The new chapter of US vs China relations is rife with confrontation?

Economic ties once helped alleviate the US vs China relations and tensions, but today’s businesses don’t have the power to do the same.

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Growing conflict but little effort to alleviate tensions US vs China relations

A chain of actions by President Donald Trump’s administration aimed at pressuring China is setting up a new chapter for the relationship between the two sides, linked to growing conflict but little effort to alleviate tensions, according to author Bob Davis in an August 7 article in The Wall Street Journal.

US vs China relations

Artwork: Berkeley Political Review – US vs China relations

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Mr. Davis pointed out that, at present, many business leaders, scholars and people knowledgeable about the US vs China relations believe that, even though Washington’s moves contain electoral factors (Mr. Trump is campaigning voters with tough views to China), current tensions will still exceed the upcoming presidential election.

In the past, disagreements were often limited due to their efforts to put economic and business relations first. But now, things are different.

In recent days, the White House has advocated putting China above other issues in areas such as finance, technology, and national security. They began phasing out Chinese companies in the US, planning to shut down the two most famous apps WeChat and TikTok, punish Hong Kong chief Carrie Lam and shut down the Chinese consulate in Houston.

Some of the moves are in retaliation against China, such as Hong Kong’s national security law, and Washington’s complaints about cyber theft or forced technology transfers. China also does not allow American media outlets to operate freely in the country.

Over the past few days, China has responded, mostly with words, which reaffirms the “red lines” that the  US has dangerously crossed.

“We urge the US side to handle related issues with due care, and immediately stop interfering in China’s internal affairs,” said Duong Khiet Tri, a senior official of Beijing wrote on 7/8.

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“What surprises everyone is that all of this happened at the same time,” commented Clete Willems, Trump’s former White House economist. “It shows the hawks are in command and the President feels he needs to do more to win a second term.”

The advisers of former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate, assert that a Biden-led administration will reduce confrontation with China but many policies on trade and national security. will be similar. There is widespread support within Democrats for a tough stance towards China. For example, a proposal to force Chinese firms to comply with audit requirements has been approved recently by the US Senate.

“The Biden group is also quite clear that they agree with the view of strategic competition with China”, The Wall Street Journal quoted Evan Medeiros, a former official in charge of Asia during the Barack Obama administration.

Tensions between the two world superpowers will continue 

All of this suggests one thing: the US vs China relations tension between the two world superpowers will continue no matter what the outcome of the upcoming US presidential election.

“A new Cold War has begun,” commented David Shambaugh, a China expert at George Washington University. “Keeping a Cold War from turning into a hot one is a problem.”

Tensions between the US vs China relations will not ease in the near future. Photo: Asia Times 

But there are also some restrictions on how much the Trump administration wants to promote confrontation, according to author Bob Davis.

In the two-year trade war with China, Mr. Trump has often avoided taking action when markets plummeted. White House officials say the President’s concerns about the market only intensified on the eve of the election, especially as the economy is struggling to recover from a sharp recession.

Sino-US trade, which has been the focal point of confrontation throughout 2019, is now one of the stabilizing factors. The two sides signed a phase 1 trade deal, which President Trump once hailed as his great achievement. US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Chinese Deputy Prime Minister Liu He are expected to meet at an online conference on August 15 to discuss the deal. But so far it is unclear whether that deal will be maintained after the election.

“You know, I have a deal, and it’s a great deal,” Trump told journalist Lou Dobbs on Fox’s Business Network. “But after this happened” – which means the  Covid-19 pandemic – “I don’t feel that way about the deal anymore”.

Even on trade, the Trump administration is mulling steps that could add to further tensions. 

Michael Pillsbury, a China expert at the Hudson Institute, which advises the Trump administration, said that President Trump acted because he was disappointed with China’s “barrier” on many issues, from the COVID pandemic- 19 to control nuclear weapons.

“The president told me two weeks ago that he was not done with China. There will be more action coming,” said Pillsbury.

If that is the case, the business community will have to prepare in advance that Beijing will respond more aggressively, affecting the prospects of a market recovery amid the pandemic.

“We fear the escalation will lead to tit-for-tat attacks, causing damage to the US business community and the global economy,” said the US Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Myron Brilliant. “The end does not seem to be seen yet.”

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