The ongoing coronavirus pandemic adds to the longstanding trade and technological disputes between Beijing and Washington.
Shattered by the virus, the globalized world has not only stopped, but is actively “decoupling” into two opposing blocks. In this “New Cold War,” China has replaced the extinct Soviet Union in the feud with the United States for hegemony over the planet. However, the rivalry between them is neither military nor ideological — at least for now — but commercial, technological and geostrategic; new battlegrounds in the war to control influence over the international community and the resources of the future.
After all, this is nothing more than world history as told by Thucydides, where a dominant superpower like the U.S., dragged along by the decline of the West, confronts an emerging superpower boosted by the rise of the East, such as China. Standing up to China like no one before, Trump launched a trade war two years ago that intended to curb the rise of Beijing and, in the process, readjust its advantageous position acquired in recent decades thanks to “state capitalism” and lopsided commitments of economic openness to the outside world.
While both countries were reaching agreements regarding the exchange of tariffs between them, which were damaging to the global economy, the feud drifted toward technology due to the 5G network of Chinese internet giant, Huawei. White House suspicions regarding this company — founded by retired general Ren Zhengfei — unleashed a bitter confrontation that became a personal matter when his daughter and “heiress,” Meng Wanzhou, was arrested last year in Canada on a U.S. extradition request concerning the violation of sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program. By accusing Huawei of serving the Chinese regime — which the company emphatically denies — Washington has succeeded in getting some Western countries to veto the company and limit its role so as not to depend on it. Moreover, in the middle of all this, the worst pandemic in a century broke out, for which the U.S. blames China.