2020 is no doubt a very significant year in history. Unfortunately, it has more sad things than happy events occurred last year. Some people even label 2020 as the most critical year that has changed the destiny of mankind more so than WW II (1941-1945) simply based on the death rate caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. (>300,000) and in the world (>1.8 million) and a total of 84.3 million active cases worldwide (59,6m recovered and 22.9m active cases). The sadder situation is that the pandemic is not only not over but still remains a threat in 2021 despite of the accelerated development of vaccines by China. Europe and the U.S. We sincerely hope that the world will get the COVID under control in 2021.
2020 is also a very critical year for the U.S. - China relations. The U.S. launched a trade war against China by beginning to collect tariffs on 818 Chinese imports on July 6th, 2018. China retaliated and trade war escalated and followed with intense negotiations resulting in a phase one agreement on October 11, 2019. Unfortunately, the phase one agreement is not even a truce between the two nations, the trade war is extended to technology war involving sanctions of exporting technological products to China and prohibiting US government purchasing Chinese telecommunication products starting the so called 5G war. 2020 saw rapid deterioration of US-China relations, confrontations on all fronts including dealing with pandemic where international cooperation is so obviously desired.
Most think-tanks in the world recognize that the deteriorating U.S.-China relations is no good for the world including the two giants themselves. However, the events in 2020 did not lead the world to a safer place never mind a more prosperous condition. In this column, the author would like to list a dozen important events of 2020 related to China and the U.S. with a brief comment on each event. The author urges the readers to rank their importance with the hope that we all thoroughly understand them. Hopefully, through a better understanding, the world citizens will all voice their opinions to steer the U.S. and China to improve their relations in 2021. With Biden leading a fresh team starting in 2021, We Americans may hope that the New Year will bring us New Hope!
The list of twelve most significant events are in more or less chronological order. Comments are added to make these events understandable, the readers are encouraged to think about them and do research if necessary. However, be aware of possibilities of ideological rhetoric and distorted and fake news in the mainstream media, this column always tries to sift through organic views beyond mass media and presents rational and unbiased analysis. The list is as follows:
- Release Issue of Huawei Treasurer, Ms Shirley Meng. Miss Meng was arrested on Dec. 1, 2018 by Canadian authority at Vancouver International Airport by the U.S. request based on an Extradition agreement. Huawei is the Chinese telecommunication company sanctioned by the U.S. Meng has been held for two years now. The U.S. has been willing to let her be released if she admits violating the Iran sanction which she refuses. The Canadian court has discovered illegal procedures involved in the arrest and the case has international attention.
- The U.S.-China trade war began in mid year 2018 and reached phase one agreement on Oct. 1, 2019. The trade war extended to technology sanctions, immigration visa control on Chinese students even anti-Chinese sentiment, such as discriminating Chinese American scholars and students in hi-tech research and hate crime againstChinese Americans in 2020.
- COVID-19 Pandemic is causing the U.S. to have the highest death rate and active COVID cases in 2020. On the contrary, China recovered from COVID within 6-8 months with her economy nearly fully recovered. The U.S. blames China for COVID-19 pandemic without evidence and using it as anti-China arsenal. The evidence suggests that the virus had appeared earlier elsewhere than in China and has ability to permute to new strains as happened in U.K.
- Australia's anti-china and supporting the U.S. (Trump-Pompeo Administration) posture. Australia being one of the 'five-eyes' alliance (US, UK, Canada, and New Zealand) took up the above policy (see ASPI report) under Prime Minister Morrison. Rhetoric and discrimination against Chinese Australians and Chinese businesses and students heated up in 2020. China retaliated by reducing imports of coal, food products and red wine, hurting Aussie economy badly.
- India-China border dispute arose again on 6/17/2020. The Himalaya border issue can be traced back to post WW II (McMahon line). In 1962, a war broke out and China won, border disputes occurred again in 1986, 1987 and 2019 despite of a no weapon firing agreement signed by India and China. India started provocation again on 6/17/2020. Political analyst tied this to Pompeo's visit to India urging her to ally with the U.S. against China. One wonders why Modi would give up peace.
- Hong Kong National Security Law. Hong Kong's peaceful protests turned into riots and violence with obvious external influence against a criminal extradition law which was clearly internationally supported. The Hong Kong justice system (legacy from Colonial days still with most judges being UK citizens) was not able to stop the violence. China announced the Hong Kong National Security Law on 6/30/2020, just like in the U.S., the riots were stopped by law now.
- Joe Biden won the 2020 US Presidential election. Although Donald Trump has not accepted defeat, Biden has announced his cabinet level team with a balance of identity politics and professionalism. Though Trump has left the nation with messy foreign relations especially with US-China. Biden does have an opportunity to make amends and gain benefits for the U.S. such as improving trade relation so to restore exporting farm goods to China, stopping anti-China sanctions so to revive US corporation profits and releasing Ms Meng from her unjustified arrest so to restore U.S. legal reputation.
- Trump Administration's China Policy. The entire four years of Trump Administration has been rooted in Peter Navarro's anti-China somewhat outdated books. (Navarro created fictional expert in his book) Trump's personality and life experience prevented him to accept real knowledgeable people (Even Kissinger was rejected). Managing a country like the U.S. is far more difficult than running a real estate business. His America First and Make America Great slogans are timely but his tactics have divided the U.S. and hurt the U.S. prestige and the US-China relations without real benefits for the U.S.
- The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was signed on November 15, 2020. RECEP is an important free trade agreement affecting not only the Asia Pacific Region but also the world. The agreement also signifies an important message that most of the South East Asian countries do not wish to take sides on the US-China trade war. RCEP is the largest trading bloc and certainly represents a significant achievement for China.
- The Development of Vaccines for COVID-19. As the world is combating the obviously challenging pandemic, every country should support the World Health Organization's plea that every country should cooperate with each other to face the corona virus. The vaccine development has been accelerated but not in full cooperation. China has joined the global initiative (COVAX) to ensure rapid and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries. The U.S. refused to join COVAX. Although several vaccines have been developed, they are far from certainty to contain the pandemic.
- China's Lunar Exploration, Chang'e 5. Landed on the moon (Novem 23-24, 2020), drilling 1.7Kg moon soil and bringing it back flawlessly with automated process is commendable. China was excluded from space research for years for no good reason, when China was poor and backward in science and technology and even after China is wealthy enough to pay for any membership. Now China has independently achieved her many goals in space exploration. It is time to abandon prejudice and discrimination and think that space science will affect the development of all mankind. Only through collaboration, Earth beings can conquer space.
- EU-China announced Investment Agreement on the last day of 2020. This agreement took seven years to reach. Credit must be given to EU leaders especially German Chancellor Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping for driving this agreement to fruition. This agreement signifies the following: 1, China is confident enough about her competitiveness in technology, thus willing to open her market to EU and not insisting on technology transfer. 2. EU's desire to act independently to pursue her own economic policies without bowing to foreign pressure. The U.S. should take this as a lesson in her trade deals with China.
Reflecting on the above, we hope the U.S., China and the world will ushering in a better 2021!
Ifay Chang. Ph.D., Inventor, Author, TV Game Show Host and Columnist (www.us-chinaforum.org) as well as serving as Trustee, Somers Central School District.