It seems that US President Donald Trump is determined to leave his stamp on the trading relationship between the US and China.
A few years ago Chinese President Jinping Xi told a group of reporters that the rise of China will be peaceful and that other countries such as the US – should not worry about a Thucydides trap
(When a rising power causes fear in an established power which escalates toward war.)
Although both Xi and trump are aware of the history of such disputes, neither China or the US looks set to back down. However, a hot war between the world’s two biggest powers seem far-fetched, a cold war is becoming more likely.
A Cold War is “a political war in which violence is not employed. Soldiers of two opponents are involved in Hot war but not in the Cold war. Direct use of weapons is used in Hot war but not in Cold war” – Harold, G.
China suspects that the real goal of the US is to stop them from rising further or having any legitimate power and influence internationally. In the view of the Chinese, it is most reasonable that the world’s second-largest economy should seek to expand its presence on the world stage. Chinese politicians argue that their regime has improved the material welfare of the 1.4 billion Chinese, which is far more than the west’s gridlocked political systems ever could.
On the US side, they are blaming China for the current global tensions. China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, reaping many benefits from the global trading and investment systems, whilst failing to meet obligations and free riding the rules of the system. The US believes China has gained an unfair advantage through intellectual property theft, forced technology transfers, subsidised for domestic firms and other instruments of state capitalism. At the same time, the Chinese government is becoming more and more authoritarian, transforming into an Orwellian surveillance state.
Irrespective of which side has the stronger argument, the escalation of the economic, trade, technological and geopolitical tensions may be inevitable. Trumps administration reflects on its national security strategy, which deems China as a strategic ‘competitor’ that must be checked on all fronts. What started as a trade war now threatens to escalate into a permanent state of mutual animosity.
Consequently, the US is severely limiting Chinese foreign direct investment in sensitive sectors, and pursuing other actions to ensure it maintains control in strategic industries such as artificial intelligence and 5G. It is pressurising partners and allies not to partake in the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s massive programme to build infrastructure projects across the Eurasian landmass. They have also increased the US Naval patrols in the East and South China Seas, where China has grown more aggressive in asserting its dubious territorial claims.
The relationship between the US and China is very delicate, and if mismanaged could be catastrophic. With the US trying to derail Chinas development and limit its rise, and China using its power in Asia and worldwide, a full-scale war is very possible.