President Xi and his counterpart Donald Trump couldn’t be more different when it comes to their global outlook. China has embraced globalization and is very optimistic about its future, as per President Xi’s speech at Davos, while the US is shunning the worldwide system that it helped spearhead and is retreating towards what Trump’s Chief Strategist Stephen K. Bannon has termed “economic nationalism”. The problem with these diverging trajectories is that the Chinese and American economies are intimately connected with one another through a system of complex interdependency, meaning that their decoupling will have to be carried out in a phased and progressive manner in order to avoid unexpected shocks which could inadvertently harm both of them. This is a lot easier said than done, and it’s still not even clear exactly how Trump plans to implement Bannon’s vision of economic nationalism in regards to China.
Apart from the economic sphere, there are also pressing geostrategic contradictions between these two Great Powers. The US and China have opposite approaches towards the South China Sea, and while they rhetorically have a somewhat aligned position on North Korea, their individual policies in dealing with it are drastically different. Moreover, the US’ efforts to construct what amounts to a de-facto “Chinese Containment Coalition” in East and Southeast Asia have rankled Beijing and drawn its ire, especially in respect to the informal remilitarization of Japan. China feels like it’s being surrounded by the US, and the latest THAAD anti-missile deployment to South Korea certainly didn’t help to alleviate its concerns. Viewed from the opposite angle, the US sees China as the only rising economic power capable of challenging its global market leadership, and it’s marshalling a network of allies together who each have a self-interested stake in stopping it and preserving the existing system.
Whether it’s economically or geopolitically, the US and China are racing towards what’s been described as the Thucydides Trap, though the difference between antiquity and today is that neither side had a chance to communicate their intentions and possibly enter into a series of deal-making like they do today.
Saikat Bhattacharyya, research scholar in economics at Jadavpur University in Kolkat, and Gilbert Mercier, geopolitical analyst, author of "The Orwellian Empire", and editor in chief of News Junkie Post commented on the issue.
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