China, US must try to stop new ‘iron cur­tain’

Global Times US Edition - - FORUM - By Zhao Ming­hao The au­thor is a se­nior re­search fel­low with The Charhar In­sti­tute and an ad­junct fel­low at the Chongyang In­sti­tute for Fi­nan­cial Stud­ies at Ren­min Univer­sity of China. opin­ion@glob­al­times.

China and the US will hold their se­cond diplo­matic and se­cu­rity di­a­logue on Fri­day in Wash­ing­ton. It is ex­pected this di­a­logue will ease the ris­ing ten­sions be­tween Beijing and Wash­ing­ton, or at least pause the es­ca­lat­ing Si­noUS fric­tion.

In the past few months, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has demon­strated its stance of strength­en­ing con­fronta­tion with China. In early Oc­to­ber, Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence de­liv­ered a speech on US pol­icy to­ward China, taken by some ob­servers as a dec­la­ra­tion of a “new Cold War”. Even with wide­spread op­po­si­tion, the White House con­tin­ues to in­ten­sify the eco­nomic and trade of­fen­sive against China and threat­ens to con­tinue im­pos­ing tar­iffs on the re­main­ing $257 bil­lion worth of Chi­nese im­ports to the US. In fact, the re­port re­leased by the Fed­eral Re­serve in Oc­to­ber shows that tar­iffs have re­sulted in ris­ing im­port costs of raw ma­te­ri­als, and Amer­i­can com­pa­nies are deeply con­cerned about mount­ing ev­i­dence of the nega­tive im­pact of the trade war

For­mer US trea­sury sec­re­tary Hank Paul­son warned of an “eco­nomic iron cur­tain” be­tween the US and China in his speech at the New Econ­omy Fo­rum in Sin­ga­pore on Wed­nes­day. The trade war may not only force for­eign en­ter­prises to grad­u­ally re­move their in­dus­trial chains from China, but also help to main­tain and con­sol­i­date the tech­no­log­i­cal lead­er­ship of the US. Not long ago, the US De­part­ment of De­fense re­leased a re­port claim­ing that re­liance on Chi­nese prod­ucts posed a se­vere threat to the US de­fense in­dus­try. The root of Sino-US eco­nomic and trade fric­tion ob­vi­ously lies be­yond the sur­face prob­lem of the trade deficit.

US-China con­flict is at the edge of es­ca­lat­ing also in terms of strate­gic and se­cu­rity is­sues. The Tai­wan au­thor­i­ties re­cently an­nounced that Tai­wan would con­sider al­low­ing US war­ships to dock at Taip­ing Is­land, a key strong­hold in the South China Sea, as Tai­wan in­tends to play a sig­nif­i­cant role in the Indo-Pa­cific strat­egy of the US. In ad­di­tion, Ru­pert Ham­mond-Cham­bers, pres­i­dent of the US-Tai­wan Busi­ness Coun­cil, said that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion may launch a new round of arms sales to Tai­wan by the end of this year. The Tai­wan ques­tion is the most crit­i­cal fac­tor that may lead to armed con­flict be­tween Beijing and Wash­ing­ton, but the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion lacks recog­ni­tion of the sen­si­tiv­ity of this is­sue.

An­other fo­cus of in­ter­na­tional pub­lic opin­ion is whether the US and Chi­nese mil­i­taries will have an un­ex­pected clash in the South China Sea. On Oc­to­ber 16, two US B-52

strate­gic bombers flew over the dis­puted is­lands of the South China Sea again. Al­legedly the US Pa­cific Fleet is also plan­ning a se­ries of op­er­a­tions in the South China Sea this month so as to demon­strate its abil­ity to quickly and ef­fec­tively strike po­ten­tial ad­ver­saries, quite provoca­tive to the Chi­nese side. The US is also wor­ry­ing that the South China Sea Code of Con­duct, which is un­der ne­go­ti­a­tion be­tween China and South­east Asian coun­tries, might harm the in­ter­ests of the US and limit its mil­i­tary and eco­nomic. ac­tiv­i­ties in the South China Sea.

The afore­men­tioned ten­sions in­di­cate the sig­nif­i­cance and ur­gency of Sino-US con­tacts and di­a­logue. For­tu­nately, both Beijing and Wash­ing­ton have re­al­ized the need to avoid fur­ther de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of bi­lat­eral re­la­tions. Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump will meet at the end of this month in Ar­gentina dur­ing the G20 sum­mit. One of the most im­por­tant ob­jec­tives of the se­cond round of Sino-US diplo­matic and se­cu­rity di­a­logue is to pre­pare for this sum­mit. Ob­vi­ously, eas­ing Chi­naUS trade ten­sions is the key. Dur­ing an in­ter­view sev­eral days ago, Trump de­fined the trade ten­sions as a skir­mish in­stead of a war, which seems a sig­nal that the US hopes to ne­go­ti­ate with China. In his speech de­liv­ered at the China In­ter­na­tional Im­port Expo, Xi also pro­posed some mea­sures to fur­ther deepen China’s re­form and open­ing-up. With China’s ris­ing power and the US de­sire to ad­just its re­la­tion­ship with the world, Beijing and Wash­ing­ton need to find a way to com­pet­i­tively co­ex­ist, even if it is doomed to be very dif­fi­cult. It re­quires mu­tual re­spect, high-qual­ity di­a­logue and ac­tions ac­cept­able to both sides.

Il­lus­tra­tion: Liu Rui/GT

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