According to most foreign policy analysts, the trade war between the United States and China currently presents the greatest risk between the two countries, with repercussions throughout the world economy.
However, recent news could instead raise a new and different viewpoint on the issue.
Trump and China Head Toward Negotiation
It now seems that American President Donald Trump could indeed be more willing to pursue a path toward an agreement with his Chinese rivals. Indeed, it would seem almost as if the hard line dictated by the tycoon simply represents the president’s will to reach a more favorable deal aimed at restoring balance between the contending sides. It is a new and aggressive diplomatic technique, perhaps more suitable for the private business world, but which so far has been propitious for Trump.
As ANSA recently reported, China has now claimed it is willing to relinquish its trade surplus to Washington in the next six years. In return, Beijing naturally requests a reduction, if not a complete elimination, of the new tariffs imposed under the Trump administration. The tycoon himself was the one who confirmed the news, affirming that “trade talks with China are going well, although there has been some fake news about revoking tariffs on Beijing.”*
South China Sea and Africa, Still 2 Open Issues
So there has been no backsliding, but the will persists to bring talks further by a step that could be especially advantageous for one side, namely the Americans. In any case, in order to debunk the myth of the nervous markets created by the tariff war, there is a blessing in the latest report that “the markets are flying on the wings of a possible trade truce,” as Ansa continued to write regarding recent developments. Once the tariff war is resolved, however, new fronts could open up which could only put one of the two main world powers in front of the other.
In fact, according to Forbes magazine, the United States and China will have two enormous problems to solve in the coming years that “could lead to military confrontations.” What is that about? According to the American magazine, the confrontation will be centered on control over the South China Sea and on its respective influence on the African continent.
Territorial Issues Still at the Center of International Policy
That area of ocean along the southern coast of China is actually shared with other countries such as Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia. These are countries that, for the most part, are very friendly with Washington, and that serve, to a certain extent, as a type of military outpost in that geographic area. Beijing sees this situation as a blockade, but it could especially perceive it as an obstacle in the realization of the Silk Road project. This new Silk Road would actually have as a main outlet that same stretch of sea over which the United States wants to continue to have unlimited access. Even the issue of the African continent is more complex than it seems.
China’s presence, especially in eastern Africa, is a given by now. Beijing sees the continent as a door not only to Europe, but also to Latin America. Indeed, in this context the United States may see a risk of ending up with China just a few kilometers from home. There is also another problem. Japan, a historical American ally, is slowly becoming involved in African affairs. It arrived in 2016 with a $10 billion investment in the continent. China does not appreciate Japan’s presence. That same year, its foreign minister authoritatively requested that Japan “stay out of Africa.” In the meantime, the United States remains the principal development financier on the African continent.
Therefore, the rivalry between the two powers isn’t simply over a trade agenda. As always, the most dangerous rivalries emerge from disputes about control over specific territories. China and the United States will be competing for global supremacy based on this.
*Editor’s note: President Trump’s remarks here about China trade talks, although accurately translated, could not be fully verified.