US allies often adopt hedging strategies towards China to navigate their conflicting economic and security interests. However, an increasingly aggressive Chinese foreign policy has caused a number of Beijing’s relationships abroad to deteriorate. Concerns over China’s human rights abuses, disputed territorial claims, and escalating threats towards Taiwan have led to a more serious effort by the West to confront it.
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While China has won goodwill from its PPE donations throughout the pandemic and its quickly growing vaccine distributions, recent US efforts are working well to score back favor. At the end of the day, there is hardly a good quantifier for what the final prize will be; nonetheless, both nations are in a strong position to win global influence for their efforts.
On February 1, the Burmese military overthrew the government of Myanmar. China and the US have had different responses based on divergent interests: China is a close economic ally of the BRI member and is interested in restoring stable supply chains in Myanmar; Washington, on the other hand, has been more concerned over the military’s rampant human rights abuses.
The US-China relationship will continue to see unbalanced progression between mutual trade interests and political misalignment. Both nations will hold steadfast to their geopolitical ambitions, leaving little opportunity for trust between the two powers. Nevertheless, shared economic interests are likely to drive progressive dialogue between policymakers on both sides of the Pacific.
Although “strategic competition” has become the key principle of the US’ approach to China, Washington still lacks a comprehensive strategy to effectively counter China’s advance. The Strategic Competition Act and the Endless Frontier Act excellently provide the new administration with a substantial plan for this grand competition, yet there remain many uncertainties.
It is clear that there is a dire need for more interaction and communication between journalists and scholars in order to provide readers with a more informed and accurate picture of the situation between China and Taiwan. In a time of clickbait articles and fervent anti-China McCarthyism sentiment, sensationalism in media, when combined with ill-informed journalism, will only serve to exacerbate the situation – a danger for policymakers who are entrusted to make well-informed and reasonable decisions, if need be.
Myanmar’s military takeover and the subsequent protests and violence have resulted in more than just domestic turmoil. The country’s turn from its democratic reforms of the past decade has called into question what the future of Myanmar looks like, as well as where the country fits into the political, ideological, economic, and strategic battle between China and the US. Neither power benefits from chaos and unrest in Myanmar, but the military coup may be a way for China to prevent Western influence and democratic ideals from taking hold in the region.
Though it is a mistake to liken the Quad, which has been little more than a few isolated dialogues between the US, India, Japan, and Australia, to NATO, a fully fleshed out multilateral institution funded by its member states that is considered the most powerful military alliance in the world, Beijing would be unwise to underestimate its future potential.
Washington has increasingly hoped to count on its alliance with Japan to counter Beijing’s ambitions in Asia, especially with regard to the South China Sea and Taiwan. Yet, Japan remains tentative to take a stance against Beijing that mirrors Washington’s on matters of telecommunications, human rights issues, trade, and territorial ambitions, so it remains to be seen exactly what role Japan will allow itself to play within the ever-increasing tense US-China relationship.
China recognizes that it must evolve its developmental pattern and market vitality to the next stage; therefore, the 14th five-year plan is devoted to making breakthroughs in innovation capabilities, building more open and stable financial markets, advancing in green development, and strengthening the domestic consumer market.
Katherine Tai has advocated for cooperation over competition when it comes to the US-China trade relationship. She has stressed the importance of strengthening relationships with US allies and that China needs to follow through on the commitments it made in the US-China trade deal. Given this, it seems that the new US trade representative will focus on creating a solid multilateral approach to trade relations with China intended to see Beijing adhere to the practices and standards of the US-led system.
The slow return to global economic normalcy will give Beijing the maneuverability to focus on strengthening its domestic consumption within the context of the dual circulation policy and reduce foreign economic reliance to gain greater political freedom unbridled by norms within the traditional global order.
Chinese standards contributions have been increasing in recent years, and the quality of those proposals has been increasing as well. To maintain US dominance, Washington will need to rely on its tech titans and consider ways of subsidizing or promoting R&D in 5G and other important future standards.
While Beijing’s directness may open doors for unmasked dialogue and progress in the bilateral relationship, it has also led to obstinance on issues ranging from human rights to territorial claims, which has in turn led to increased conflict amid global condemnation and economic and diplomatic pressures. All in all, the Alaska talks only mainly served to recognize the cascading peaks impeding the path forward for US-China relations.
For the last forty years, the One-China Policy, the Six Assurances, and the Taiwan Relations Act have erected the pillars of the US’ Taiwan policy. Together, they mean the US will provide arms sales to Taiwan to ensure the island has sufficient ability for self-defense while not directly engaging in the sovereignty dispute between China and Taiwan. However, as China’s military power projection capabilities have progressed rapidly over the past few years, whether the US should adjust its policy towards Taiwan has stirred vigorous debate in policymaking circles.