The warlike rhetoric between the US and China is the most alarming phenomenon in the world. The only thing that Republicans and Democrats can agree on is that China needs to be curtailed economically and militarily.

Trump imposed punitive tariffs 50 billion on Chinese goods. As reasons for punishing China, he cited theft of intellectual property as well as currency manipulation. As Trump’s vice-president, Mike Pence declared that the US would prioritise competition above cooperation in its relations to China.

The Trump administration continues to impose tariffs on Trump, and it also introduces restrictions on certain semiconductor chips being exported to China. Their goal is to stop China from accessing cutting-edge technology, and to cripple the semiconductor industry.

Industry experts estimate Taiwan “produces more than 60% of the world’s semiconductors, and over 90% the most advanced ones.” Taiwan is officially a part China. The Kuomintang (KMT), fled to an island off Mainland China after the Chinese Communist Party won the civil war. Both the CCP (CCP) and KMT have maintained a “One China” policy for decades.

Since then, Taiwan has become a democracy. The KMT is no more in power. Tsai Ingwen, Taiwan’s President, is a member of the Democratic Progressive Party. She made an historic visit to the US, and met Kevin McCarthy, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives. This visit and this meeting are clearly not well received by the Chinese. Taiwan is now militarily and political independent of Beijing.

Taiwan has become a focal point for US-China relations. The US media has speculated about a Chinese invasion in Taiwan over the past few years. China’s rhetoric is also becoming more hardening. Beijing has restricted the export of rare earths necessary to make the batteries for renewable energy.

China has also increased its military spending. From 1990 to 2005, Chinese defense spending grew by 15% each year. This trend has been maintained. In March 2023, China announced a defense spending budget of $224.8 billion. This is 7.2% more than 2022. Beijing has also prioritized its navy and can use navies to enforce blockades.

While the US Navy has been a dominant force globally, it now faces a challenge from the Chinese Navy in the Pacific. The US can count on its NATO allies and countries such as Australia, South Korea and the Philippines to support it in any confrontation with China. China, on the other hand, has few significant allies except Russia.

India is the country most concerned by China’s rise, according to a surprising finding. A survey showed 73% of Indians worried about China’s rise in military might. The threat from China is also a concern for a large number of Japanese. Japan announced that it would double its defense spending over the next five year just before Christmas. Only 48% and 40%, respectively, feel China is a threat to their countries.

The US has repeatedly complained about China’s unfair trade practices. The US continues to undermine the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which is the only body capable of disciplining Chinese unfair trade practices. Trade tensions between the US and China have been steadily increasing.

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Kevin Rudd, an ex-Australian prime minister, called for a structured relationship with the US. In his 2022 book The Avoidable war, he refers to as for “managed strategy competition” between China and the US. A strong institution such as the WTO is a good idea.

It will be difficult to negotiate the terms of the arrangement that would manage relations between two of the most powerful countries in the world. This would require creativity from both sides and goodwill. Statemanship is the key to success.

These views are solely the author’s and do not reflect Fair Observer editorial policy.

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