In this issue of our US-China relations newsletter, we dive into the impact of China’s vaccine diplomacy campaign and the impact it brings on US-China competition over global influence.
Tag: Coffee vs. Tea
CvT: America is Back, but China Never Left – How the Biden Administration Intends to Rebuild US Leadership in the UN
In this issue of our premium US-China relations newsletter, we explore Biden’s focus on the UN as a key battleground on which to counter China’s increasingly influential voice in international leadership.
The Coffee vs. Tea Newsletter brings you the latest US-China relations analysis: The WHO’s COVID Response: A Deep Well Fueling Sinking US-China Relations; and more!
On the day before Joe Biden’s inauguration, former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared ongoing “genocide” in the home of the predominantly Muslim Uyghur minority in China’s far western Xinjiang region. Pompeo set precedent as the first state official in the world to make a formal denunciation against the humanitarian crisis in Xinjiang, declaring that the Chinese state is attempting to “destroy” the ethnic minority group. The ball is now squarely in the court of the Biden administration to decide the US’ prevailing stance on the matter.
From its familiarly hawkish contents to its title, The Longer Telegram offers little in the way of originality. However, it does provide a comprehensive US approach to Xi’s China, and does a thorough job of examining the strengths and weaknesses of the CCP, Xi’s priorities, US priorities, and areas of both strategic competition and cooperation. While there will likely be further disagreement about the true ambitions of Xi and the CCP, as well as the wisdom of taking such a hawkish approach to the bilateral relationship, The Longer Telegram is valuable for its careful analysis and clear stance.
With the arrival of a new presidential administration, many pundits have been predicting a return to traditional American values in US diplomacy. However, the reality is that there will be little room for change in US policy regarding human rights or democracy, even with Biden in the White House. Institutionally, there has been a general tendency for Congress to be the focal point of human rights as opposed to the executive branch, which inherently limits Biden’s ability to single-handedly address meaningful policy change.
While within the US-China relationship there is a heavy focus on competition, there are also potential areas of mutually beneficial cooperation. Addressing climate change is perhaps the most pressing of these areas, as well as one that offers the most hope for the bilateral relationship and the global environment.
The politics surrounding manufacturing continue to strain relations between the two countries, demonstrated through events from the US-China trade war to the COVID-19 pandemic; highlighting the inequities in manufacturing and the devastating economic and social consequences of having an ill-equipped supply chain system. Although the pandemic acted as a wake-up call for US manufacturing, the focus on recovery post-pandemic and a new presidential administration provides hope for the US to level the playing field currently dominated by China.
The bilateral relationship has been full of ups and downs, at times experiencing highs of friendship and growth while at others dragged down by disappointment and mistrust. Why has it been so difficult for the US and China to exit the competition cycle and maintain healthy, cooperative relations? One complicating factor is the pervasive presence of historical narratives. Both China and the US maintain narratives about the relationship that appear throughout the years and the state of the relationship.
After nurturing Tsinghua Unigroup into a major player in the global chip industry, the government appears ready to cut the company, and others like it, loose in an effort to let market forces rather than political considerations allocate resources in China’s economy. However, unless Beijing tackles the root causes of the implicit guarantees that SOEs receive—their overwhelming size and continued access to subsidized resources—rising SOE defaults will not lead to better run economic entities. Instead, they will simply bring to light the inefficiencies that have long plagued China’s state sector.
China’s successful return mission from the moon has fueled discussions about the role of space in US-China relations. While many see potential for great collaboration between the two countries in the next great frontier, others view China’s advances as a serious security concern and an impetus for the US to ramp up its own space program to meet China’s latest challenge.
This month, China’s first comprehensive export control regime, the Export Control Law (ECL) came into force. Despite the geopolitical context, the ECL will likely have a limited impact on foreign companies compared to EAR, and do little in the future to prevent the US from acquiring or domestically developing any technological capabilities of Chinese origin. However, it offers useful insight into the strategic use of export controls in an age when national security encompasses broad economic interests and coalition-building has become increasingly difficult for the reigning hegemon.
The Trump Administration views the Made in China 2025 plan as a key piece in China’s long-term plan to replace the US on the global stage, representing a distinct threat to American national security. In response, the administration has drafted countermeasures that focus on starving the plan by cutting off supplies to the main Chinese telecommunication companies, Huawei and ZTE, through the Chinese technology supply company, SMIC.
A relatively new, and increasingly important, area of competition between the US and China is their respective engagement with African states. While the US has a long history of involvement with the African continent, China’s engagement in the region has grown rapidly and used the COVID-19 pandemic to make greater strides. As the US and China compete for global influence and power, the dynamics at play with African states cannot be ignored.
As the race for global technology leadership becomes increasingly heated, it remains to be seen which international players will emerge as the primary drivers of the industry’s future. While the US has historically a key leader in the technology space, China has been steadily making gains. What remains to be seen is whether China’s increasingly savvy user base and technology giants will be able to shake the connotations of the country’s “copycat” past and dethrone the current leader over the future of technology.