IS MANAGED STRATEGIC COMPETITION A POSSIBILITY?
The most worrying phenomenon in the world today is the warlike rhetoric being exchanged between China and the United States.
Almost the only topic, on which Republicans and Democrats agree nowadays , is that China must be curbed economically and militarily.
President Trump imposed punitive tariffs on Chinese goods worth $50 billion. He cited the theft of intellectual property and currency manipulation among the reasons for penalising China. President Biden has kept these tariffs
Former Vice President Pence said the US must henceforth prioritise competition over cooperation, in its relations with China.
The Biden Administration is not only continuing with Trumps tariffs , it is introducing restrictions on the export of certain semiconductor chips to China, in order to hobble the Chinese semiconductor industry.
A lot of the world’s semiconductors are made in Taiwan, an island that is officially part of China but militarily and politically independent of Beijing. US media are full of speculation about a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.
China is restricting the exports of rare earths need to build the batteries necessary for Renewable power.
Meanwhile Chinese military spending increased by 15% pa every year from 1990 to 2005. China is prioritising its navy, and navies can be used to enforce blocades.
In any confrontation with China, the US enjoys the support of its allies in NATO, and from countries like Japan, South Korea the Phillipines and Australia.
China, on the other hand, has no significant allies, except perhaps Russia.
Interestingly, the country whose population feels itself most threated by China is India (78% are of that opinion).
Next is Japan (73%), and the US (61%).
Only 48% of the French, and 40% of Germans, feel China poses a risk to their country.
Notwithstanding its concern that China be required to trade fairly, the US continues to weaken the World Trade Organisation (WTO), a body that could discipline unfair trade practices by China.
Former Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has called for a structured relationship between China and the US. He calls for “Managed Strategic Competition”.
Working out the terms of this arrangement to manage relations between the world’s two biggest powers would not be easy. It would creativity, and a measure of good will on both sides, which may be absent. On the other hand, President Bidens remarks about China in Ottawa this week were hopeful and proportionate.