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China hopes for a Biden change to US competition and military confrontation

Regional Security Outlook 2021 | 作者: Teng Jianqun | 时间: 2020-12-23 | 责编:
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In 2020, the United States continued provocative activities in the West Pacific, sending reconnaissance and surveillance aircrafts and fighting warships close to China’s territory or waters.

These military activities are part of what the US calls ‘strategic competition’ with China; equally, these could be seen as preparations for a possible future war close to the Chinese mainland.

China’s response to the Trump Administration, as State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said, is that China will not follow the US steps, but nor will China allow the US to do whatever it wants to do.

The Chinese government’s response to US provocations has been:

 (1) Politically, the Chinese government continues to protest the US challenges.

 (2) Diplomatically, the Chinese government has taken reciprocal actions to US steps, including the closure of the US Consulate General in Chengdu after the US had closed the Chinese Consulate General in Houston.

(3) Economically, the Chinese government for the first time imposed sanctions against US companies related to arm sales to Taiwan.

(4) Militarily, the Chinese PLA has maintained an active program of military drills and exercises, including large-scale firing drills in the Yellow Sea, East China Sea, and South China Sea. The PLA has also initiated blockade exercises around Taiwan Island.

The ‘strategic competition’ initiated by the United States undoubtedly had a negative impact on the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific.

In the South China Sea the two countries entered a security dilemma. Neither is inclined to compromise in this geopolitical competition.

For the US, the South China Sea is an important area which connects two major oceans. For China, sovereignty over islands, reefs, and surrounding waters in the South China Sea has been a historical right and has been endorsed by the documents agreed at the end of World War II.

The military confrontation between China and the United States in the West Pacific region has intensified over the course of 2020. This might be a result of the presidential election. President Trump wanted China to be a hot topic to take attention away from his management of the pandemic and the weakening economy. The Chinese side has been patient in the face of these provocative activities to minimise opportunities for the so called ‘China threat’ to figure in the US political contest.

The main foreign policy purpose of the US cold war mentality is to mobilise the support of the so-called free world countries to challenge China.

 In the South China Sea, in Taiwan, and on the trade front, the tension between China and the United States has made regional countries uneasy.

The countries of the region used to have good bilateral relations with the two major powers: they relied heavily on the United States for regional security while on trade they relied heavily on China.

However, China has now doubled its efforts in security cooperation while continuing with its cooperation on trade.

ASEAN is already the largest trade partner of China, and the PLA in recent years has carried out air, land, and sea military drills with ASEAN countries.

The response of the regional countries to the strategic competition has been very cautious. They are fully aware of the dangers of being sandwiched by the two major powers.

The best choice for regional countries would be a balanced relationship with China and the US. They do not like to see the escalation of the tension between the two sides (if two elephants fight, the sugarcane field will be destroyed).

The transition to President Joe Biden can have positive implications for Asia-Pacific security.

 Firstly, the tension between China and the United States in various areas will be eased in the coming years. The Bided administration will relax the policy of extreme pressure on China that President Trump sustained for four years.

 Secondly, the Biden Administration will adopt a multilateral approach in its foreign policy, including a return to the Paris Accord on climate change. The new administration will address cooperation rather than confrontation, including the restoration of the Sino-US strategic and economic dialogue.

Thirdly, Biden will adopt an ideology-oriented foreign policy, which will address human rights and freedom. This will play to the old story that Asia-Pacific countries have to choose a side between China and the United States

Fourthly, we can expect competition in the building of regional economic networks. The Biden Administration will take an active attitude towards regional economic networks and the United States will return to the Trans-Pacific Partnership and take the leading role in this mechanism. China is not a member of the TPP and this might be the new pattern of strategic competition between the two countries.

Relations between China and the United States will be full of ups and downs. The power transition in Washington should have a significant positive impact on China-US, and that will help regional security situation.

China will take an active attitude towards the new US government and will try its best to cooperate in every aspect of the relationship.

 

 

Dr. Teng Jianqun is senior research fellow at China Institute of International Studies in Beijing. This is an edited version of a chapter in the Regional Security Outlook 2021 published by the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific.

 

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