

    lion cars whereas USA sold 17.3 million. 

    In the year 2019 number was 25 million 

    for China & 17 million for the US. In 2002 

    China had 4% of world GDP which was 

    16% in early 2020. China has emerged as 

    largest economy of the world. However it 

    is the energy sector where USA got push 

    due to Shale revolution whereas China 

    has to import 75% of oil for its use.

    The rivalry between two countries is 

    evident in military capabilities. Over last 

    two decades China’s military expendi-

    ture have grown six fold which is $240 

    billion & the third & fourth spenders are 

    far behind i.e., Saudi Arabia & Russia 

    each around $65 billion. According to 

    RAND Corporation assessment, China’s 

    military has transformed itself into a 

    capable modern military power focusing 

    on development of a wide variety of mis-

    siles, air defense, & electronic capabili-

    ties that could neutralize US capabilities 

    from ships to satellites thus narrowing 

    the gap with US. Moreover advantage 

    of proximity in most plausible confl ict 

    scenarios & geographical advantage will 

    likely neutralize many US strengths. Xi 

    demonstrated China’s great power status 

    while hosting 29 leaders of other coun-

    tries at Beijing forum. He made it clear 

    that China, unlike US, would not lecture 

    them about Human Rights nor support 

    democracy activists & maintained, “We 

    have no intention to interfere in other 

    countries internal affairs, export our 

    own social system or impose our own 

    will.” 

    USA military is also making a major 

    shift in focus, strategy & weapons. The US 

    marines, for instance, are going through 

    a transformation as an agile naval expe-

    ditionary force able to move with great 

    speed & in dispersed fashion from island 

    to island in the Pacifi c in order to neu-

    tralize a Chinese navy that is capable of 

    attacking traditional US military assets. 

    The rivalry is most evident in South 

    China Sea which involves geographic 

    maps & is considered, the greatest point 

    of tension, as well as ‘Belt and Road Ini-

    tiative’ representing an effort to redraw 

    the map of the Global economy. The other 

    danger points are Taiwan which China 

    describes as of “Core interest” & can go to 

    war to prevent its interest. The strategic 

    islands of northeast Taiwan that both 

    China and Japan claim, North Korea & 

    its nuclear weapons and missile program 

    are of great concerns.

    US-China relations are at their lowest 

    in decades, despite the two sides reaching 

    a “phase one” trade deal at the start of the 

    year. Since then, the virus outbreak that 

    began in Wuhan, China, has gone global, 

    killing more than 1.3 million people and 

    crushing economies around the world. 

    President Trump has squarely blamed 

    China for spread of Virus and death 

    toll in US which has further worsened 

    the scenario. Following crackdown on 

    Hong Kong law makers by China, the US 

    imposed sanctions on 31 fi rms & blamed 

    them to be operated by Peoples Libera-

    tion Army of China. 

    Coming to Dr. Kissinger again, 

    “Trump has a more confrontational 

    method of negotiation than you can apply 

    indefi nitely”. A military confl ict between 

    the two powers would be a global disas-

    ter. Instead of confrontation, both sides 

    must create institutional mechanisms to 

    remain engaged and address each other’s 

    grievances. Relations with China may 

    dominate the foreign policy agenda of 

    President-elect Joe Biden’s administra-

    tion. He’s expected to seek ways to defuse 

    tensions in areas including the future of 

    5G technology; China’s expansionism in 

    the South China Sea and Hong Kong’s 

    fading autonomy. The two nations’ lead-

    ers need to recognize that they see the 

    same issues very differently, and that 

    colors their approach to talks.


    Former US Secretary of State Dr. 

    Henry Kissinger, a reputed China 

    expert, having 40 years of direct 

    interaction with four generations 

    of Chinese leaders has said: “The 

    incoming Biden administration should 

    move quickly to restore lines of commu-

    nication with China that frayed during 

    the Trump years or risk a crisis that 

    could escalate into military confl ict….

    Unless there is some basis for some coop-

    erative action, the world will slide into a 

    catastrophe comparable to World War 

    I and military technologies available 

    today would make such a crisis “even 

    more diffi cult to control” than those of 

    earlier eras”. 


    Similarly, Graham Allison, eminent 

    Harvard Professor states that China & 

    United States are heading towards a 

    war neither wants. ‘Thucydides Trap’ 

    holds: When a rising power threatens 

    to displace a ruling one, violence is the 

    likeliest result. As has been observed 

    over the past fi ve hundred years, such 

    conditions have occurred sixteen times 

    & war broke out in twelve. Today, as 

    an unstoppable China approaches an 

    immovable America, and both Xi Jin-

    ping and outgoing Donald Trump are on 

    confrontational path promising respec-

    tive country men to make their countries 

    “great again”. Trade disputes, a major 

    cyber attack, accident at sea, or misstep 

    on the Korean Peninsula could easily 

    spark a major war. 


    The two major economies of world-G2 

    (US & China) together represent about 

    40% of the world’s GDP & 50% of its mili-

    tary spending. Both the countries were 

    thought to be ever more bound together 

    by their interdependence: Integrated 

    supply chains ( i-phones designed in the 

    US but manufactured in China), total 

    trade in 2018 ( before the trade war) of 

    $738 billion, $116 billion of US investment 

    in China and Chinese investment in the 

    USA totaling $60 billion & more around 

    4 lakh Chinese students in US Universi-

    ties, contributing $13 billion on the US 

    economy. 

    Former US President Clinton would 

    call China’s joining of WTO ( World 

    Trade Organization of 135 nations) in 

    2001 as “one of the most important for-

    eign policy developments” which in fact 

    opened the markets of two countries 

    for trade and business between them. 

    But the ‘WTO consensus’ has broken 

    down and engagement is giving way 

    to estrangement, trade wars, confl ict 

    over economic & security issues, talks 

    of “decoupling” of the two economies, 

    an arms race, and battle for economic 

    models & indeed for primacy in the rest 

    of this century which is evolving in a new 

    cold war like situation albeit of a differ-

    ent kind. However, the terrible human & 

    economic costs of the novel Coronavirus 

    epidemic in 2020 led to real decoupling as 

    travel was canceled & trade constrained, 

    recriminations mounted, and hostility 

    reached a new level. 

    China has become what Britain had 

    been during industrial revolution, the 

    manufacturing ‘workshop of the world’ 

    producing almost 50% of world steel, alu-

    minum, computers, necessary gadgets 

    for electric vehicles & wind turbines. 

    China consumed more cement than the 

    United States did in the entire twentieth 

    century & holds foreign reserves totaling 

    $3 trillion. In Year 2000 China sold 1.9 mil-

    lion cars whereas USA sold 17.3 million. 

    In the year 2019 number was 25 million 

    for China & 17 million for the US. In 2002 

    China had 4% of world GDP which was 

    16% in early 2020. China has emerged as 

    largest economy of the world. However it 

    is the energy sector where USA got push 

    due to Shale revolution whereas China 

    has to import 75% of oil for its use.

    The rivalry between two countries is 

    evident in military capabilities. Over last 

    two decades China’s military expendi-

    ture have grown six fold which is $240 

    billion & the third & fourth spenders are 

    far behind i.e., Saudi Arabia & Russia 

    each around $65 billion. According to 

    RAND Corporation assessment, China’s 

    military has transformed itself into a 

    capable modern military power focusing 

    on development of a wide variety of mis-

    siles, air defense, & electronic capabili-

    ties that could neutralize US capabilities 

    from ships to satellites thus narrowing 

    the gap with US. Moreover advantage 

    of proximity in most plausible confl ict 

    scenarios & geographical advantage will 

    likely neutralize many US strengths. Xi 

    demonstrated China’s great power status 

    while hosting 29 leaders of other coun-

    tries at Beijing forum. He made it clear 

    that China, unlike US, would not lecture 

    them about Human Rights nor support 

    democracy activists & maintained, “We 

    have no intention to interfere in other 

    countries internal affairs, export our 

    own social system or impose our own 

    will.” 

    USA military is also making a major 

    shift in focus, strategy & weapons. The US 

    marines, for instance, are going through 

    a transformation as an agile naval expe-

    ditionary force able to move with great 

    speed & in dispersed fashion from island 

    to island in the Pacifi c in order to neu-

    tralize a Chinese navy that is capable of 

    attacking traditional US military assets. 

    The rivalry is most evident in South 

    China Sea which involves geographic 

    maps & is considered, the greatest point 

    of tension, as well as ‘Belt and Road Ini-

    tiative’ representing an effort to redraw 

    the map of the Global economy. The other 

    danger points are Taiwan which China 

    describes as of “Core interest” & can go to 

    war to prevent its interest. The strategic 

    islands of northeast Taiwan that both 

    China and Japan claim, North Korea & 

    its nuclear weapons and missile program 

    are of great concerns.

    US-China relations are at their lowest 

    in decades, despite the two sides reaching 

    a “phase one” trade deal at the start of the 

    year. Since then, the virus outbreak that 

    began in Wuhan, China, has gone global, 

    killing more than 1.3 million people and 

    crushing economies around the world. 

    President Trump has squarely blamed 

    China for spread of Virus and death 

    toll in US which has further worsened 

    the scenario. Following crackdown on 

    Hong Kong law makers by China, the US 

    imposed sanctions on 31 fi rms & blamed 

    them to be operated by Peoples Libera-

    tion Army of China. 

    Coming to Dr. Kissinger again, 

    “Trump has a more confrontational 

    method of negotiation than you can apply 

    indefi nitely”. A military confl ict between 

    the two powers would be a global disas-

    ter. Instead of confrontation, both sides 

    must create institutional mechanisms to 

    remain engaged and address each other’s 

    grievances. Relations with China may 

    dominate the foreign policy agenda of 

    President-elect Joe Biden’s administra-

    tion. He’s expected to seek ways to defuse 

    tensions in areas including the future of 

    5G technology; China’s expansionism in 

    the South China Sea and Hong Kong’s 

    fading autonomy. The two nations’ lead-

    ers need to recognize that they see the 

    same issues very differently, and that 

    colors their approach to talks.

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