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From Economics to Politics: Growing Frictions Between China and the U.S.

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Authors: Yao Jiahui &Yang Yizhong

Chinese consulate in Houston ordered to close the U.S. in Houston, Texas, by July 24, in only three days. Different departments from both China and the U.S. have speculated on the reasons for this confusing move, yet the international media statements on its trigger are also disparate. The move was described as “political provocation” by Beijing, while according to the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the decision was taken because China was “stealing” intellectual property. Shortly after a U.S. government closure order for the mission took effect at 4 p.m. Central Time (2100 GMT), a group of men accompanied by a US State Department official was seen forcing open a door at the Chinese consulate in Houston on July 24.

In response, China ordered the United States to shut its consulate in Chengdu on July 24, Friday, which was described by The Washington Post as “another escalation in the dispute between the world’s two largest economies”.[1] The Chengdu consulate of the United States opened in 1985, while the Houston Consulate of China opened as one of the first consulates in the U.S. Regarding its location in southwest China, Chengdu Consulate’s service targets include Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou, Tibet and Chongqing. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China stated at a press conference on July 24 that some personnel of the U.S. Consulate General in Chengdu engaged in activities that were incompatible with their status, interfered in China’s internal affairs and harmed China’s security interests, which is well aware by the US.

Such “diplomatic reciprocity” raised by the U.S. are not unheard as Mike Pompeo officially announced on the 23rd that the US-China Engagement Policy has “failed” and proposed a “distrust and verification” strategy to encourage The “Free World” joins forces against “Communist China”, in front Nixon Library, of whom was the 37th US President to break the ice of Sino-US relations and stimulate the Policy of Engagement with China. Although it was certain that Nixon had a good reason to start contact with China in the past, and claimed that Nixon’s goal was to “lead China’s transformation,” Pompeo insisted that Nixon’s engagement policy “would benefit China more than the United States.” The engagement pursued did not transform China as the kind of Nixon hoped, but the opposite. Regarding the Trump administration’s new strategy, Pompeo took Reagan’s “Trust, but verify” treatment of the Soviet Union as an example, and proposed to “distrust and verify” China. He believes that the “free world” should guide China’s behavior changes in a “creative and decisive” way.

In recent years, China’s rapid development in the realms of technology, economy, and diplomacy has been witnessed by western countries. On July 23, China’s Tianwen-1 mission launched atop a Long March 5 rocket from Wenchang Satellite Launch Center at 12:41 a.m. EDT (0441 GMT), and the probe is expected to reach Mars in February 2021. As the second-largest economy in the world, such achievements are regarded by the United States as a great threat to its “world hegemony” status.

Therefore, the current US-China situation is often described as the “Thucydides trap” of the 21st century. According to the defense correspondent Johnathan Marcus, it is clear that the Trump administration is determined to step up its very public calling out of Beijing. In the midst of a presidential re-election campaign and with the US economy and society battered by the Covid-19 pandemic, Trump has determined that there is a political advantage in playing the China card.[2]

Currently, rising protectionism and global market contraction become obvious. therefore, the developing mode of economic circulation between domestic and international becomes a significant way to participate in the economic globalization. A brand new development pattern between China and the U.S. is considered to emerge, is the new “Thucydides’s trap” inescapable? Thucydides’s Trap here refers to the dynamic between rising and ruling powers that drive events toward war.[3] However, the connection between China and the United States is different from other cases and there is a great opportunity for both sides to avoid the “destined war”. Considering the various aspects of economy, politics, military and technology and so on, United States is the strongest ruling power, and China is the most spectacular rising power. The rivalry between the two is like a rising state accelerating towards the most comprehensive and determined ruling power, or an unstoppable force accelerating towards an immovable object. Anticipate the grandest collision of all time.

Nobody in Washington thinks they can achieve their goals by having a war with China, nor decision-makers in Beijing. But if the drama ends in a war, there must be some factors from the following three dynamics.

First, the material reality of the seesaw between the U.S. and China shifts to an insatiable position that one side may feel blundering. What if China’s economy continues to grow while the United States keeps stagnation? What if the United States economy reblooms while China slides into a middle-income trap? Second, perceptions and misperceptions, understandings and misunderstandings politics may result in a war, “the historical record has demonstrated that the cause of the war between rising and extant dominant powers is much more complex than the neo-realists have explained. There is nothing foreordained about such a war. Some of them were mainly the result of misperception and the failure of statesmanship, as even the arch-realpolitik practitioner”, argued Henry Kissinger.Third, Third-party action is possibly an inducement for the final war, as discussed before, when one party feels the responsibility to respond to the defiant provocations, the two parties will be dragged into a war that both don’t want. When taking care of US-China competition, both sides should look carefully at potential third-party provocations.

Under these three dynamics, U.S. and China are taking care of the fragile relationship cautiously. How could the US and China escape Thucydides’s trap and avoid a possible collision? The following two juxtaposing approaches are believed apposite and feasible for both sides.

On the one hand, both United States and China should recognize the fact that systematic vulnerability of the international system that a possible destined war may be the end of the relationship between the status quo state and the rising state. Therefore, it is reasonable for both to reinforce their communication on many levels, including Head Summit, Ministry level and dialogues between armies. Both the United States and China should possess joint scenarios for the coming crisis, so that they could prevent the crisis from happening, and even if the crisis is unavoidable, they could manage those crises immediately. The two great powers shall be very much cautious about a possible third party that could drag them into a war, like Taiwan province, Korean peninsula, East or South China Sea countries, etc..

On the other hand, aside from externalizing problems and communication, a rivalry partnership is almost certain for both sides to deal with the intricate and complex relationship. They have to acknowledge that their relationship is a mutually beneficial connection, and necessary competition is inevitable. But they need to collaborate on their common interest.


[1]China tells U.S. to shut consulate in Chengdu, in retaliation for Houston closure, ByAnna Fifield, Carol Morello and Ellen Nakashima. July 24, 2020, The Washington Post.

[2]Chinese consulate in Houston ordered to close by US, 23 July 2020. BBC News

[3]Allison, Graham T. 2017. Destined for War : Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap? Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

B.A of Public Administration and Spanish, Rutgers University, Specialist at International Department, China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation.

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Prospects for U.S.-China Relations in the Biden Era

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The U.S. presidential election which will be held on November 3 is drawing ever closer. As the Trump administration performs poorly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, where the death toll in the U.S. exceeded 210,000, the election trend appears to be very unfavorable for Donald Trump.

According to a recent poll conducted by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, Joe Biden led Trump by 14 percentage points in the national elections. It is worth noting that retired American generals, who have traditionally been extremely low-key in politics, publicly supported Biden this year, something that is quite rare. On September 24, 489 retired generals and admirals, former national security officials and diplomats signed a joint letter in support of Biden. Among them are Republicans, Democrats, and non-partisans, showing that they have crossed the affiliation, and jointly support Biden to replace Trump. Although the opinion polls do not represent the final election, with the election only being one month away, the widening of the opinion gap is enough to predict the direction of the election.

For the whole world, especially for China, it is necessary to prepare for the advent of a possible Biden era of the United States. During Trump’s tenure, U.S.-China relations have taken a turn for the worse, and China has been listed as the foremost “long-term strategic competitor” of the United States.

There is a general view in China that after the Democratic Party comes to power, U.S.-China relations may worsen. The reason is that the Democratic Party places more emphasis on values such as human rights and ideology and is accustomed to using values such as human rights, democracy, and freedom in foreign policies against China. However, as far as U.S.-China relations are concerned, it is too vague to use the simple dichotomic “good” or “bad” to summarize the relationship of the two countries.

However, it is certain that after Biden takes office, his policies will be different from Trump’s. An important difference between Biden and Trump is that Biden will follow a certain order and geopolitical discipline to implement his own policies, and he will also seek cooperation with China in certain bottom-line principled arrangements. It should be stressed that it is crucial for China and the United States to reach some principled arrangements in their relations.

From an economic point of view, should Biden become the next President, the United States will likely ease its trade policy, which will alleviate China’s trade pressure. It can be expected that the Biden administration may quell the U.S.-China tariff war and adjust punitive tariff policies that lead to “lose-lose” policies. If Biden takes office, he might be more concerned about politics and U.S.-China balance. In terms of trade, although he would continue to stick to the general direction of the past, this would not be the main direction of his governance. Therefore, the U.S.-China trade war could see certain respite and may even stop. In that scenario, China as the largest trading partner of the United States, could hope for the pressures in the trade with the U.S. being reduced.

China must also realize that even if Biden takes power, some key areas of U.S.-China relations will not change, such as the strategic positioning of China as the “long-term strategic competitor” of the United States. This is not something that is decided by the U.S. President but by the strategic judgment of the U.S. decision-making class on the direction of its relations with China. This strategic positioning destined that the future U.S.-China relations will be based on the pattern dominated by geopolitical confrontation. Biden sees that by expanding global influence, promoting its political model, and investing in future technologies, China is engaging a long-term competition with the U.S, and that is the challenge that the United States faces.

On the whole, if and when Biden takes office, the U.S. government’s domestic and diplomatic practices will be different from those of the Trump administration, although the strategic positioning of China will not change, and neither will it change the U.S.’ general direction of long-term suppression of China’s rise. However, in terms of specific practices, the Biden administration will have its own approaches, and will seek a certain order and geopolitical discipline to implement its policies. He may also seek to reach some bottom-line principled arrangements with China. Under the basic framework, the future U.S.-China relations will undergo changes in many aspects. Instead of the crude “an eye for an eye” rivalry, we will see the return to the traditional systemic competition based on values, alliance interests, and rules. Facing the inevitable changes in U.S.-China relations, the world needs to adapt to the new situation.

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Third world needs ideological shift

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As nations across the world have been pooling their efforts to contain the COVID-19 spread, the looming economic crisis has caught the attention of global intelligentsia. In the light of health emergency, The policy makers of Asia, Africa and Latin America have been struggling to steer the economic vehicle back to normalcy. Although, the reason for the economic slump could be attributed to the pandemic, it is also important to cast light on the economics of these tricontinental nations. Been as colonies for more than two centuries, these players had adopted the style of economics which is a mix of market economics and socialism. The imperial powers of the then Europe had colonised these nations and had subjugated them with their military and political maneuvers. Under the banner of White man’s burden, the Imperial masters had subverted the political, economical, social and cultural spheres of the colonies and had transformed these self-reliant societies into the ones which depend on Europe for finished products. The onslaught on the economical systems of colonies was done through one way trade. Though, the western powers brought the modern values to the third world during colonial era, they were twisted to their advantage. The European industrial machines were depended on the blood, sweat and tears of the people of colonies. It is clear that the reason for the backwardness of these players is the force behind the imperial powers which had eventually pushed them towards these regions in search of raw materials and markets i.e., Capitalism. Needless to say, the competition for resources and disaccord over the distribution of wealth of colonies led to twin world wars. Capitalism, as an economic idea, cannot survive in an environment of a limited market and resources. It needs borderless access, restless labour and timeless profit. While the European imperial powers had expanded their influence over Asia and Africa, the US had exerted its influence over Latin America. Earlier, at the dawn of modern-day Europe, The capitalist liberal order had challenged the old feudal system and the authority of church. Subsequently, the sovereign power was shifted to monarchial king. With the rise of ideas like democracy and liberty, complemented by the rapid takeoff of industrialization, the conditions were set for the creation of new class i.e., capitalist class. On the one hand, Liberalism, a polical facet of capitalism, restricts the role of state(political) in economical matters but on the other hand it provides enough room for the elite class and those who have access to power corridors to persuade the authority(state) to design the policies to their advantage. Inequality is an inescapable feature of liberal economics.

The powerful nations cannot colonise these nations as once done. The Watchwords like interconnectedness, interdependency and free trade are being used to continue their domination on these players. As soon as the third world nations were freed from the shackles of colonialism, they were forced to integrate their economies into the global economical chain. Characterized by the imbalance, the globalization has been used as a weapon by the Western powers to conquer the markets of developing nations.

The Carrot and stick policy of the US is an integral part of its strategy to dominate global economical domain. The sorry state of affairs in the Middle East and Latin America could be attributed to the US lust for resources. In the name of democracy, the US has been meddling in the internal affairs of nations across the developing world. Countries like Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, Libya, Iraq and Syria have challenged the US,a global policeman. Back in the day,soon after assuming the power, the Left leadership in Latin American countries had adopted socialist schemes and had nationalised the wealth creating assets, which were previously in the hands of the US capitalists. Irked by the actions of these nations, the US had devised a series of stratagems to destabilize the regimes and to install its puppets through the imposition of cruel sanctions and by dubbing them as terrorist nations on the pretext of exporting violent communist revolution. With the exception of the regimes of Fidel castro in Cuba and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, the US is largely successful in its agenda of destabilizing anti-American governments in the region. The US has a long history of mobilising anti-left forces in Latin America, the region which US sees as its backyard, in an attempt to oust socialist leaders. At present, by hook or by crook, the trump administration has been trying to depose Nicolas Maduro, the president of Venezuela, a socialist.

In addition,The US has been colonising the minds of the third world citizens psychologically with its cultural hegemony and anti-left indoctrination. It is important to understand that the reason for the neo-fascism, which is unfurling across the developing and developed world alike, is rooted in capitalism.The third world citizenry is disgruntled and the ultra-nationalist right wing forces in these countries have been channeling the distress amongst the working class to solidify their position. Growing inequalities, Falling living standards, Joblessness and Insecurity are exposing the incompetence of capitalism and have been pushing a large chunk of workforce in the developing countries into a state of despair.Adding to their woes, the Covid-19 has hit them hard.

The US, with the help of IMF and the world bank, had coerced the developing countries to shun welfare economics.The term “Development” is highly contested  in the economic domain.Capitalists argue that the true development of an individual and the society depends upon economic progress and the free market is a panacea for all problems.Given the monopolistic tendencies in the economical systems across the developing world, the free market is a myth, especially in a societies where a few of business families, who have cronies in policy making circles, dominates the economical and social scene.The time has come for the governments of these nations to address these issues and ensure that the wealth would be distributed in a more equitable manner.

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The Election Circus and an Event in the Cosmos

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The election in the US is held on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November.  A  Tuesday was chosen to allow people enough time to drive to the election site after Sunday, reserved for religious services and rest.  Those were the horse and buggy days and it took a while. The people clearly had greater ardor for democracy then considering we get a less than 50 percent turnout now when voting sites are usually less than a five-minute drive. 

Most states are either heavily Republican or Democrat so the results there are a foregone conclusion.  The winners get the electors assigned to the state on a basis of population.  The electors then vote for the nominees receiving the most votes in the state when the electoral college meets. 

There are about a dozen battleground or swing states; among them Pennsylvania and Florida are prized for their high electoral votes — hence the repeated visits by the candidates.  Trump won both in 2016.  Will he this time? 

Meanwhile two New York papers are busy running negative stories on candidates they oppose.  The New York Times offers tidbits against Trump.  The latest this week is that Trump has a Chinese bank account.  The fact is not new since the information was filed with his tax returns — one has to report foreign bank accounts over $10,000 — but the news is intended as an example of Trump’s hypocrisy for he has been speaking out against doing business in China.  The accounts in the name of Trump International Hotels have been moribund since 2015. 

The New York Post, much less distinguished than the Times, is after Hunter Biden and through him his father, candidate Joe Biden.  Last week the Post unearthed a dubious email purporting to show then Vice President Biden possibly meeting with Hunter’s potential business partner.  This week there is a photograph of the Bidens, father and son, flanked by a Kazakh oligarch on one side and a former president of Kazakhstan on the other.  The latest on the email issue has a certain Tony Bobulinski, one of the recipients, confirming the Post email adding that Hunter sought Dad’s advice on deals.  There is also a proposed equity split referring to ’20’ for ‘H’ and ’10 held by H for the big guy.’  

New York State may be a secure prize for Democrats but news stories these days are picked up on the internet and spread nationally and internationally.  Surely the two newspapers have something really big up their sleeves for the week before the election.  

Charges and counter-charges in the final presidential debate.  Biden repeatedly blamed Trump for deaths from the Covid 19 epidemic.  On almost everything Biden promised, Trump’s rejoinder was why he had not done it in the 47 years he was in public office including 8 years as vice president.  This included mimicking Biden’s previously successful tactic of talking directly to the public.  The same interests fund both major parties and they generally  get what they want except that Trump mostly funded his campaign himself. 

From all the ridiculousness to the sublime.  Images of M87 are the first of any black hole swallowing whatever is within range.  We are told of the discovery of a black hole in the center of our own Milky Way, presumably the eventual destination of everything in our galaxy.  From this perspective the Trump-Biden debate, although quite important for our immediate future, seems to diminish to nothing in significance.  

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