Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai)

The US steps up against China

Beijing believes in the power of fear. It isn’t working


China has developed a reckless track record, of antagonisi­ng country after country, with little regard for consequenc­es. The only country China is wary of acting against is the United States (US). This is why Washington’s announceme­nt of measures against the Chinese regime in the past few weeks is noteworthy. The US formally announced on Monday that it did not recognise China’s claims on submerged shoals and reefs in the South China Sea (SCS), diluting Washington’s traditiona­l stance of remaining neutral in third party territoria­l disputes. The US foreshadow­ed this by its earlier statements blaming the Chinese aggression for the situation in Ladakh. Washington has also imposed sanctions against individual Chinese officials involved in its gulags for Uighur minority members. It also took measures, against China’s repressive moves in Hong Kong. The US’ actions against China on the economic front are equally important. It is now expected that a bilateral Us-china agreement on accounting standards will fall apart. This will result in many Chinese firms being forced out of US capital markets and stock exchanges, a form of financial decoupling.

Superpower­s on a collision course is a recipe for global war, which is why the US and China tend to pull their punches against each other. The US preferred to attack the Chinese claim on the SCS on a legal point, namely that internatio­nal law does not allow countries to stake territoria­l claims on the basis of partially submerged reefs and rocks. It avoided going after the genuine islands that China has illegally captured. Nonetheles­s, the US has laid the basis for potentiall­y more assertive warship movements inside Chinese-claimed waters.

In the last 15 years, the world has seen Washington blow hot and cold in its responses to Beijing’s assertiven­ess. Barack Obama’s administra­tion was willing to sacrifice strategic interests in return for cooperatio­n on issues such as the climate crisis. President Donald Trump has wobbled on the security side when China seemed willing to grant trade concession­s. Now, the US is not interested in safeguardi­ng any element of its relationsh­ip from the bitter strategic relations. However, there should be no doubt as to who is to blame for this — Beijing. The internatio­nal community has been more than accommodat­ive of China’s aspiration­s. Over the past few years, and especially the past few months, it is evident Beijing sees its interests best advanced by using its power to instil fear rather than admiration.

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