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Diplomatic Drama: US Aggressive Policies Will Only Hurt Itself

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The writing has always been on the wall. The recent trade war, despite the temporary truce, tensions over 5G and allegations regarding intellectual property theft, all of this and many other developments insinuated towards a deteriorating relationship between the world’s largest economies. The recent closure of embassy has escalated the matter and raised the stakes. At the core of all this diplomatic drama is an apprehension; a misconstrued threat, a resistance to change (in the global economic and political order) that is both inherent and natural.

The Thucydides Trap was always a reality – we are experiencing it. Only the nature of it has changed. In the times of Thucydides there was no 5G otherwise he’d categorically mentioned these technological conflicts as the main trigger of tensions between superpowers. The UK is the latest country to be mulling a ban over Huawei equipment and plans to end the role of Chinese telecommunication by end of 2027. Albeit, Boris Johnson has denied the action as a reaction to Trump’s policies, it isn’t hard to ignore the reality.

Coming back to the embassy issue. Now that China has retaliated by closing the U.S. embassy in Chengdu, chances are it won’t stop here. We might see the closure of one or two more diplomatic missions in both countries. Movement of people will also be affected/restricted; Huawei employees for instance, have already been denied a U.S. visa. Such a climate is inimical to businesses and the already ailing global economy might come under further pressure as such developments will certainly culminate in another bout of trade wars as well. 

There are new developments in this regard almost every day. Consider the recent case of Byte Dance’s TikTok which might also get banned in U.S. in order to address national security risks. There are different approaches to how this can be accomplished e.g., ordering Google and Apple to not host the application on their virtual stores. However, TikTok is in talks with Microsoft for a potential deal where the latter will purchase the former. Such developments manifest that it will get ugly before it gets better. Evidently, the timing of the said action(s) is instructive to note – ’tis the election year!

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China is certainly facing a tough time not only because of Trump’s policies but also geopolitically. India’s expansionist agenda has now become a shamelessly glaring truth. Shan Saeed, Global Chief Economist at Juwai IQI, based in Kuala Lampur, commenting on China’s resilience says that “she is in the driving seat. Chinese are ready and they have already sent a message to India and in the South China Sea. Things are very delicate at the moment and I foresee the relationship between U.S. and China to remain precarious in the near future. However, Chinese are going to outmaneuver both India and U.S. if things push comes to shove; but let’s hope that matters don’t move beyond rhetoric.”

Actions mentioned above will definitely stir anti American sentiments in China and amongst Chinese diaspora. We all know that on an individual/societal level people from both countries have been collaborating on many issues, businesses and aspects.

Dr. Junaid S. Ahmad, a professor of World Politics from Faculty of Sociology, University of Leeds, says that “the dramatic escalation in America’s aggressive posturing was not to be unexpected. On the question of relations with Beijing, there certainly have been intra-elite battles on whether to treat China as an essential trading partner massively bolstering the US economy itself, or, on the other hand, as a potent enemy to be contained and weakened.

To add to the existing dangerous bellicosity toward Beijing coming from Washington, we now see an even further factor at play: Trump’s sinister use of the Coronavirus pandemic to deflect attention away from his horrible handling of the situation, cataclysmically affecting both, the health and well-being of Americans, as well as the US economy.

Limits have been crossed in testing China’s sober and restrained patience in the face of such overt American belligerence. Recent defensive steps undertaken by Beijing demonstrate clearly now that not only can China effectively ward off the insidious geo-economics of the US’s global power plays, but China can also effectively restrain – and more – the American imperium geopolitically as well.”

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The threat to global economic health, already under stress and showing very nascent signs of recovery, is becoming tangible! Can we afford it? No!

Yasir Masood, a strategic and political analyst  and PhD Scholar at UIBE in Beijing, commenting on the current status of U.S. -china diplomatic relationship said that “the confrontation between China and the U.S. is at its highest point. It’s the latest step in a downward. U.S. policies are ironically becoming inward looking which is also clear by his recent withdrawal from WHO at such a critical juncture. Such actions will have long term consequences on global economic and political climate. The misplaced ideological stance of “Making America Great Again” has begun a downward spiral in policymaking and actions – making any country great on the expense of world peace, violating international based trade order and disturbing global trade, isn’t a good bargain.

On the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. administration has been openly blaming China for its worldwide spread. The U.S. has further hurt the relations between the two. I believe relations between the two would further intensify considering the series of diplomatic blows if otherwise, a saner leadership comes to office in November”.

Thucydides Trap can be avoided; the fight over 5G, allegations of espionage and the current economic scrum, all of this can be, if not reversed then, toned down. The world is going through an unprecedented time in the shape of a humanitarian crisis that has ravaged economies and businesses. A collective effort is required by world leaders’ policies should coalesce, not go asunder.  November 2020 can make the difference!

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Naya Daur