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Editorial of the Day: A Belligerence towards Beijing that is unsettling (The Hindu)

Context: The article is discussing the escalating tensions and hostilities between the United States and China, as well as the potential implications of this conflict for India and the world. It highlights that the United States’ approach towards China has evolved from a trade war to a more comprehensive strategy aimed at impeding China’s technological advancement. Following this, the U.S. has also taken steps to bolster its military presence in the Indo-Pacific region to deter any potential Chinese aggression toward Taiwan. The article points out that the shift in U.S. policy towards China is unsettling, considering that China was once seen as a quasi-ally whose rise was facilitated by Washington. However, the U.S. now appears determined to curtail China’s progress. The article notes that though the U.S. allies like Japan and the European Union initially resisted following this aggressive stance, events like the war in Ukraine and China’s support for Russia seem to have garnered their support. Overall, the article suggests that while India may benefit from Washington’s adversarial approach towards Beijing, a complete breakdown in China-U.S. relations would have catastrophic consequences for the world.

Decoding the Editorial

The article is discussing the escalating tension between the United States and China.

  • The article suggests that while there were hopes for a thaw or improvement in the strained relationship between the United States and China, a state of reduced tension and hostility between the two countries seems unlikely.
  • The recent G-7 summit, which included Western countries and Japan, demonstrated a unified stance against China, criticizing its economic coercion and militarization activities.
    • During the summit, the creation of a new group to address hostile economic actions, primarily by China, was discussed.
    • The group would focus on countering coercive tactics used by China to influence other nations.
    • Additionally, there was a proposal for a more stringent review of outbound investments to China concerning security concerns.
  • Both countries are engaged in a power struggle and vying for influence globally.
  • While the initial conflict may have been driven by extreme competition in technologies, their mutual insecurities are increasingly bringing military and nuclear capabilities to the forefront of the conflict.

Washington Consensus:

  • The U.S. President is outlining a new approach called the “new Washington Consensus” with the aim of re-establishing U.S. hegemony.
    • The old Washington Consensus, based on free markets, initially embraced China with the expectation that it would integrate into the American-led liberal international order over time.
    • However, China’s actions deviated from these expectations.
  • The new strategy involves technology denial to China as one aspect. Another aspect is a departure from the old Consensus through protectionism and the adoption of a new industrial policy supported by state subsidies.
    • Additionally, the U.S. aims to engage with China under the pretext of “de-risking and diversifying” its economy while safeguarding key technologies with limited access.
  • However, the ultimate goal of the U.S. strategy is unclear. Many experts argue that while controls may slow down China’s technological progress, it is virtually impossible to entirely prevent China from developing its own technologies. The experience with Russia also demonstrates the limitations of relying solely on sanctions.

China’s View:

  • China perceives the U.S. approach as both “de-risking” and “containment,” as evident in its response to the G-7 summit where it directed its infrastructure companies to stop purchasing from Micron and reprimanded the Japanese Ambassador in Beijing over the G-7 communiqué.

Global Concerns:

  • The concerns are not limited to China alone. European countries and allies like South Korea express worries, with French President Emmanuel Macron even stating that he refuses to be a vassal state of the U.S.
  • This indicates growing resistance to the Biden administration’s strategy, including within the United States itself.
  • The warning from the chief of Nvidia, a leading AI computing company, emphasizes the potential damage to the U.S. technology industry due to the chip battle with China.
  • The interconnectedness of American companies with the Chinese market and the difficulty of finding alternatives for components and end markets in China further complicate the situation.

US Vs China:

  • The United States and China are engaged in a dangerous game of “chicken,” characterized by high risks of miscalculation, war, or a global economic breakdown.
  • The U.S. wants China to conform to its terms within the new Washington Consensus, particularly regarding limitations on China’s aspirations in technology and the military.
  • However, Beijing naturally resents these impositions.
  • The new Washington Consensus goes beyond economic matters and incorporates an overdose of geopolitics, which is also influencing U.S. domestic politics.
  • It is based on the belief that the U.S. is in a state of decline and that the previous Washington Consensus depleted U.S. industry and negatively affected the middle and lower classes, while benefiting the wealthier segment of society.

Intra-State Limitations:

  • The toxic political atmosphere in the U.S., characterized by extreme factions within both the Democratic and Republican parties, has led to exploiting China as a common scapegoat for their perceived problems.
  • While President Biden attempts to introduce nuance into his approach to China, Republican hawks in Congress, led by China hawk Mike Gallagher, have established a Select Committee on China, framing the competition between the two countries as an existential struggle over the future.
  • The article also points out that the U.S. remains the most powerful country globally in military and economic terms, and current trends indicate it will likely maintain that position.
  • With the support of allies such as the EU, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Australia, the U.S. is expected to outpace China in various measures.

China’s diplomacy:

  • While China has made significant advancements in technology and education, it has faced challenges in its diplomacy.
  • China’s assertive behavior in various regions, such as the East Sea (likely referring to the East China Sea), the South China Sea, and the Ladakh mountains, has led to the creation of adversaries.
  • Both the United States and China prioritise security concerns in their global outlook, which poses a danger to the rest of the world.
  • However, the author places a larger share of the blame on the United States due to its greater power and influence.
    • The United States is criticized for its approach to dealing with global geopolitical challenges, as its wealth, power, and echo-chamber think tanks often hinder its understanding of distant countries and cultures.
    • The tendency to resort to military action before fully assessing the situation, as seen in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, is highlighted as a concern.
  • There is apprehension that a similar scenario could arise in the case of China.

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