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A US–China ‘Cold War’ Will Have Many Players; How Bad It Could Get?

After the Coronavirus pandemic, there was an unusual economic boom in Europe, United States and China and it also had an impact on the foreign relations of all the major powers. There has been a major shift in U.S foreign policy due to the growing economy of China. In fact, the trade war or perhaps a new cold war between China and United States has entered a new phase.

The new very active QUAD group under President Joe Biden clearly shows the new strategic shift in the US foreign policy. On the other hand, after the exit from the European Union, United Kingdom also focused on South East Asia.The British prime minister very clearly presented his foreign policy framework in the British parliament in which he once again gave piority to Indo-pacific. India is also a part of the new QUAD group in indo-pacific. As a member along with japan and Australia, India will definitely play its role as a regional actor under new Biden administration.

After taking oath, Joe Biden called Indian prime minster Narinder Modi. Biden also called Chinese president and discussed with him the controversial issues like Xinjiang and Hong Kong. Although this telephonic conversation was not hostile, at the same time, it was not frendly as well. The major shift in U.S foreign policy was infact initiated during Obama administration.

In Indo-Pacific, there are two regional players, Japan and China. Tokyo is a close friend of Washington and has very close defence ties with it. But U.S considers growing Chinese economy a great threat for its regional and international interests. Through trade tariffs, former U.S president Donald Trump restricted Chinese exports to United States and supported the local industry to raise employment opportunities back home.

Since the pandemic, the Chinese growth rate has been above six percent on average. The Russian economy or its growth rate was never a threat to United States economy, even during the cold war; the Russian economy was almost 40 percent of the United States. But the recent boom in the Chinese economy will have a long lasting impact. Now, China is expanding its trade relations and has one of the biggest consumer markets in South Asia, South East Asia and Middle East and is exploring new markets in the heart of Africa as well.

The U.S had also strongly condemned the recent, one of the biggest, trade deals between Iran and China. Iran has signed 400 billion dollar development projects with China. Few analysts are calling it a CPEC plus project.

Now it would be interesting to observe how Iran will create a balance between its relations with China and India because Chabahar port was built by India and Gawadar port was built by China, a close ally of Pakistan. It is also interesting to observe that the trade ties between India and China have not affected even after the severe border clashes between the two countries which resulted in killing of many Indian troops.

The analysts think that the U.S sanctions on Iran forced it to become a close ally of China. After the trade agreements, China will buy cheap oil from Iran and will also invest in the infrastructure, transportation and communcation sector in Iran. Both countries will also collaborate in the field of defence and intelligence sharing.

According to defence analysts, China will not be the part of any regional conflict between Iran and its Arab rivals because it has signed trade agreements with Arab countries as well. Due to its recent deal with China, Iran is in a better positon to negotiate the nuclear deal with United States and now Biden administration will not be in a position to isolate Iran on international front. These agreements will boost up Iranian economy in coming years. Iran had signed similar agreements with Russian Federation in the past as well. Iran is supporting Assad’s regime in Syria and the Palestinian cause in the Middle East. It is an important regional player not only in Persian Gulf but in the Middle East as well. The Biden administration is now relatively more interested to engage Iran and renegotiate the stalled nuclear deal.

We can also see a slight shift in the U.S foreign policy in the Middle East as well. The Biden administration is not ready to compromise on the freedom of press and human rights and finally, the CIA has released a report on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Secondly, the Biden administration indicated support for the two state formula in the Middle East (Israel and Palestine). Joe Biden had already met Mahmood Abbass during Obama administration in Palestine and favoured the two state solution. It is highly likely that he will try to endorse the OSLO agreement between the two rivals.

In South Asian regional perspective, the recent visit of Russian Foreign Minister to Pakistan and the growing defence ties between Pakistan and Russia clearly indicate the successful policy of “bilateralism” adopted by Pakistan keeping in view the new regional and international dynamics. Russia also showed its satisfaction over the recent cease fire and a peace agreement between India and Pakistan. It knows the geo-strategic and geo-political importance of Pakistan in the region and acknowledges the constructive, effective and vital role which only Pakistan can play in the regional stability and international peace.

Pakistan is also keenly observing the new possible regional developments in Afghanistan especially after the announcement of U.S withdrawal from Afghanistan by Biden administration. The regional players would attempt to fill the void with the support of Pakistan.

China is also closely observing the new QUAD group and reshaping its foreign policy according to new regional and international dynamics. The new trade war or cold war between China and United States will not be in the interest of the whole world. This new cold war will ultimately lead to the new arms race which will be a great threat not only for the Indo-Pacific region but for the whole world as well.

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Naya Daur