What will relations between the United States and China look like following Joe Biden’s victory in the U.S.? That is possibly the greatest unknown in the immediate future of international relations, with truly global repercussions.
The truth is that China emerged from the current pandemic crisis strengthened, for now, for two reasons. The first was the way in which it handled COVID-19, executing a unified national plan to fight the spread of the virus. The second was its rapid economic recovery in spite of COVID-19. “China was the only economy in the world that grew 2.3% during the pandemic,” points out Brazilian researcher Melissa Cambuhy, from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
Meanwhile, the two countries continue to vie for top position in global trade and economy. Early signs point to a continued policy of confrontation with Beijing from the new American administration. That is why the U.S. was unhappy with the recent deal between the European Union and China, following seven years of complex negotiations.
Most observers considered the EU’s decision, driven by Germany, to be a show of autonomy, which could be beneficial for global geopolitical equilibrium.
Two political issues are at the center of the Biden administration’s attitude toward China, at least in these first few weeks: Beijing’s repression of the Uighurs and the situation in Hong Kong. Chinese authorities consider these issues strictly “internal problems” of the country, which is obviously debatable, but the analysis requires consideration.
Accordingly, China’s President, Xi Jinping, said, at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, “There will be no human civilization without diversity and historical differences. Instead of hate and prejudice, the right choice is peaceful coexistence.”
The technological factor also plays a decisive role in Chinese-American polarization. I am referring here to 5G technology. “No 4.0 industry exists without 5G,” reminds Cambuhy. In fact, this technology is essential to have access to the innovations that will facilitate increased productivity and added value. In other words, 5G will have a direct implication on productive sophistication.
It bears remembering that China, whose leading company in this sector is Huawei, is already involved in the development of 6G technology.
External influence is the third area that the two countries are currently competing to lead. For years, China has been establishing relations with a growing number of countries in various continents in order to combat American hegemony. China’s rapprochement with Russia is also part of this game.
Due to China’s increased international influence, including but not limited to in Africa, Beijing’s adversaries have accused the country of having an imperialist policy. Other observers, however, recall that while China is making foreign investments, the U.S. maintains a series of military bases throughout the world. To those observers, that accusation is “absurd.”
Finally, there is one issue regarding which both countries are doomed to cooperate: climate change. In Davos, Xi said, “There is only one Earth and one shared future for humanity. We need to stay together, join hands and let multilateralism light our way.” John Kerry, the climate czar appointed by Biden, said the same thing in other words some weeks later.