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Increased Tension in US China Relations

On May 8th the Global Policy Institute and Bay Atlantic University held an online panel discussion titled:

“US China Relations After Covid: From Cool to Frosty?”

US China relations are troubled. In 2018 the US Government engaged in tough trade negotiations with Beijing, which included a painful tariff war. There are doubts raised elsewhere about China’s willingness to comply with a rules-based international trade system. And now the coronavirus crisis highlighted the significant level of dependence on Chinese made strategic goods. Are these manageable issues that can be resolved? Or are we witnessing the beginning of a more profound rift? What is next on the agenda?

All panelists agreed that bilateral relations have worsened in 2020. Indeed, Beijing’s lack of transparency in sharing in a timely manner all available information on the emerging coronavirus epidemic which started in Wuhan reinforced a feeling of mistrust. Gordon Chang argued that it may be possible for Washington to create a coalition of western and western oriented countries willing to reinforce trade and investment links with one another in order to lessen dependence on China based global supply chains. Brandon Weichert pointed out that, whatever the actual strength of the Chinese economy, Chinese geopolitical ambitions should be taken seriously. The West should monitor all Chinese efforts aimed at increasing its military presence in Asia and beyond. America should create stronger security ties with Indo-Pacific countries that share Washington’s concerns about China’s expansionist goals. Martin Sieff pointed out that China has major unresolved domestic problems starting with major environmental degradation. All this will absorb more energies and resources in the years to come. Gordon Chang noted that while the Belt and Road initiative will not work out as planned, Chinese ambitions in high tech should be taken seriously, given China’s real capabilities in this sector. In the end, all three panelists agreed that this marked deterioration in the bilateral US China relationship cannot be quickly fixed.

Watch the full video here.

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