Sputnik: US Vice President Mike Pence has accused China of meddling in US politics and elections. China, of course, denied its involvement. What’s your take on these comments?
Francesco Sisci: I think what we have seen in the past few months is an escalation of tensions between the United States and China, which started off on tariffs and trade and now it is spilling [over]. And unfortunately, all these areas, in a way are feeding one another. I mean there is trade, as we know; now there are these allegations of meddling in American internal affairs, then there are the military maneuvers in the South China Sea in November. These incidents are separate but, of course, feed on the mood of annoyance, of irritation, if not anger, with China. Unfortunately, this is also feeding on the bad mood around China in some Southeast Asian countries, in the neighborhood. So the situation should be brought under control, one way or another. But if China just sits still and waits, things are not going to get better by themselves, I’m afraid.
Francesco Sisci: Well, there are many people who think so, I would say by simplifying the mood in Washington, from what I can perceive from far way. There are two parties in the United States: one party which thinks that there are two enemies, two hostile forces: China and Russia; and another one which would rather focus only on China, and those ones would rather improve ties with Russia, also because China is construed as the main enemy. In any case, the mood is not constructive, unfortunately.
Sputnik: Let’s talk about the reaction in China to these comments. What was the reaction of government officials and perhaps also the public? What’s the attitude towards the US among the people of China currently?
Francesco Sisci: Well, the reaction to these latest developments is muted. There has not been an official reaction, also because these things happened just a few hours ago. In a way, China realized American determination only in May or June. Before, they thought this was all just something that will pass by itself, “if we sit tight we will weather this storm.” After June, they realized this is not something to be weathered. However, they are still uncertain about how to respond, because they are waiting for the results of the midterm elections and to see if Trump becomes strengthened or weakened there. Then they will decide how to deal [with] and what to say to the Americans. This is my sense. So, the midterm election is a crucial timeframe. After that, the Chinese will decide what to do and what to say.
Francesco Sisci: I think it is bad. My take that it’s bad is that I can understand the Chinese frame of mind. But I think if they wait for too long, tensions will build up to a level that it will be very difficult to scale down. In fact, I think what the Chinese maybe fail to perceive is how the anti-Chinese mood is deeply grounded in the US in Washington, and how it is bipartisan. It is not just the Republicans, also the Democrats. Yes there are differences of opinions about what to do with that, with China. Somebody wants a tariff war, somebody wants to talk, somebody wants a cold war and somebody wants maybe something even more. But the overall mood is consistent. My impression is that Beijing fails to appreciate the situation, the gravity of the situation, and maybe also because of internal reasons, internal tensions, [has] failed so far to address the issues squarely.
Sputnik: What about this trade spat, the trade war between the two countries? Do you think it will get worse before it gets better? What is your forecast?
Francesco Sisci: I am afraid this will be the case, because this is not just the trade by itself, as we said. It is trade plus tensions in the South China Sea, plus these allegations of meddling in the American electoral process. One level feeds on one another. So the different levels are mixed and yes, I am afraid this tariff spat will grow worse.
The views expressed in this article are those of the speaker, and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.