October 10, 2018

New Fronts of the Cold War

Geopolitical Aspects of the Complication of Relations Between the United States and China

Lately, the complication of relations between the United States and China has become a significant factor in the negative impact on the situation in the world, and hence on the interests of Ukraine. In fact, the strategic partnership, laid by former US President B. Obama and President of the PRC Xi Jinping, is more and more turning into a “cold war”.

The catalyst for this process was US President D. Trump's decision to introduce import duties on Chinese goods, which caused a “chain reaction” of mutual accusations, threats and counterproductive actions of Washington and Beijing in different spheres. At first glance, the reason for such a situation is D. Trump's radical and unbalanced policy, which reflects the peculiarities of his mentality. To a large extent, this is true.

At the same time, the real reasons for the disagreements between the United States and the PRC are much more profoundly grounded and related to the emergence of a new multi-polar system of the world order. At this, unlike B. Obama, who actually recognized this fact and started building equal relations between the United States and China, as the two leading powers in the world, D. Trump has abandoned this approach. For example, the basis of his course was the slogan “America First”, which presupposes preservation of the single world leadership of the United States of America. The changes to Washington's course were enshrined in the new US National Security Strategy in December 2017. And the main opponents of the United States on this path for the first time were openly named China and Russia.

In turn, China's leadership, headed by Xi Jinping, also has moved from virtually isolationist politics on the international arena to implementing strategic plans for turning China into a great world power. Such intentions of the PRC were officially proclaimed at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in October 2017 as “the historical goal of the development of the Chinese state”. The main directions of achieving these goals are the country's getting to leading positions in the world as the leader of the developing countries and the main driving force in the processes of world globalization, as well as the comprehensive strengthening of the Chinese economy and military potential.

The real reasons for the disagreements between the USA and the PRC related to the emergence of a new multi-polar system of the world order
The real reasons for the disagreements between the USA and the PRC related to the emergence of a new multi-polar system of the world order

All this has objectively led to geopolitical confrontation between the United States and China for the influence in the world and individual regions (first of all in the Asia-Pacific), access to markets and resources, and other strategic interests of the parties. At this, attempts by Washington and Beijing to resolve existing contradictions by diplomatic means, including during personal meetings of D. Trump and Xi Jinping in April and November 2017, did not work. The leaders of the two countries reached an agreement on bringing US-China relations to a qualitatively new level within the framework of the so-called “Comprehensive Dialogue” in the political, economic, security, cybernetic, scientific and humanitarian spheres. However, in mid-2018, US-China cooperation in these spheres actually ceased.

For example, in response to the USA's introduction of additional import duties on Chinese goods, China has raised its own customs duties on American products. The result of this was the beginning of a trade war between the two countries and, consequently, the end of the economic dialogue. In fact, the chapter on this was closed by Beijing's cancelling (in September 2018) China's Vice Prime Minister Liu He's visit to the United States to hold talks on trade and economic issues in US-China relations. And already in early October 2018 the United States stopped supplying crude oil to China.

On 26th September 2018, at a meeting of the UN Security Council, US President D. Trump accused China of interfering with internal affairs of the United States
On 26th September 2018, at a meeting of the UN Security Council, US President D. Trump accused China of interfering with internal affairs of the United States

The crisis in trade and economic cooperation between the United States and China has also led to worsening of their relations in all other spheres. In particular, on 26th September 2018, speaking at a meeting of the UN Security Council, US President D. Trump accused China of interfering with internal affairs of the United States, including attempts to influence the interim parliamentary elections in the country in 2018 and future presidential elections in 2020.

Proceeding from this, the United States led a series of steps that were sensitive for China, which directly affected its political and security interests. The most loud-speaking among such Washington's actions were the decision to sell to Taiwan spare parts for the US-made military and transport aircrafts worth a total of 330 million US dollars, and imposing sanctions against the Equipment Development Department of the Central Military Commission of the PRC over its buying armaments from Russia. In response, China has cancelled the next round of the US-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue, which was scheduled for October 2018.

 

Given the radical nature of the position of D. Trump who refuses to compromise with the PRC, as well as the firmness of Beijing's intentions to defend Chinese interests, we should expect further sharpening of US-China relations. This does not exclude the possibility of military incidents between the two countries, which can have serious negative consequences.

On September 30,2018 the Chinese destroyer Luyang made a close encounter with the US destroyer USS Decatur
On September 30, 2018 the Chinese destroyer Luyang made a close encounter with the US destroyer USS Decatur

The evidence of such a threat was the September 30 incident in the South China Sea, when the Chinese destroyer Luyang made a deliberate provocation against the US destroyer USS Decatur near the Spratly Islands, which are subject to disagreement between China (de facto owning the archipelago), Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei. In order to prevent the PRC from similar actions, the US Navy launched an initiative to demonstrate strength in the region through the demonstration exercises of the Pacific Fleet.

Besides, trade-economic disputes between the United States and the PRC, as the two most powerful states controlling a significant part of the world economy, may trigger a new global financial and economic crisis like those of 1998 and 2008. To date, experts from the World Bank, the IMF and other international financial institutions are already noticing signs of such prospects. In particular, according to IMF Managing Director Ch. Lagarde, the USA's protectionist policy has already slowed global economic development and caused falling of rates of national currencies of emerging economies.

 

At the same time, we should not ignore the fact that having significant common interests, the United States and China remain powerful trading partners. Given this, neither Washington nor Beijing are likely to excessively intensify the confrontation between them, but instead, they will continue the dialogue in one form or another.

 

Russia is trying to build a strategic partnership with China on an anti-American basis
Russia is trying to build a strategic partnership with China on an anti-American basis

Despite this, the complication of relations between the United States and the PRC is actively used by Russia, which is trying to build a strategic partnership with China on an anti-American basis. Traditionally, one of the main directions of Moscow's efforts to achieve these goals is the development of military and military-technical cooperation with the PRC, which includes: coordination of efforts of the parties in resolving urgent problems of world and regional security; joint counteraction to the military component of US policy in the Asia-Pacific; implementation of joint programs for the development of armaments and military equipment, as well as the supply of Russian armaments to China.

The most illustrative examples of such cooperation between Russia and the PRC are the interaction between the parties within the framework of BRICS and the SCO, coordination of their actions in the struggle against international terrorism, declaration of unity of positions on Syria, North Korea and the USA's actions in the Asia-Pacific, joint military, missile defense and antiterrorist exercises.

In this context, special was Russia's inviting China to participate in the “East-2018” exercise of the RF Armed Forces in August–September 2018, which was openly anti-American in nature. For the first time, a motorized infantry brigade and an aviation group of the Armed Forces of China with a total of 3,500 servicemen and up to 900 pieces of different military equipment and 40 aircrafts and helicopters were involved in the exercise in the Russian territory.

These measures are also accompanied by intentional steps to provoke tension in the Asia-Pacific region, with the aim of creating new grounds for provoking the problems in US-China relations. In particular, for this, Moscow provides economic and military technical assistance to North Korea to circumvent UN sanctions, as well as systematic provocative flights of strategic aviation towards the USA, Japan and South Korea. As a rule, such flights are coincided to resonant events in the region, including military exercises of the United States and their partners and all sorts of political decisions on resolving regional problems.

 

In general, the trends considered increase the level of instability in the world and bring additional conflicting potential into international relations. In turn, this weakens the international community's attention to Russia's armed aggression against Ukraine and problems related with it, — exactly what Moscow seeks. In fact, the growing threat to the United States from the PRC is one of the reasons for D. Trump's “flirting” with Russia.

 

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