US-China Tussle – A New Cold War in the Offing
Written By : Tariq Niaz Bhatti
From the ashes of 2nd World War,arose a new military and political tussle between U.S. and defunct Soviet Union commonly known as Cold war. It was a war betweenliberal democracy and authoritarian state modelsans trade or economic exchanges. The tussle divided the wholeworldin two distinct blocks except for a handful of nonaligned states. To effectively counter American power,Soviet Unionneededdual ocean access and pursuing the same it bogged down in quick sand Afghanistan. A decade long fighting in Afghanistan drained its resources so much that by 1991 it dismembered and reduced to what is Russia today. In the past few decades, phenomenal rise ofChina andits economic clouthas started to pose serious challenge to the U.S. global leadership. A new Cold war is in the offing and this time trade,technology and geo political ambitions are its defining traits.
U.S. is a leading globaleconomic and military power with a population ofapproximately 330 millionand GDP of 20.54 trillion dollars in 2020.It has a natural dual ocean access and a blue water navy that patrols all major oceans with 12 carrier battle groups.On the other hand China is a rising economic power with a population of over one billion and GDP of 13.61 trillion US dollars as of 2018. It is in the process of raising blue water navy but can project effective military power in response to attack. Experts estimate that China is all set toovertake theUSeconomy in few more years.
In the late seventies while Soviets entered Afghanistan, China under Deng Xiaoping followed a new economic model and started rebuilding its economy by opening its doors to foreign investors. Following the same vision, President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)is another novel effortto boost investment,interconnect continents by developing both land and sea infrastructure and makingAsiaglobal hub of economic growth. China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), part of BRI, has provided China the dual ocean access which will bolster its trade and investment in West Asia, Middle East and Africa.
Chineseexpanding economic clout and its geopolitical ambitions have prompted a conflict with U.S. on trade, technology and geopolitical influence.In some of the latest moves, U.S. is castigating China for forced sterilization of Uyghur women, lobbying Europe to ban Chinese security screening firms, imposing visa sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for Hong Kong’s new national security laws and has placed 90 days limits on work visas for Chinese journalists.China responded in the same coins asking U.S. to mind its own business. More recently deepening mistrust was visible in U.S. allegations of Chinese hands in global spread of Corona virus. U.S. considers China a threat to its security, trade and investment, democracy and core values. Moreover there are differences over trade barriers, import restrictions, intellectual property rights and technology transfers which adds to the mutual hostilities. Towing U.S. line,European advance economies have also started to accuse China of unfair trade practices, infringement of intellectual property rights and dumping of products.
China and U.S. have diametrically opposed political systems and core values. China considers its authoritarian model superior to liberal democratic model of the U.S. Both are suspicious of each other and jealously guard respective system being the best available. Trump administration persistent lecturing the Chinese over benefits of liberal democracy and human rights is disliked by Beijing.
Bothe China and U.S. are Pacific powers which has potential triggers for an armed conflict like North Korea, South and East China Sea, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Following the rise of China, Indo-pacific region is fast coming up asthe center of trade and investment and likely replace Europe in the near future. The region may become center of armed rivalry if escalation ladder is allowed to rise between the adversaries. U.S. is constantly increasing its military presence and influence in and around Malacca Straitsand amongst Pacific Rim countries by showing extra interest in the regional disputes mostly involving China as the other party. On the other hand China is making strides in replacing U.S. as a major investors and trading partner of GCC states which are facing a severe economic crisis due to corona pandemic. Latest IMF projections, regarding GDP growth in GCC countries in 2020, speaks of 7.6% contraction. These bleakprospects are forcing the Gulf Arab states to seek global partners for trade and investment. Gulf countries wants to maintain good customerservice relationship withChina as deals are easier and faster to maintain.
U.S. economic and military support to India and recent Sino-Indian standoff in the wake of lingering border disputes are no mean developments and opens new challenges for economic development and securityofPakistan. In the fast evolving situation Pakistan economic and physical security lies in timely completion and development of CPEC projects. This will help strengthen its economy, bring in political stability and boost integration amongst its federating units.