US-China relation is deteriorating daily from trade dispute entering into technology and broad commerce domain even agitated diplomatic battle and military confrontation. US-China affairs not only appear as headlines but also make the stock market flying up and down. Anyone following current events knows that the US-China confrontation not only causes Wall Street uneasy but also threatens the world economy.
The U.S. has been a strong nation over a century, having the strongest military force in the world and an economy peaked at 40% of the world GDP onetime. The U.S. assumed the responsibility of maintaining world security. She often applies economic, military, and legal sanction and punishment to her opponents, quite successfully over the years owing to her economic and military power. For example, there were economic sanctions against North Korea, Iran and Russia and military sanctions against Middle East enemy states, China, Russia, etc. including restrictions of military sales to many countries. There were legal punishment to foreign corporations under the Foreign Corruption Practices Act, FCPA; the French company, Alston, was fined hundreds of million dollars and nearly went into bankruptcy.
For reducing trade deficit, the US President Trump initiated tariff war and started a trade war against China. Not like the neighboring countries of the U.S., China did not yield completely due to her own economic strength. The US economy has been reduced proportionally to 20% of the world economy whereas China has achieved no. 2 position of the world economy threatening the U.S. to become no. 1. The U.S. has extended the trade war to technology war applying punishment and sanction to Chinese companies ZTE and Huawei. ZTE was fined for its deal with Iran and Huawei was banned to do business in the U.S. citing security exposure. Huawei apparently was prepared and succeeded to maintain growth in other parts of the world. With these, China has begun a nation-wide technology innovation plan preparing to compete with the U.S. for a long haul.
Reacting to China’s rise, the U.S. has identified China as a competitor launching an all-front confrontation playing any card available. For example, on the recent Hong Kong (HK) unrest, the U.S. is suspected to be a promoter hidden in the background and the US Congress has just passed a new HK Human Rights and Democracy Act preparing reasons or excuses to sanction HK. China exercised extreme patience in dealing with the HK riots preparing to fix the management ultimately. Not surprisingly, China has begun to apply counter sanction against the US sanctions, first declaring sanctions on National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and National Democratic Institute (NDI), then denied review of US Navy’s request for docking at HK for supply. These are signs showing that China is prepared to offer counter sanction if the U.S. applies sanction to HK and an indication of China feeling necessary and capable of making counter sanctions.
At South China Sea, the U.S. has challenged China’s sovereignty even though she recognized China’s historical sovereignty through the Republic of China (ROC). The U.S. first encouraged the Philippines to challenge China in an arbitration court then raise the Freedom of Navigation issue in SCS. But China had put up strong objections and prepared counter measures. Diplomatically China quieted the Philippines’ arbitration case and surprisingly China built and extended the islands in her possession to have airfields and deep sea ports capable of offering defense and rescue operations in SCS. With China’s naval defense capability, it has made the U.S. hesitating to enter her navy into China’s legal territories.
The U.S. is used to apply sanctions and gain successful results; even the powerful Soviet Union was collapsed under U.S. led sanctions. Now the U.S. is targeting China in all front. “The Commission on the Present Danger: China' has been set up. This type of organization has only been established three times in the past; first one, in 1950 for stopping the spread of communism, the second, in 1976, targeting the Soviet Union and the third, in 2004, for countering terrorism, all essentially successful. This is of course because of the real economic and military power the U.S. possesses. Whether the commission targeted at China would succeed or not is unpredictable, very much depending on each’s economic and military power.
In the power play between the U.S. and China, although the U.S. is superior in military power, but as both sides possessing nuclear warheads, guided missiles and independent communication (including GPS) capabilities, the military power can do no more than detente or facing mutual destruction. The economic power is far more important and all other areas, diplomacy, technology and financial endeavors depend on real economic clout. Today, the economic powers of the U.S. and China are at par. That is why the U.S. can not just freely apply sanctions to China without receiving counter sanctions from China.
At present, no one can predict the outcome of the US-China confrontation. The U.S. has dominated the world stage for a century, her experience in strategic power play is respectable. Recently, the U.S. sanctioned five Chinese citizens and six Chinese corporations over transferring oil from Iran. China just won from a WTO case permitting her to apply sanction on 3.6 billion American goods. China also declared trade sanctions on several US corporations for selling military gear to Taiwan. The two countries each now has established ‘entity’ and ‘black’ lists on not-welcomed companies and people.
The above measures are simply sanctions happening which will lead to counter sanctions with outcomes unpredictable. We must use some logic to analyze this confrontation to fend off serious disasters:
First, we must recognize that the US-China confrontation has unnecessarily broadened from trade to multi-front, economy, military, technology, diplomacy and all hard and soft domains. On the U.S. side, she has plenty of experiences and many alliances in the world to tackle this confrontation. The two political parties in the U.S. seem to have already taken a united position against China with no debate. The US government is trying to unite its alliances to confront China. However, the US elites and citizens do not have an unified view on China, in fact, only a small faction taking a hardline position against China with the majority opposing confrontation and preferring to seek a solution. Some openly endorse peaceful competition and some even take a pro-China position wanting the U.S. to reflect on her own missteps in managing her economy.
On the China side, through her non-interference and win-win economic co-development policies, she has earned many friends, especially in the developing world. In the Chinese government, there does not seem to have an unified hardline position confronting the U.S. Although, this may be interpreted as a strategy of ‘maintaining a low-key position avoiding flaring the confrontational relationship, but the Chinese, like the American, elites and citizens are obviously divided in opinion, only a small population expressing hardline views towards the other. The majority seems to desire to take a pro-US peaceful relationship. So based on the above analyses, it is logical to expect the two great nations to take a peaceful competition path.
The development of international affairs is hardly rational and logical. In the future, the probability of sanctions and counter sanctions between the U.S and China is likely to increase. If the U.S. government maintains a firm anti-China position and the Chinese government holds an wavering position, then with the US experience in targeting her enemy, China may be very vulnerable despite of the people of desire peace. As we know sanctions and counter sanctions can only escalate the confrontation to war if situation mismanaged. Since the majority of the people on both sides do not want war, then the sanctions and counter sanctions must stop! It is wise for both countries to cultivate a united position accepting peaceful competition with people’s support. All people should urge their governments to define such a policy, since any hostile alternative will only lead the two nations to mutual destruction. The history of two World War tells us that no government should push its people to war; win or lose, people will be hurt badly. If a nuclear war was triggered, the world would be destroyed!