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08.12.2022 Author: Viktor Mikhin

The enmity between China and the USA – what will happen next?

As reported by a number of global media outlets, Washington’s ban on the import of products made by the Chinese technology companies Huawei and ZTE is just one aspect of a much broader conflict between the two countries, in which the growing might of China is pitted against the USA, now in its decline. In a desperate attempt to put the brakes on the historical transition from a unipolar to a multipolar world, in which all countries will be equal and have the right to choose their own paths, Washington, determined to further its own exclusive interests, is doing all it can to impose its terms on other countries.

In the last few years the US has been ramping up the pressure on China, and the relationship between the two countries is coming under stress as a result. And although a number of US think tanks have expressed concern about Washington’s tactics in the campaign to rein in China’s growing influence on the international stage, they all agree on one thing: China’s rapid economic and military development represents a clear and very real threat to the interests of the Western world, and above all those of America.

After all, it is no secret that the Chinese government supports North Korea, a country which has been one of the USA’s – and the West’s – most bitter enemies for the last fifty years. China has supported its ally ever since the Korean War (1950-1953), in which three million Chinese soldiers fought bravely side by side with their North Korean comrades.

The North Korean regime, headed by Kim Jong-un, depends on support from China, since a significant portion of Pyongyang’s financial resources is dedicated to developing its armed forces and nuclear potential. The North Korean leader has regularly repeated his threats to use nuclear weapons against the USA as well as against its own neighbor, South Korea. Emboldened as he is by China’s support, barely a week goes by without new nuclear threats from Kim Jong-un, even though he is well aware that the US response would drive his nation to the brink of extinction.

In spite of US President Joe Biden’s claims that he is seeking a diplomatic solution to forestall a potential conflict with China, the US Federal Communications Committee recently banned imports of communications equipment from the Chinese tech giants Huawei and ZTE. That was only the most recent development in the ongoing tech war between the two superpowers, which dates back to Barak Obama’s administration and which intensified under his successor, Donald Trump.  “Our unanimous decision represents the first time in FCC history that we have voted to prohibit the authorization of new equipment based on national security concerns,” wrote Brendan Carr, the FCC Commission in a Twitter post. He had earlier expressed the hope that the popular Chinese app TikTok would be blocked in the US. The US Democratic party appears to have abandoned its founding principles and is turning into the nation’s jailer – it is now seeking to ban video games. And what will happen next, and what does the future hold in store for US society, led by such presidents as Joe Biden, who is now 80 years old and is out of touch with the modern world?

There have recently been a number of attempts to reach a reasonable compromise and avoid a nationwide ban on TikTok. But the US security services consider that the data held by TikTok – the registration details and personal data of millions of US citizens – could be used by China for espionage purposes. They see this basically harmless short video service as an instrument that could be abused by the Chinese authorities. If things carry on the way they are going at the moment it looks as if all goods made in China will be subject to a US import ban.

But the technology dispute is just one aspect of a much more serious situation – the growing enmity which the USA feels towards China. It is evident that the two countries are currently on a collision course, despite all the attempts on both sides to hide the fact. Chinese President Xi Jinping, who was recently reelected for a third term, is determined to continue expanding China’s economic footprint in Asia with powerful support from the Chinese military. Over the last 17 years the Chinese Navy has acquired 132 new warships – an incredible achievement. In diplomatic circles, it is believed that China’s influence in Asia will continue to grow, while that of the US will continue to fall.

The Taiwan issue is one of the key points of dispute between the US and China, and this year saw a marked increase in tensions in relation to the island. Although Washington pays lip service to the “One China” doctrine, under which Taiwan is seen as part of China, it also supports the Taiwanese government and opposes any military threats directed against the island state by mainland China Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, visited Taiwan in August this year – the first time such a high ranking US representative had visited the country. That visit went ahead despite warnings from US officials, and provoked a strong backlash from China, which launched major military exercises in response. The situation was further inflamed by Joe Biden’s declaration that the US would defend Taiwan against any attack by China. So where does that leave the US support for the “One China” doctrine? Perhaps the current US administration is lying, and is just trying to present a good face while following an aggressive policy?

It should be remembered that Taiwan is of significant economic significance both to the US and to the rest of the world. It produces about 65% of the world’s semiconductors and 90% of its “advanced” microchips. Worldwide, the majority of motherboards used in today’s laptop and desktop computers are either made in Taiwan or contain many parts manufactured there. For comparison, the USA, industrial giant that it is, produces just 10% of the world’s semiconductors, while China produces just 5%. If China were to occupy Taiwan, that would give Beijing control over the world’s largest semiconductor industry, which would strengthen its global dominance over the electronics, military and telecommunications industries. And the US would be prepared to go to war to stop that from happening. As the proverb goes, envy shoots at others and wounds itself.

But the main areas of dispute remain unchanged, since Beijing continues to see Taiwan as a rebel region that must sooner or later be brought under its control – after all the unity of Taiwan and mainland China has always been a core goal of the Chinese government.  As the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram puts it, neither Beijing nor Moscow believe that Joe Biden is able to make any significant changes in international politics, since the USA’s time has now passed.

Of course even a limited war between China and the USA would result in a great deal of suffering, on top of that already caused by Western-supported military operations against Russia in Ukraine. Al-Ahram believes that all necessary measures should be taken to resolve the dispute in relation to Taiwan peacefully, as the US should understand. But this is unlikely to happen, as the USA has long been in the habit of seeking exclusively military solutions to issues and problems of every kind. The Ukrainian tragedy has demonstrated that clearly enough. And, after all, the Pentagon needs to do something with its huge military budget, which exceeds the combined military spending of the rest of the world.

In Asia there is a popular tradition that times of hardship can create strong men, who by their efforts can bring about times of prosperity. But times of prosperity create weak men, and as a result come times of hardship. It looks as if something of that kind has happened in the USA – after looting the whole world the country enjoyed a period of high living standards. And it could certainly be argued that Joe Biden is seen as one of the weakest presidents in US history. The successes of the USA’s rivals – including Russia, China and Iran – in challenging US dominance and building a new multipolar world provide ample confirmation of that fact. The current global political situation demands a different kind of US president – one who can take initiatives that go beyond the relatively unimportant concerns that Joe Biden has placed at the head of his political agenda. And this is despite the fact that the USA’s power and political authority are dwindling away day by day like the wild ass’s skin in Balzac’s novel, triggering protests by those who have had enough of the now-bankrupt former global hegemon.

Viktor Mikhin, corresponding member of RANS, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.


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