How to manage China’s rise: A poser for US

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How to manage China’s rise: A poser for US

Sunday, 15 January 2023 | Manan Dwivedi

How to manage China’s rise: A poser for US

The US commercial entities have clamoured for a easing off trade policy with the People's Republic of China but despite promises made by President Joe Biden, the trail of the cold war mentality is writ large over the decoupling initiatives ushered in by former President Donald Trump

The biggest and the most tantalising feature of the contemporary context after the solution to the Ukraine crisis is how to manage the so-called peaceful rise of China. This happens to be a pertinent poser. Intertwined in the larger matrix of events is the context of the China-led conflict in the treacherous South China Sea and the border dispute with India.

To serve as a topping happens to be the Chinese-American trade war along with the all rankling question of the KMT Regime in Taiwan. The American and Chinese relationship hangs through a thin thread of trade and business traditions which was turned upside down with the policies of President Donald Trump who initiated the much followed paradigm of decoupling the Chinese political, diplomatic and economic juggernaut.

The US-China trade war has become a cold war which is charged by the proud palaver of ideologies which are politically regulated both in Washington and Beijing.

The US commercial entities have clamoured for a easing off trade policy with the People’s Republic of China but despite promises made by President Joe Biden, the trail of the cold war mentality is writ large over the decoupling initiatives ushered in by former President Donald Trump.

A Carnegie Endowment for Peace report contends, “If the United States wants to preserve its technological and moral authority, it must first deal with economic and political weaknesses at home. Bemoaning China’s unfair policies and its authoritarian regime will not solve this problem. Instead, the United States should focus on strengthening its own economic competitiveness, forging internal political cohesion, and working with European and Asian partners to build enduring international institutions.”

Thus, the United States of America needs to do a rejig with its own domesticity along with its alliance orientations if a deft management of the peaceful rise of China has to be initiated. President Barack Obama largely realised this flip side to the Mount Sinai nationalism argument of the American Dreamers and initiated a rethink on arriving at mechanics and instrumentalities of managing a Chinese geopolitical and geo-economic ascent. As has been observed, decoupling ethics have not been very successful, though nations such as India too attempted to counter the hegemonic and expansionist designs and legerdemain of the Chinese surreptitious ascent.

When we set about the task of looking into and delving inside the casket of the Sino-US rivalry and cut-throat competition, the theme of how Europe deals with the entire gamut of the Chinese investments and trade corpus can serve as a beacon in the right direction with an astute focus.

The Europeans are much more closely intertwined with the Chinese economics and have only a healthy rivalry to look into as a concurrent development which is more premised upon the nuances of mutual benefit unlike the raw nature of the testy and great power politics dominated tryst and transactions between Beijing and Washington.

Thus, the relationships and transactions which China has with Europe are much more manageable in nature sans a clash of ideologies with a lesser intrigue fanned by great power politics. On the other hand, the Chinese and the American relationship are marred by an ideological clash and with the Ukrainian crisis unleashing its fangs on the larger screen of world politics, the Western and the American standpoint changes.

With Putin’s special defence operations unleashing fire and brimstone, the inexorable annihilation in the context of collateral damage in the Ukrainian heartland poses a new poser. As China and the Kremlin have been allied to each other over a litany of issues and the energy theme serving as an adhesive between the two nations, the Chinese have stopped short of publicly decrying the Russian military operations in Ukraine.

Beijing contends that it’s on the size of peace in the Ukraine war and China has, Politico reports, “After initially stating it supported Moscow’s ‘sovereignty and security’ last June, China President Xi Jinping recently warned his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin not to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine during an exchange with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, then on a state visit to China.” Xi also asked Germany and Europe to play an important part in calling for peace and facilitating negotiations.

In September, Putin himself acknowledged that Beijing had expressed “questions” and “concerns” over the war in Ukraine following his meeting with Xi during a multilateral summit in Uzbekistan. Thus, Beijing has raised moral scruples over the nuclear sabre rattling by Putin but its reservations about Russia crossing the Rubicon of the United Nations Charter and its attendant principles and purposes have been aired bilaterally and not publicly as done by some of the nations in the larger rigmarole of the international system.

No one can see away the suspicions serenading over the Chinese standpoint over Ukraine, but New Delhi did come up with a surprise where-in, the Indians charted out a deft tightrope walk with both the Kremlin and White House when they refused to side with the Russians and the propagandised threat of the rise of NATO but instead continued to import energy supplies from Kremlin’s oil and natural gas pumps despite the American and European sanctions.

Thus, India played smarter than China but China too had its diplomatic hands full when they seemingly sided with the Kremlin interspersed with inane and weak grunts about the massive carnage being delivered in the heart of Ukraine.

If an NDTV report has to be believed in all its entirety, “From China blaming NATO’s expansion for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to blaming Ukraine’s desire to join NATO for endangering Russian security or even condemning anti-Russia sanctions imposed upon the outbreak of the war, Beijing’s intentions are only to threaten the US amid the ongoing power conflict.”

Thus, Beijing has arrived at a new instrument of attrition and propaganda with which to beat the West and the White House with. The expansionism of a US inspired NATO expansion along with the alleged brittle nature of liberal democracy once again harping over staid ideological positioning has become a pet peeve as far as the Chinese foreign policy is concerned vis-a-vis Ukraine and Russia, is concerned.

The USA buoyed up with the buttressing of the American Dream is pitted against the Chinese novae might, influence and pelf. Still, what needs to be underlined and emphasised upon, is, the larger idiom that the Chinese surge is an old story and an amalgam of Chinese containment and sustainability of an alert relationship should be what the Doctor ordered for the day.

The US has realised that the signboards of “Beware China” are the order of the day, but, the management of China is a more significant diplomatic exercise. One may disdainfully acquiesce to the hard ball reality that the Chinese, are, here to stay but the world system, including the US can take heart from the fact that the pandemic induced strife in China along with the excesses of a scheming Xi Jinping, can, act as utilisable factors which can help the comity of liberal democratic states, unravel the labyrinth of Beijing.


(The writer teaches at International Relations and International Organisations, IIPA, New Delhi)

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