Dimensions of US-China Strategic Rivalry, Its Prospects

2021/07/04 | interview, political, top news

Strategic Council Online – Iran’s former ambassador to China, stating that the United States is in a long-term systemic rivalry with China and a new political geography is being formed, said: China has the power to deprive the United States in building a coalition and the dispute within the G7 summit in Britain shows that trade with China could be more important to Germany, France, Italy, and even Britain than relations with the United States itself. Hossein Malaek - former Iranian ambassador to Beijing and analyst of international affairs

Following developments in China, especially its foreign relations, is of great importance to countries such as Iran. The growing international role and its undeniable influence in every part of the world life must always be considered in the country’s think tanks and the opportunities and challenges of those developments must always be evaluated in the national interest.

The 2008 global financial crisis forced the United States and many Western nations to reform costly economic structures to curb projected growth. Meanwhile, China was able to continue its economic growth without any tangible impact from this crisis, and to find itself gradually with no rival in the global competition, and to stand in the position of the second largest global economy since 2016.

Since early 2000, and in line with this trend, US think tanks have begun to study potential threats to US security. From 2010 onwards, all Western, and especially American, policy papers portrayed China as America’s main rival and the most important threat to the international system, and even made scenarios of military conflicts with that country. Under the Obama administration, the issue of “Pivot to Asia” with an aim of controlling and limiting China was on the agenda and became official US policy.

Among indicators of this policy, increased militarism along the borders of China and its neighbors and the South China Sea with an aim of disrupting those relations politically; leaving security impact on Hong Kong and disrupting economic policies in that region, supporting the separatist activities of the Uyghur people in the western parts of China as well as escalation of hostility between India and China through the developments in Tibet and …‌ can be cited.

Taiwan, most important factor in Pacific, South China Sea situation

In this context, Taiwan’s position for imposing military pressure on China is of particular and central importance to the United States. In terms of China’s official position, Taiwan is the most important factor in the stability or turmoil in the Pacific and South China Sea; therefore, the Americans for imposing pressure on China usually put the Taiwan issue at the forefront of developments, but the Taiwan issue does not seem to be a practical solution for the problems.

Under Trump, those policies together with the beginning of a kind of “trade war” continued along with the irrational behavior of the US President. The “trade war” between the two countries began with an aim of rescuing the US economy from the crisis caused by what US strategists say was “China” and its main purpose was to reduce economic growth in China by disrupting the production value chain and moving it away from China.

Biden’s policy towards China

On March 18 and 19, 2021 in the city of Anchorage, Alaska, the first official meeting between Chinese foreign policy officials and the new US administration was held. The outcome of this meeting showed that the policy of the Biden administration is the same as the policy of the previous administration, which is to restrict China and reduce its economic growth, but this time through gaining international support.

For the United States, as President Joe Biden has repeatedly said, China is simultaneously a partner, a staunch rival, and a dangerous enemy; therefore, there are a lot of complexities in regulating relations with that country.

China’s strategic challenges for the US

In the strategic assessment between the two countries, the following points can be considered:

  1. The United States has not been able to strike a balance with China in this area, despite the many arrangements it has made in the Indian and the Pacific Oceans.
  2. The power of technological competition and innovation in the United States is declining compared to the past.
  3. China is the world’s largest country of business with a very accountable population. Most of China’s economy is open and competitive, with opportunities for companies around the world. Of course, the Chinese government carefully directs subsidies in that economy.
  4. It would not be possible for the United States to reduce China’s ability to challenge without forming an alliance with its allies.
  5. China has the power to control its neighbors.
  6. China has almost all the influence in Central Asia.
  7. China has the power to thwart US alliance. This is clearly evidenced by the disagreement within the recent G7 summit in Britain 10 days ago. For Germany, France, Italy, and even Britain, trade with China can be more important than their relationship with the United States.

With this estimation, one can understand why the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) is so important to China and why the United States is specifically seeking to deal a blow on it; because China is looking for countries that are technologically and economically “dependent” on China and not an obstacle to China’s rise, and the United States is looking for countries that have exactly the opposite targets.

US in long-term systemic competition with China

In a summary; the United States is in a long-term systemic rivalry with China. Military force and weapons are important, but they are not at the center of such competition as in the past. The question of which system is capable of responding to the problems of its own people or the world is at the heart of those competitions. Here we understand why the issue of responding to the Covid-19 threat has been raised so much in the political arena.

China in this scene was able to show extraordinary management, both in terms of disease control and in terms of vaccine production, and the West, despite its systemic claims, was not able to be successful in the control and management of crisis, nor was it able to show any special features in vaccine production. Efforts by the West and the United States to destroy this achievement are based on accusing China of producing the Covid-19 virus, which is not over yet and the United States will not give it up.

Perspectives of China-US relations

Thus, the dynamics of modern politics (competition between great powers or superpowers) are being formed based on the close and hostile rivalry between the United States and China for decades to come, including how to use the Internet, marketing new ideas in “good governance” with trade and military power. The scene of those competitions is currently in industry, the global production value chain and international organizations. The tools used also include investing heavily in one’s own infrastructures and forcing the opponent to become immersed in strategic corruption and inefficiency. A new political geography is taking shape, and the possibility of a war is not ruled out, at least in view of Kissinger.

The important and final issue is how third countries take a stand; will they become members of a pro-country group or would they prefer to take advantage of this competition? The emergence of those positions is now evident in the use of the G5 technology platform. The choice of this platform in each country also affects the final political positions of that country. In addition, how to form positions for and against each of those two powers will be in international organizations. Here, the position of countries like Iran and the choices they will make are of “strategic” importance for that country itself.

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