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Diplomacy
China and the USA wrestle over Taiwan

When Giants Wrestle: The End of Another Round of Tensions Between the United States and China?

by Ofir Dayan , Shahar Eilam

How are the fluctuating tensions between Washington and Beijing over Taiwan expected to affect Israel? On January 13, William Lai, the leader of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), was elected president of Taiwan. A few days earlier, for the first time in four years, the United States-China Defense Policy Coordination Talks took place in Washington, marking the end of a prolonged round of tension between the two powers, which had peaked in August 2022 when the speaker of the US House of Representatives visited Taiwan. Taiwan is a major point of friction in the already tense relations between the two powers. Managing the disagreements between them has broad implications, including for Israel. The ongoing strategic rivalry between the two superpowers—the United States and China—is the most important geostrategic factor of our time. The two countries are vying for technological dominance and control over resources, that will shape our future, and infrastructure that is critical for civilian, economic, and military purposes. The United States and China are also competing for global influence by forming partnerships and trying to influence world order, including its values, institutions, and mechanisms that regulate it. Can they shape the rules of the competition between them without spiraling into a military conflict that would have devastating global consequences? Taiwan may be the most volatile flashpoint in the complicated relationship between the two powers. For China, the “reunification” with Taiwan is one of its “core interests”—a top objective and a flagship issue in its foreign policy. Although the United States has repeatedly declared that it is committed to the “one China” policy, it is also an ally of Taiwan. The United States has warned China to refrain from making unilateral, aggressive moves vis-à-vis Taiwan, while supplying Taiwan with military resources to deter China and prevent a forceful takeover. Since assuming power in 2013, President Xi Jinping of China has repeatedly emphasized Taiwan’s unification with China as a key objective. During a meeting with President Joe Biden in November 2023, President Xi said that China “prefers” a peaceful unification, but he did not dismiss the use of force. On the eve of Taiwan’s 2024 elections, President Xi further stated that unification is “inevitable.” The tensions between the powers over Taiwan had escalated following the previous elections on the island in 2020. During this period, senior American officials visited Taiwan, and the United States and Taiwan signed weapons deals in August and September of that year, followed by a marked increase in Chinese military aircraft penetrating the island’s air defense identification zone and crossing the “midline” between the island and mainland China. China’s perception of encirclement was further heightened by the United States’ strengthening of its alliances and initiatives in the Indo-Pacific region (such as QUAD, AUKUS, and IPEF) and by the increased diplomatic pressure exerted on China, through boycotting the 2022 Winter Olympics and protesting its human rights record. But even during this period, despite rising tensions, the two nations maintained ongoing communications, including the Alaska talks in March 2021—although they were notably tense—and the meeting between the presidents in November of that year. The tension peaked in April 2022, when then Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi announced her intention to visit Taiwan. China strongly protested, and the White House even recommended Pelosi to reconsider her visit due to concerns about potential military escalation. Pelosi refused and proceeded with her visit in August, delivering a speech at the Taiwanese legislature and advocating for increased American–Taiwanese cooperation. In an article published in the United States before her visit, Pelosi wrote that “at a time when the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy . . . it is essential that America and our allies make clear that we never give in to autocrats.”   In response to Pelosi’s visit, China held a large-scale military exercise that disrupted air and maritime traffic in the region and released a white paper emphasizing “The Taiwan Question and China’s Reunification in the New Era.” Furthermore, as a countermeasure to Pelosi’s visit, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that it was suspending all dialogue and cooperation with the United States, including dialogues between the military commands, the ministries of defense (DPCT), and the maritime military coordination (MMCA), and cooperation in the fields of illegal immigration, criminal legal assistance, transnational crimes, counternarcotics, and climate change. In November 2022, presidents Biden and Xi met in Bali, Indonesia, in an attempt to put the relations between the two powers back on track. After the meeting, the White House issued a statement announcing that the United States will continue to compete actively with China, but the two countries must manage their competition responsibly, without letting it escalate, while maintaining open channels of communication and continuing to cooperate on global issues such as climate change, counternarcotics, debt relief, health, and food security. Regarding Taiwan, the United States reiterated its commitment to the one China policy but strongly opposed China’s aggressive actions, which violate peace and stability in the Strait and in the entire region. The Chinese also released a statement, noting that President Xi highlighted that Taiwan is a core Chinese interest and constitutes a red line that is nonnegotiable in the relations between the two countries. It was anticipated that the year 2023 would begin on a more positive tone, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s scheduled visit to China in February. The visit was canceled when a Chinese balloon was discovered floating over US territory for a week until the US Air Force intercepted it. Although the White House at first tried to downplay the incident, with President Biden initially referring to it as a “minor breach” and said that the Chinese government was unaware of the issue. China claimed that a weather monitoring and research balloon had strayed off course. Public pressure, however, led the administration to cancel Blinken’s visit. Subsequently, the US Department of Commerce imposed restrictions on six Chinese companies linked to balloon and aviation technologies that are used by the Chinese military, requiring that they receive special approval to access American technology. In April and May, China retaliated at a relatively low bar by imposing sanctions on a US member of Congress who visited Taiwan and sentenced an American citizen living in Hong Kong to life imprisonment, for alleged espionage for the United States. These actions reflect the efforts of both China and the United States to take focused, restrained measures, to avoid escalating tensions. The absence of a strong reaction from China to the establishment of a select committee within the US House of Representatives, focused on examining the US–China strategic competition, suggests that China sought to prevent further escalation of the conflict.   Efforts to end the crisis and restore talks were renewed in May 2023 when the head of the CIA met with his Chinese “counterparts.” In June, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chinese Minister of Defense Wei Fenghe met on the sidelines of the Shangri-La conference in Singapore. Secretary of State Blinken’s anticipated visit to China took place later that month. In July, US Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry and Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen traveled to China, followed by a visit of US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo in August. These high-level meetings concluded on a note of cautious optimism, with both sides acknowledging “progress” but not a “solution,” as the purpose of the meetings was to stabilize relations rather than to resolve the issues in dispute. In September 2023, Secretary of the Treasury Yellen and Chinese Finance Minister He Lifeng launched two new working groups on economic and financial issues. Moreover, Pentagon officials and their Chinese counterparts met and discussed the US Department of Defense’s cyber strategy, followed by a meeting of the American and Chinese presidents in San Francisco in November. The American efforts to renew the military dialogue between the two countries was initially met with refusal by China until December, when General Brown, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke with his Chinese counterpart General Liu Zhenli. In early January 2024, a few days before the elections in Taiwan, the annual Defense Policy Coordination Talks between the two countries were held at the Pentagon for the first time in four years. These developments reflect China’s acute sensitivity toward the Taiwan issue and its willingness to take significant measures against perceived violations of its One China Policy, especially by the United States. Despite numerous disputes, the growing rivalry between them, the defiant measures, and the reciprocal sanctions, these events highlight that the two powers recognize the importance of keeping channels of communication open. This dialogue is crucial for pursuing shared interests, resolving disputes, and minimizing the risk of military escalation that could have far-reaching consequences for both nations as well as the global community. The ongoing tension between the United States and China over Taiwan also has implications for Israel. First, the increasing friction between the powers has accelerated the formation of two opposing camps and has limited Israel’s ability to maneuver between them. As demonstrated (again) since the outbreak of the war between Israel and Hamas, the United States is Israel’s greatest friend and its most important strategic ally. While China is an important economic partner of Israel, its policy is not that of a friend, and its oppositional stance toward Israel has the potential to cause significant damage. The United States expects its allies to stand by its side and to align more closely with its policies vis-à-vis China, especially concerning advanced technologies and critical infrastructure. Failing to meet US expectations could strain US–Israel relations. Second, a military escalation between the United States and China would also have global economic consequences, seriously disrupting supply chains of raw materials and essential goods crucial to Israel. Finally, the US administration recently linked the military aid granted to Israel to that of both Taiwan and Ukraine, framing them as three democracies under threat. While this linkage underscores the US commitment to its allies, it also creates constraints and interdependencies. The attention and resources that the United States currently allocates to Israel and to the broader challenges in the Middle East could be compromised if the United States faces serious military crises elsewhere in the world, and this could have far-reaching impacts on Israel.

Defense & Security
Paper airplanes with the US and Iranian flags face each other

Drone attack on American troops risks widening Middle East conflict – and drawing in Iran-US tensions

by Sara Harmouch

Watch on YouTube A drone attack that killed three American troops and wounded at least 34 more at a base in Jordan has increased fears of a widening conflict in the Middle East – and the possibility that the U.S. may be further drawn into the fighting. President Joe Biden vowed to respond to the assault, blaming Iran-backed militias for the first U.S. military casualties in months of such strikes in the region. But to what extent was Iran involved? And what happens next? The Conversation turned to Sara Harmouch, an expert on asymmetric warfare and militant groups in the Middle East, to answer these and other questions. What do we know about the group that claimed responsibility? Al-Muqawama al-Islamiyah fi al-Iraq, which translates as the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, has claimed responsibility for the drone attack. However, the Islamic Resistance in Iraq is not a single group per se. Rather, it is a term used to describe an umbrella organization, which, since around 2020, has included various Iran-backed militias in the region. Initially, the Islamic Resistance in Iraq emerged as a response to foreign military presence and political interventions, especially after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. The Islamic Resistance in Iraq acted as a collective term for pro-Tehran Iraqi militias, allowing them to launch attacks under a single banner. Over time, it evolved to become a front for Iran-backed militias operating beyond Iraq, including those in Syria and Lebanon. Today, the Islamic Resistance in Iraq operates as a cohesive force rather than as a singular entity – that is to say, as a network its objectives often align with Iran’s goal of preserving its influence across the region, but on a national level the groups have their distinct agendas. The collective is notorious for its staunch anti-U.S. posture and dynamic military campaigns, such as a recent two-day drone operation targeting American forces at an Iraqi airbase. Operating under this one banner of Islamic Resistance, these militias effectively conceal the identities of the actual perpetrators in their operations. This was seen in the deadly Jan. 28, 2024, attack on Tower 22, a U.S. military base in Jordan. Although it is evident that an Iranian-supported militia orchestrated the drone assault, pinpointing the specific faction within this broad coalition remains elusive. This deliberate strategy hinders direct attribution and poses challenges for countries attempting to identify and retaliate against the precise culprits. What do they hope to achieve in attacking a US target? Iranian-backed militias have been intensifying attacks on U.S. forces in recent months in response to American support for Israel in the Israel-Hamas conflict, and also to assert regional influence. Since the beginning of the conflict in October 2023, Iranian-backed militias have repeatedly struck American military bases in Iraq and Syria, recently expanding their attacks to include northeastern Jordan near the Syrian border. The deadly assault on Jan. 28 marks a significant escalation, though – it is the first instance during the Israel-Hamas war that American troops have been killed. Where is Tower 22 – the US base hit in drone attack? Three American troops were killed at a camp in Jordan near the Syrian border.   The attack in Jordan forms part of a strategy by Iranian-backed militias to counter Washington’s support for Israel in the Gaza conflict. But it is also aimed at advancing a wider goal of pushing U.S. forces out of the Middle East entirely. By coordinating attacks under the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, these groups are trying to display a unified stance against U.S. interests and policy, showcasing their collective strength and strategic alignment across the region. What role did Iran have in the attack? Iran has officially denied any involvement in the drone strike. But the Islamic Resistance in Iraq is known to be part of the networks of militia groups that Tehran supports. Iran, through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, has provided such militias with money, weapons and training. However, the extent of Iran’s command and coordination in specific incidents like the Jordan attack remains unclear. At this stage, more concrete evidence is necessary to firmly implicate Iran. As Iran expert Nakissa Jahanbani and I recently explained in an article for The Conversation, Iran’s strategy in the region involves supporting and funding militia groups while granting them a degree of autonomy. By doing so, Iran maintains plausible deniability when it comes to attacks carried out by its proxies. So while Iran’s direct involvement in the attack has not been definitively established, Tehran’s long-standing support of groups like the Islamic Resistance in Iraq is well documented, playing a significant role in the regional conflict dynamics and geopolitical strategies. What options does the US have to respond? It isn’t clear how the U.S. intends to respond to the attack. The Biden administration faces complex dynamics when it comes to responding to attacks linked to Iranian-backed militias. While a forceful military strike is an option that the Biden administration appears to be looking at, targeting Iran directly on its own soil is fraught with risks and may be seen as a step too far. Even when targeting Iranian interests or personnel, such as the assassination of Quds Force General Qassem Soleimani, the U.S has conducted these actions outside Iranian territory. Iran’s denial of direct involvement in the attack further complicates the situation and makes it less likely that the U.S. attacks Iran in retaliatory strikes. But adopting a targeted approach, such as striking militia leaders outside of Iran, raises questions about the effectiveness of U.S. tactics in deterring Iran and its proxies. This strategy has been employed in the past, yet it has not significantly curbed Iran’s or its proxies’ aggressive actions. The concern is that while such strikes are precise, they may not be enough to deter ongoing or future attacks. The key to the strategy’s success may rest in identifying the most influential factors, or “centers of gravity,” that can effectively influence Iran’s behavior. This means determining key leaders, critical infrastructure or economic assets, which, if killed, destroyed or seized, could substantially alter Iran’s decision-making or operational capabilities. The Biden administration’s need to balance a strong response with the geopolitical consequences highlights the difficulties of navigating a tense and evolving situation. How might the attack affect the wider Middle East conflict? How the U.S. responds could reshape the Middle East’s geopolitical landscape and influence the dynamics of proxy warfare in the region. A strong military response from Washington might deter Iranian-backed militias from future attacks, but it could also provoke them into taking more aggressive actions. In the short term, any U.S. retaliation – especially if it targets Iranian interests directly – could escalate tensions in the region. It could also exacerbate the cycle of tit-for-tat strikes between the U.S. and Iranian-backed forces, increasing the risk of a broader regional conflict. And given that the attack’s pretext involves the Israel-Hamas war, any U.S. response could indirectly affect the course of that conflict, impacting future diplomatic efforts and the regional balance of power.

Defense & Security
Armed security on a cargo ship in the Red Sea.

America: Seeing red in the Red Sea

by Vivek Mishra

The attacks on shipping in the Red Sea is a test for the US’ Indo-Pacific strategy to deal with China In a House Armed Services Committee hearing in March 2023 on the US posture and security challenges in the Middle East and Africa, it was acknowledged that “…President Biden’s decision to unilaterally and unconditionally withdraw all US forces from Afghanistan has undermined our national security.” The developments of the past few weeks in the Red Sea have made this assertion seem prophetic. Yemen’s Houthi rebels have strategically positioned themselves to exploit less monitored zones in the Red Sea and the broader Arabian Sea. With numerous naval vessels navigating this critical route linking the Mediterranean and the Arabian Sea, countering the Houthi rebels and their assaults on global shipping has become exceedingly challenging for the US. The Houthi rebels have connected these attacks to the ongoing conflict in Gaza, tying the halt in hostilities along shipping lanes to a ceasefire negotiation between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Their strategy involves increasing attacks on ships and holding them as leverage to prompt the US to pressure Israel for a ceasefire. The timing of the Houthi actions aligns with Israel’s focused operations in southern Gaza and a waning Congressional backing in the US for continuous financial support for overseas conflicts. Tactically, the Houthis see an opportunity to open a third front in the maritime domain, even as the Israeli air defence systems are overwhelmed by combined rocket attacks of Hamas and Hezbollah in the north and south. In an offensive barrage last week, the Hezbollah carried out six attacks in eight hours. In the maritime domain, the Houthis have carried out multiple UAV, rocket and missile attacks targeting a dozen merchant ships in the larger Indian Ocean. Iran has conducted attacks on US and Israeli vessels in the region as well. A recent attack on an Israeli vessel off the west cost of India near Veraval is a red flag for safety and security of the Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) in the Indo-Pacific. With unmanned aerial vehicles and use of other technological capabilities, the attacks on ships could be rapid, discreet, damaging and, most of all, with little or no accountability. Often, the vulnerabilities associated with international strategic choke points have always been assessed from the perspective of State complicity, resting States’ conviction on limited capacities of non-State actors to exact huge costs. If anything, the Red Sea crisis shows that even with little but calculated external support, non-State actors could indeed significantly disturb the predictability of global supply chains and bring merchandise flow to a halt. The economic impact of increased attacks in the Red Sea is already being felt, as many ships have begun to avoid the route through the Red Sea and prefer the longer route around the Cape of Good Hope in Africa. This has caused worries of delay in the global freight markets and pricing concerns in energy dependent countries beside the security concerns for shipping companies such as Maersk. Since the Israel-Hamas war began, the US Central Command has been active in preventing a slew of UAV attacks by the Houthi rebels. For the US, the situation developing in the Red Sea presents a combination of political, economic and strategic challenges. The ongoing Israeli operation in Gaza has politically isolated the US at the global level as the only country to oppose a UNSC ceasefire resolution. The political heat from the Israel-Hamas war is being felt at home with dwindling youth support for President Biden as presidential elections near. The economic costs of the two wars – one in the Middle East and the other in Ukraine – is already tearing the US Congress apart. At the strategic level, coordinated attacks on international shipping threatens to force a rebalancing of the US force posture in the Indo-Pacific. The US currently has two aircraft carriers positioned in the Middle East since the Israel-Hamas war began. While a strong US military presence in the region may have prevented the war from spreading through the region, any additional and long-time concentration of force posture in the Gulf may be detrimental to Washington’s Indo-Pacific intent. Indeed, America’s Indo-Pacific strategy is being tested in the Middle East through five core ideas. Firstly, the recentring of US forces in the Middle East contradicts the intended pivot towards Asia. Secondly, the attacks orchestrated by the Houthis and Iran highlight the unpredictable threats that can disrupt supply chains in the region. Thirdly, the US faces challenges in executing counterterrorism and counterpiracy efforts in the Indo-Pacific, especially while collaborating with allies. Moreover, integrating the Middle East into an Indo-Pacific connectivity project appears increasingly challenging. Lastly, China’s refusal to join the US in protecting the Red Sea shipping lanes reveals Beijing’s divergent strategy for engaging with the Middle East from that of the US.

Diplomacy
President Joe Biden and President Xi shaking hands

Don’t be fooled by Biden and Xi talks − China and the US are enduring rivals rather than engaged partners

by Michael Beckley

There were smiles for the camera, handshakes, warm words and the unveiling of a couple of agreements. But beyond the optics of the first meeting in over a year between the leaders of the world’s two biggest economies, not an awful lot had changed: There was nothing to suggest a “reset” in U.S. and China relations that in recent years have been rooted in suspicion and competition. President Joe Biden hinted as much just hours after the face-to-face talks, confirming that he still considered his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, a “dictator.” Beijing hit back, with foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning telling reporters Biden’s remark was “extremely wrong and irresponsible political manipulation.” As a scholar of U.S.-China relations, I believe the relationship between the two countries can be best described as an “enduring rivalry” – a term used by political scientists to denote two powers that have singled each other out for intense security competition. Examples from history include India and Pakistan, France and England, and the West and the Soviet Union. Over the past two centuries, such rivals have accounted for only 1% of the world’s international relationships but 80% of its wars. History suggest these rivalries last around 40 years and end only when one side loses the ability to compete – or when the two sides ally against a common enemy. Neither scenario looks likely any time soon in regards to China and the U.S. How enduring rivalries end China “is a communist country … based on a form of government totally different than ours,” Biden said after his meeting with Xi. That comment gets to the heart of why diplomacy alone cannot reset the U.S.-China relationship. Washington and Beijing are not rivals due to any misunderstanding that can be sorted out through talks alone. Rather, they are rivals because of the opposite reason: They understand each other only too well and have come to the conclusion that their respective world outlooks cannot be reconciled. The same is true for many of the issues that divide the two countries – they are framed as binary win-lose scenarios. Taiwan can be governed from Taipei or Beijing, but not both. Similarly, the East China and South China seas can be international waters or Chinese territory; Russia can be crippled or supported. For the United States, its Asian alliances are a force for stability; for China, they’re hostile encirclement. And both countries are right in their respective assessments. Diplomacy alone is insufficient to resolve a rivalry. At best, it can help manage it. When the US calls, who picks up? Part of this management of the U.S-China rivalry involves finding areas of agreement that can be committed to. And on Nov. 15, Biden and Xi announced deals over curbing China’s production of the deadly drug fentanyl and the restoring of high-level, military-to-military dialogue between the two countries. But the fentanyl announcement is very similar to the one Xi gave to then-President Donald Trump in 2019. The U.S. administration later accused China of reneging on the agreement. Similarly, committing to restarting high-level dialogue is one thing; following up on it is another. History is dotted with occasions when having an open line between Beijing and Washington hasn’t meant a whole lot in times of crisis. In 2001, when a U.S. surveillance aircraft collided with a Chinese jet over Hainan Island, Beijing didn’t pick up the phone. Likewise, during the Tiananmen Square massacre, then-President George H.W. Bush urgently tried to call his counterpart Deng Xiaoping but was unable to get through. Moreover, focusing on what was agreed to in talks also highlights what wasn’t – and is unlikely to ever be – agreed to without a substantial shift in power that forces one side to concede to the other. For example, China wants the U.S. to stop selling arms to Taiwan. But Washington has no intention of doing this, as it knows that this will make the disputed island more vulnerable to Beijing. Washington would like China to end its military displays of strength over the Taiwan Strait; Beijing knows doing so risks seeing Taiwan drift toward independence. American policymakers have long said what they want is China to “change” – by which it means to liberalize its system of governance. But the Chinese Communist Party knows that doing so means self-liquidation – every communist regime that has allowed space for alternative political parties has unraveled. Which is why American attempts to engage China are often met with suspicion in China. As former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin commented, engagement and containment policies have the same aim: to end China’s socialist system. For similar reasons, Xi has shunned attempts by the U.S. to bring China further into the rules-based international order. The Chinese leader saw what happened when Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev tried to integrate the Soviet Union into the Western order in the late 1980s – it only hastened the demise of the socialist entity. Instead, Xi calls for a massive military buildup, the reassertion of Chinese Communist Party control and an economic policy based on self-reliance. Actions speak louder … The encouraging words and limited agreements hammered out in the latest meeting between Xi and Biden should also not distract from the actions that continue to push the U.S. and China further apart. China’s show of force in the Taiwan Strait has been sustained for three years now and shows no sign of abating. Meanwhile, Beijing’s navy continues to harass other nations in the South China Sea. Similarly, Biden has continued the U.S. path toward military alliances aimed at countering China’s threat. It recently entered a trilateral agreement between the U.S., Japan and South Korea. And that came two years after the establishment of AUKUS, a security partnership between the the U.S., Australia and the U.K. that has similar aims. Meanwhile, the U.S. administration will continue to tighten the screws on China’s economy through investment restrictions. Biden is well aware that easy flowing money from Wall Street is helping China weather choppier economic waters of late and is keen to turn off the tap. The point of diplomacy This isn’t to say that diplomacy and face-to-face talks are pointless. They do, in fact, serve a number of interests. For both men involved, there is a domestic upside. For Biden, playing nice with China projects the image of a statesman – especially at a time when, due to U.S. positions on Ukraine and the Middle East, he is facing accusations from the political left of being a “warmonger.” And encouraging Beijing to tread softly during the U.S. election year may blunt a potential line of attack from Republicans that the administration’s China policy is not working. Meanwhile, Xi is able to showcase his own diplomatic skills and present China as an alternative superpower to the U.S. and to potentially cleave the Western business community – and perhaps even major European nations – from what he would see as the U.S. anti-China coalition. Moreover, summits like the one in San Francisco signal that both the U.S. and China are jointly committed to at least keep talking, helping ensure that a rocky relationship doesn’t descend into anything more belligerent – even it that doesn’t make them any friendlier.

Diplomacy
Joe Biden at the airport in China with President Xi Jinping

Can US and China Avoid the Thucydides Trap? The Structural Limits to a US-China Reset

by Dr. Stephen Nagy

The meeting at San Francisco between Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping offers a short respite in the broader strategic conflict that both states have been waging since at least 2017. The friends and trade partners of both nations now have an opportunity to employ middle power diplomacy to advocate for their interests and also the moderation of competition. In his book Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap?, Graham Allison provided historical examples of when a status quo power met a rising power and whether and why it resulted in war. Unlike his peer John Mearsheimer, author of the Tragedy of Great Power Politics, who concludes that competition and conflict between the US and China are inevitable due to the structure of the international system, Allison’s book provides a warning to both the US and China that the decisions they make could be positively or negatively consequential, leaving room for agency to be the final arbiter of the fate of bilateral relations. The pre-APEC meeting between President Joe Biden and President Xi Jinping was an invitro international relations experiment testing the premises of Allison and Mearsheimer as to whether US-China strategic competition will be shaped by the agency of leaders or the structure of the system. Superficially, the 15 November 2023 meeting allowed for an agreement limiting the precursors of fentanyl coming into the United States and, importantly, reviving regular talks under what is known as the military maritime consultation agreement. These modest but important agreements followed a throng of high-level cabinet visits to Beijing and reciprocal visits by Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, that were meant to stabilise US-China relations. These agreements suggest that leaders in both countries can find diplomatic crosswalks to stabilise the relationship in functional areas. It also intimates that other window of cooperation such as climate change, anti-terrorism, transnational disease prevention, and poverty alleviation may be fertile ground for collaboration if leaders choose to move forward. While the modest takeaways from the meeting in San Francisco underscores that agency does have a role in bilateral relations, we should be realistic that they also reflect the deep structural challenges that exist between the United States and China. Moreover, they also represent the intractable nature of the structural challenges in the relationship, placing friends and allies of the United States and major trading partners of China, such as Australia, Japan, Canada, and Southeast Asian nations, with a difficult quandary: How to balance their economic prosperity and stability through a vibrant and beneficial trade relationship with China while maintaining a strong, comprehensive relationship with the United States as it deepens its strategic competition with China? In the US, there is bipartisan consensus that China represents a challenge to US leadership that needs to be dealt with comprehensively. Under the Biden administration, we have seen a systemic, sequential, and allied-first approach to competing with China. It has brought accolades from friends and allies and, predictably, criticism from China that Biden has not only adopted a continuation of policies towards China from the Trump administration, but that his policies are even more severe. The Biden administration has reinforced and reified its alliance partnerships with South Korea and Japan. It then enhanced its commitment to the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) and demonstrated substantial leadership in terms of pushing back against Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine. More recently, the Biden administration forged a new trilateral partnership between South Korea, Japan, and the United States, under the so-called Camp David Principles. It also strengthened the quadrilateral security dialogue and its efforts to provide public goods to the Indo Pacific region. And we’ve gradually seen a more coherent AUKUS strategy that aims to create synergy between the UK, Australia, and the United States in the areas of AI research, quantum computing, hypersonic missiles, cyber, and importantly nuclear power submarines. Last, but not least, the adoption of the Chips Act, limiting the sale of sophisticated semiconductor chips to China and the associated technologies, suggests that the United States is not stepping down from its competition with China, but stepping up in the same way that the United States transformed every aspect of its governance following the 911 attacks. Similarly, there seems to be consensus in the Chinese political elite that the US and its allies are intent on containing China and attenuating its development. Xi Jinping’s 20th Workers Party Report at the 20th Party Congress highlighted the concerns China has about its external environment and advocated for strengthening the PLA to deal with separatist forces and external threats, while consolidating it political, social, economic, and ideological systems. Through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the expansion of the BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the advocacy of the Global Development/ Security and Civilization Initiatives, China under the leadership of Xi Jinping is aiming to transform itself, its periphery, and the international system such that all are more conducive to China’s core interests, including preserving its political system. These realities suggest that rather than fostering a reset in bilateral relations, what we are seeing is both China and the United States taking a tactical pause in their strategic competition to amass the resources they need to compete successfully in the Mearsheimer world of great power politics and the maximisation of power. In closed-door discussions on China with Japanese, South Koreans, Australians, Canadians, Southeast and South Asians, as well as Europeans, we hear similar refrains: while China represents a “systemic challenge” in the case of the Europeans and NATO, or is a “disruptive power” in the case of Canada, or as Japan writes in its 2022 National Security Strategy, “the greatest strategic challenge in ensuring the peace and security of Japan and the peace and stability of the international community,” China is also an important and largely irreplaceable economic partner and essential player in dealing with global challenges such as climate change. The question for friends and allies of the United States is how to balance the increasingly difficult and competitive relationship between China and the United States in a way that ensures that they can continue to have strong economic relationships with China while building resilience into their economies and into their economic relationship, such that the economic weaponization of supply chains and the monopolisation of resources cannot negatively affect trading partners of China. Part of these states’ responses to protect their national interests from the structural realities of Sino-U.S. strategic competition will be a middle power diplomacy that aims to shape the competitive nature of the relationship between the US and China. This will be implemented through coordinating their diplomacy and proactively lobbying, insulating, and investing in rulemaking in the realms of security, trade, and international law alongside their like-minded ally the US, but at times also in opposition to the US. This will require investing in diplomatic resources in both the US and China, in the broader Indo-Pacific region, and at the subnational level to forge strong state to state relations to effectively lobby US policy makers to inculcate the interests of allies and friends of the US in their strategic rivalry with China. Similarly, through forging stronger relations with Chinese provincial leaders though trade and investment, middle powers and stakeholders in the US-China strategic competition may be able to have their interests reflected in a moderation of China’s approach to competition with the US.

Diplomacy
Prime Minister of Italy Giorgia Meloni

President Meloni’s press statement with Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy

by Giorgia Meloni

Good morning.  I want to thank Speaker Kevin McCarthy, my friend Speaker Kevin McCarthy, for this occasion he gave me. I want to say that I’m very glad to be here in the heart of the American democracy and in the place that Thomas Jefferson, at the time Secretary of State of President George Washington, wanted to call Capitol Hill to commemorate the famous Temple of Giove on the Capitoline Hill, il Campidoglio - one of the seven hills of Rome. And I say it for it is another sign of the incredibly strong ties between Italy and the United States, ties that have become even deeper in recent times after the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. More than ever, in this international juncture, our relations are essential. More than ever, we must be able to rely one on the other. Today we had the occasion to exchange views on many international issues, from the war in Ukraine and its effects worldwide, in particular regarding food security, to the stabilisation and development in the Mediterranean area, moreover in Africa, the Indo-Pacific, and Italy’s next Presidency of the G7. I was glad to have this debate with representatives of Congress because it gives me a complete picture of the foreign policy landscape from representatives elected by the American people. I’ve been in politics for most of my life and I’ve been a member of parliament for many, many years, so I perfectly know the importance of parliaments in democracies. That’s why I’m so grateful to Speaker Kevin McCarthy, whom I had the pleasure to meet already in Rome a few months ago, and to the representatives I met today, for the time they wanted to spend with me.  And last but not least, I’m happy to be here in a place decorated by these wonderful frescoes of Costantino Brumidi, another Italian, for this place represents and sums up also the stories of all the Italian-Americans who, with their lives, with their efforts, with their dreams, with their creativity, contributed to strengthening the bonds between our two peoples and contributed to make this democracy the great democracy it is. So, I want to say that I’m proud of these Italians, I’m proud of your grandfather too, Kevin, and I really want to thank them for the contribution they brought to the history and the culture and the identity of this nation. Many of them are today representatives and that shows the role Italy has had for the history of the United States, and that is one reason more to continue strengthening our relations, our cooperation, our friendship, particularly in this tough world, in this tough situation.  Many things are changing around us, but there is something others didn’t expect that we should perfectly prove: that the Western world is united and wants to defend the world based on rules, for without a world based on international law, we would live in a world of chaos, in which who is militarily stronger thinks he can invade his neighbour. That’s not the world we want to live in; we want to live in a world in which we can respect sovereignty and freedom. Thank you very much.

Diplomacy
Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu

PM Netanyahu's Remarks at an Event for US Independence Day at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem

by Benjamin Netanyahu

President Herzog, Mrs. Herzog, Ambassador Nides and Virginia,and Taylor, and Taylor's boyfriend,Senator Rick Scott,Speaker of the Knesset,Mayor of Jerusalem,and so many dear friends, Tom, you started your words by remembering an evocative moment, when you were 14 years old in Ein haShofet. Well, somewhat younger than that, I had an evocative moment right here, on this hill top. It was barren. There was no Israel Museum. There was the Monastery of the Cross, olive trees. A barren hilltop except one tree, a balut tree. And we, the Jerusalem kids, would band in the valley and we would try to reach, undetected, to the top, to the tree. Reach the target. I say that because right now, well, last night, Israeli soldiers tried to reach, undetected, the most legitimate target on the planet: people who would annihilate our country. And because this Fourth of July in this extraordinary place falls on an extraordinary moment, Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the Government and citizens of Israel, I wish to send my warmest greetings to President Biden and the American people as we join in celebrating their Independence Day. And as Prime Minister, I wish to express my deep appreciation and gratitude for America's enduring support for Israel. For 75 years, the United States has been our irreplaceable and indispensable ally. Irreplaceable. Indispensable. Eleven minutes after our birth, and at vital junctures throughout our history, America has provided Israel with moral and political backing against those committed to wiping us out, to wiping out the one and only Jewish state. No less important, for nearly half a century, America has given generous military assistance to Israel, helping provide us with the tools, the tools we need to defend ourselves by ourselves. Decade after decade, our two countries have moved closer together. I'm proud to say that today, security cooperation has never been better, intelligence sharing has never been deeper and our alliance has never been stronger. I have long said that Israel has no better ally than America, and I say to you, America has no better ally than Israel. I'm confident that Israel's importance to the United States will become even clearer in the years ahead, as we work together not only to protect our common security, but also to develop the most advanced technologies that will reshape the 21st century. They will decide who leads the world. And Israel is America's vital partner in that effort. Ladies and Gentlemen, on July Fourth, all democratic countries should remember that the decisive event that ensured the rise of freedom in modern times, has been the rise of the United States of America. Time and again, America defeated the forces of totalitarianism and terror. Yet we should also remember a basic truth: Freedom is precious, and it's never free. It often requires firm and decisive action against those seeking to spread terror and imperil free societies. I remember that truth every Fourth of July, because that is the day my brother Yoni fell, commanding the rescue force at Entebbe. Today, on the eve of another Fourth of July, Israel's soldiers, once again, find themselves fighting forces of terror. Late last night, the IDF launched a comprehensive action against terrorist strongholds in Jenin. In recent months, Jenin has become a safe haven for terrorists. From that safe haven, terrorists perpetrated savage attacks, murdering Israeli civilians, men, women and children, as many children as they could find. As I speak, our troops our battling the terrorists with unyielding resolve and fortitude, while doing everything, everything, to avoid civilian casualties. I have no doubt that as Israel exercises its inherent right of self-defense, the United States will stand firmly by our side. And I also believe that in the months ahead, Israel and America will work closely together to thwart the danger posed by Iran and seize the opportunity to expand the circle of peace. Ladies and gentlemen, tonight is also an opportunity to thank outgoing US Ambassador Tom Nides for his service and for his friendship towards Israel. Thank you Tom. During your tenure here, you've demonstrated that your support for Israel comes both from the head and from the heart. On a personal level, I will say I'll miss your candor, your wit, your humour and your friendship. No matter what you do, what you decide to do in the next chapter of your life, know that Israel will always be your home away from home. And as you've said many times, quoting President Biden, we are mishpuche. So on behalf of your Israeli family, let me wish you a happy Independence Day. Happy Independence Day America.  God bless America and God bless our valued and unshakable alliance. 

Defense & Security
Prime Minister of Norway Jonas Gahr Støre

Norway Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre's Speech on board the USS Gerald R. Ford

by Jonas Gahr Støre

Ambassador, Admiral, Excellencies, friends, It is a great honour to welcome the USS Gerald R. Ford and its crew to Norway and to Oslo. This is a historical event, nothing less. – A show of force. But just as important: A show of friendship – and a show of trust. And it is great to be back on the Ford! – Because I have been here before. Actually, I landed on the Ford outside Norfolk, Virginia last September. I experienced how it was to land – but even more memorable was to take off, being catapulted off the ship – I am still recovering. Today, we came by boat. – It is more relaxed, if I may say so. It is very good to be back. I would like to thank you for this extraordinary U.S. hospitality, we can all feel it, thank you, Captain for the superb Friday evening entertainment. Stepping onto the ship once again, on the Norwegian side of the Atlantic Ocean, reminds me of the obvious fact: The ocean does not divide us. It unites us. And the ocean, as we can see, is a gateway, a waterway, that makes us to what we are – we are neighbours and close friends across the Atlantic.  The Ford flies a battle flag which shows the compass rose. – This is an important tool, for centuries, and a powerful symbol – for staying on the right course. Navigating the Oslo fjord is no easy thing, and on your very first overseas visit I believe it proves that you master the tool – the compass, although – probably, the pilots also helped. Your skilled sailors have anchored the ship on a spot which is significant in many ways in my country. Because the Oslo Fjord tells an important part of the history of Norway: Merchants and rulers came this way, landed near Akershus Castle, which defended the city for centuries from invasions from outside. The famous explorer Roald Amundsen – whose name is, as you know, on the frigate – started his South Pole expedition from exactly where we are now, just ashore here. The Nazi German occupants came this way in 1940 – however, they struggled a lot more to get through the narrow parts of the fjord. The Norwegian king returned from his exile in Great Britain in 1945 on HMS Norfolk by this waterway. – War and peace. Shortly after, NATO was founded. Our two nations – founding fathers of NATO – are close allies, and – as you reminded, Admiral – the U.S. Navy is particularly important to Norwegian security. The U.S. Marine Corps equipment, stored in Mid-Norway, is proof of that commitment. The Norwegian Armed Forces appreciates, in numerous contexts, the opportunity to train with U.S. women and men in uniform. – And that is what we will do in the coming days, and we look forward to it. Well planned, joint exercises are essential. This is not new. It is about continuity. We know. Our neighbours know. And our allies know.  The USS Gerald R. Ford is now anchored in the heart of the five Nordic countries – coastwise towards the Atlantic Ocean. This region will now form the new northern flank of NATO – with Finland, its newest member – and just pending the acceptance of Sweden. So – a new security policy map is in the making. For the first time in centuries the Nordic countries will belong to the same security alliance, being U.S. partners and partners of a strong alliance for stability and peace.  Admiral, You are not just navigating a large ship; you are navigating a significant political and diplomatic tool: the U.S. at sea. This ship has the ability to enhance stability and security wherever you sail, whatever waters you travel. You demonstrate the U.S. commitment to NATO and to transatlantic security. To our security. For that we are truly grateful. Against the backdrop of the ongoing war in Ukraine, this is – to put it short – more important than ever. So, dear friends, on this beautiful Friday afternoon, we should be reminded that there have been dire times, wars in Europe, and we should prepare to avoid dire times in the future. Immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbour in December 1941, President Roosevelt wired Prime Minister Churchill the following words: “Today we are all in the same boat (…) and it is a ship which will not and cannot be sunk.”  A truly transatlantic message – and from this our transatlantic alliance emerged. Democracies decided on standing together. Like then, we are in the same boat – and in a big one this time, and it feels safe. So, friends, Welcome to Norway, welcome to Oslo. Welcome to come training with us. I wish you and your fantastic crew of this ship an excellent stay. You have been well received in Oslo. You are our friends. I wish you a good onward voyage. Thank you very much for your attention.

Energy & Economics
Collision of shipment containers with Chinese and US flags

Drivers of U.S.-China Strategic Competition

by Stephen R. Nagy

Understanding the Chinese Perspective The relationship between the United States and China is one of the most important and mutually beneficial bilateral relationships in the world. Nonetheless, it is also complex and contentious, with both countries vying for geopolitical influence and economic dominance. This brief examines drivers of U.S.-China strategic competition from the perspective of Beijing incorporating the prism of MarxistLeninist ideology, domestic politics in the U.S., China's needed alignment with Russia, nationalism, technological advancements such as AI, the role of regional players such as ASEAN, Japan, and the E.U., and Comprehensive National Power (CNP). Understanding this analytical lens contributes to deeper comprehension of China's security anxieties and world view that may provide insight to enhance engagement, resilience, and deterrence in bilateral relations with China. Introduction The relationship between the United States and China is one of the most important and mutually beneficial bilateral relationships in the world today. To illustrate, according to data published by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), total imports and exports grew 2.5 percent year-on-year to reach US$690.6 billion in 2022, breaking the previous record of US$658.8 billion set in 2018. This increase is despite the divisions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and mutual unfavorable ratings. Nonetheless, the U.S.-China relationship is also complex and contentious, with both countries vying for geopolitical influence and economic dominance. Whether it is the rules-based Free and Open IndoPacific or the realization of Xi Jinping’s China dream, the competition for primacy between the U.S. and China will impact friends, partners, and foes of both states. Viewed from Beijing, Chinese scholars and analysts base their assessment of the trajectory of the U.S.-China strategic competition through several lens including the prism of Marxist-Leninist ideology, domestic politics in the U.S., China’s needed alignment with Russia, nationalism, technological advancements such as AI, the role of regional players such as ASEAN, Japan, and the EU, and Comprehensive National Power (CNP). Shaped by Marxist-Leninist Ideology Marxist-Leninist ideology has played a leading if not central role in shaping the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) approach to governance and foreign relations. The CCP came to power in 1949 following a successful revolution led by Mao Zedong. Mao was heavily influenced by Marxist-Leninist thought. Since then, the CCP has maintained a commitment to Marxist-Leninist ideology, although its interpretation and application have evolved over time. Today, as former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and author of The Avoidable War: The Dangers of a Catastrophic Conflict between the US and Xi Jinping's China writes, Xi’s China leans left in terms of Marxist-Leninist socio-economic organization and right in terms of nationalism. Rudd’s analysis echoes President Xi’s speech on “Hold High the Great Banner of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics and Strive in Unity to Build a Modern Socialist Country in All Respects” in his report to the 20th National Congress of the CPC. In that speech, Xi stressed that “Marxism is the fundamental guiding ideology upon which our Party and our country are founded and thrive. Our experience has taught us that, at the fundamental level, we owe the success of our Party and socialism with Chinese characteristics to the fact that Marxism works, particularly when it is adapted to the Chinese context and the needs of our times.” At its core, Marxist-Leninist ideology emphasizes the importance of class struggle and the need for the working class to overthrow the ruling class to achieve a classless society. In the Chinese context, this has translated into a focus on creating a socialist society and promoting the welfare of the Chinese people under the umbrella term ‘Socialism with Chinese Characteristics’. In terms of China’s relationship with the U.S., Marxist-Leninist ideology has contributed to a view of the U.S. as a capitalist and imperialist power that seeks to undermine China’s socialist system. This view is rooted in the Marxist-Leninist belief that capitalist powers are inherently expansionist and seek to dominate other countries to secure their own economic and political interests. They see the U.S. as an imperialist power seeking to maintain its hegemony over the world, while China represents a rising power challenging the established order, as written by Graham Allison in his book Thucydides’ Trap. Chinese analysts believe that the U.S. is threatened by China’s rise and is seeking to contain it through various means, including economic sanctions, military posturing, and diplomatic pressure as evidenced by the Trump administration’s trade war, its network of alliances throughout the region, the advent of minilateral cooperation such as the Quad and AUKUS, and the perceived fomenting of independent movements in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Taiwan.  They argue that the U.S. is using its military alliances and partnerships with countries such as Japan, South Korea, and Australia to encircle China and limit its influence in the region. These perspectives ignore that the U.S. alongside with Japan and others openly supported China’s entry into the WTO, the 2008 Summer Olympics, and gave China a leadership position at the Paris Climate Accord. These initiatives demonstrated that the U.S. and other countries were willing to work with China on global issues and support its development. Destabilizing Influence of U.S. Domestic Politics While Marxist-Leninist perspectives of U.S.-China relations offer a macro-level understanding of how China views the inevitability of great power rivalry between Washington and Beijing, Chinese analysts also pay close attention to domestic politics in the U.S. and its impact on U.S.-China relations. Chinese analysts believe that the current political climate in the U.S. is highly polarized, and that these domestic political dynamics are affecting U.S. foreign policy, including its stance towards China. They see the Trump administration’s trade war with China as a reflection of this polarization, and argue that it has damaged the relationship between the two countries. They also note that the Biden administration has continued many of the same policies as the Trump administration, including maintaining tariffs on Chinese goods and pursuing a tough stance on technology transfer and intellectual property theft. The build-up to the 2024 presidential election for most will be one of intensifying securitization of relations with China. President Biden will not be in a position to show any weakness in his China policy. Equally so, the Republicans, whether it is former President Trump or an alternative GOP candidate will take an “All because of China” approach, when it comes to foreign policy, like advocating for a hard decoupling of the economies or even more provocatively, possibly migrating away or redefining the “One China” policy. Developing China-Russian Alignment Chinese analysts also view the relationship between China and Russia as an important factor in the trajectory of U.S.-China relations. They see the two countries as natural partners, sharing a common interest in challenging U.S. dominance of the world. They believe that the China-Russia all-weather partnership is growing stronger and that it poses a significant challenge to U.S. interests. For Russia, Pax Sinica would offer it a much more hospitable environment than the one provided by the Pax Americana, according to the authors of The Beijing-Moscow Axis: The Foundations of an Asymmetric Alliance published by the Centre for Eastern Studies (OSW). For China, a tightening of the alignment with Russia will be critical to ensuring that U.S. does not drive a wedge between China and Russia by pursuing a policy of containment against both countries, a policy that Chinese analysts view as unlikely to succeed. The invasion of Ukraine is a case in point. Despite Russia’s invasion violating the U.N. Charter and China’s Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence, Beijing has taken a pro-Russian neutrality position refusing to condemn Russia. This is not an endorsement of the invasion or of Putin. It is a clear indication of the importance China places on the deepening Sino-Russian alignment and the reality that neither country can afford a geopolitical divorce. In fact, the recent paper ‘China’s Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis’ continues to echo President Xi’s Workers Report at the 20th Party Congress in October 2022, which explicitly used the expression that “no country’s security should come at the expense of another country’s security,” an explicit rejection of the U.S. and Western countries’ views that Russia has engaged in an unprovoked attack against the sovereign state of Ukraine.  Intensifying Nationalism Chinese nationalism is another important factor by which Chinese analysts understand the trajectory of U.S.-China relations. They view Chinese nationalism as a natural response to the country’s history of humiliation at the hands of foreign powers, including the U.S. Carefully curated since the Tiananmen Square incident in 1989, Zheng Wang writes in his book Never Forget National Humiliation: Historical Memory in Chinese Politics and Foreign Relations that Beijing has placed the century of humiliation at the center of China’s national building process and a nationalist movement in which victimhood, national rejuvenation, and a perineal sense of insecurity concerning the West and particularly the U.S. is the major pillar. These narratives have been meticulously manipulated and deployed to build a national identity in which China must resist anti-China forces and those states that wish to prevent “China’s rightful rise.” Events such as the 70th Anniversary of Victory of Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and World Anti-Fascist War, 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party, or national aspirations such as the China Dream are all constructed with the purpose of infusing into Chinese citizens a nationalism linked to the CCP’s selective understanding of history. Based on these selective views of history, scholars such as Qin Pang in their co-authored article on “China’s Growing Power Makes Its Youth Hawkish?” Evidence from the Chinese Youth’s Attitudes toward the U.S. and Japan’ find that Chinese citizens view the United States as seeking to contain China’s rise and limit its influence in the region, and that this is seen by many Chinese as an affront to their national pride. Chinese analysts believe that Chinese nationalism is a powerful force that will shape the country's foreign policy for years to come, and that it will continue to be a source of tension in U.S.-China relations. For the U.S. and other like-minded states, Chinese nationalism that is based on victimhood, national rejuvenation, and a perennial sense of insecurity concerning the West will not be a platform for stabilizing and creating constructive relations, especially if this nationalism drives territorial expansion in the South and East China Seas, the Himalayan plateau or across the Taiwan straits.  Dominating AI and Other Technologies  The rapid advancement of technology, particularly in the areas of AI and 5G, is another factor that Chinese analysts believe will shape the trajectory of U.S.-China relations. They see China as a leader in these areas, with the potential to surpass the United States in terms of technological innovation and economic growth. Chinese analysts argue that the U.S. is threatened by China’s technological progress and is seeking to limit its access to advanced technology, particularly in the areas of AI and 5G. They also believe that the United States is using national security concerns as a pretext for restricting Chinese access to these technologies. The U.S. Chips Act and the growing first tier semiconductor and technology firewall that is being erected around China by the U.S. in cooperation with Japan, South Korea, the Netherlands and Taiwan demonstrate the centrality the U.S places on dominating these spheres of technology. The consequence for China according to analysts in and out of China is that it will no longer have access to the most sophisticated semi-conductors, semiconductor producing machines and the associated expertise to keep up in the race to be the first mover when it comes to AI and other technologies that rely on first tier semi-conductor chips. In concrete terms, this means that as the U.S. and its allies will form a chips coalition among like-minded countries resulting in their collective abilities to generate scientific breakthroughs that can be translated into military and economic advantages that will preserve U.S. dominance and the existing rules-based order. Beijing is aware of this challenge and has attempted to reduce its reliance on the U.S. and Western states through its Made in China 2025 strategy and Dual Circulation Strategy. Whether these initiatives will be sufficient to outmaneuver U.S. initiatives to dominate semi-conductors and ultimately AI and other sensitive technologies is yet to be determined. Role of ASEAN, Japan, and the EU Chinese analysts also pay close attention to the role of regional players such as ASEAN, Japan, and the EU in the trajectory of U.S.-China relations. They believe that these countries have a significant influence on the balance of power in the region and that their relationships with the United States and China are critical. Japan’s release in December 2022 of three strategy documents—the National Security Strategy (NSS), National Defense Strategy (NDS), and Defense Buildup Program aims to uphold the current rules-based order and prevent the emergence of Chinese hegemony in the IndoPacific region. Meanwhile, the new Washington Declaration between the United States and the Republic of Korea (RoK) commits to engage in deeper, cooperative decision-making on nuclear deterrence, including through enhanced dialogue and information sharing regarding growing nuclear threats to the ROK and the region. The recent meeting between U.S. President Biden and Philippine President Marcos reaffirms the United States’ ironclad alliance commitments to the Philippines, underscoring that an armed attack on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the Pacific, including in the South China Sea, would invoke U.S. mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the 1951 U.S.- Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.”. These are explicit examples of how U.S. allies, through their cooperation and partnerships with the U.S., are aiming to preserve U.S. hegemony. In short, Chinese analysts argue that the United States is seeking to use its relationships with these countries to contain China’s rise, while China is seeking to build closer relationships with its neighbors and BRI partners to expand its influence and build win-win relationships based on its Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence. Lastly, U.S. and ASEAN watchers in China believe that the United States is losing influence in the region, particularly with ASEAN countries, and that China is poised to fill the power vacuum owing to its extensive economic ties in the region, ties that many in Southeast Asia are dependent on for sustainable development despite reservations over the possible negative ramifications of increased Chinese economic and diplomatic influence in the region. Heft of Comprehensive National Power (CNP) Sensitive to the changing power balances and what this means for China’s ability to achieve its core national interests, China places enormous weight on Comprehensive National Power (CNP) as a key measure of a country’s overall strength and capability in all aspects of national development, including economic, military, technological, cultural, and diplomatic power as Hu Angang and Men Honghua write in their article title “The rising of modern China: Comprehensive national power and grand strategy”. The concept of CNP has been used by Chinese leaders since the 1980s to assess China’s relative strength compared to other countries, particularly the United States. In recent years, China has focused on increasing its CNP as part of its strategic competition with the U.S. Beijing aims to surpass the U.S. in terms of overall power and influence, believing that a higher CNP will enable the country to better protect its national interests, enhance its global influence, and achieve its long-term strategic goals. To increase its CNP, China has pursued a range of policies and initiatives. One of the key areas of focus has been economic development, with China becoming the world’s second-largest economy and a major player in global trade and investment. Through the Made in China 2025, the Belt Road Initiative (BRI), and the Dual Circulation Model, China has also invested heavily in science and technology, with a particular emphasis on emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and 5G networks.  In addition, China has modernized its military and expanded its global military presence based on the civil-military fusion (MCF), with the goal of becoming a world-class military power by the middle of the century. China has also pursued a more assertive foreign policy, seeking to expand its influence in key regions such as Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Concurrently, China has also sought to promote its soft power, through initiatives such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which aims to enhance connectivity and economic cooperation between China and other countries. China has also sought to promote its culture and values through the Confucius Institutes and its latest Global Civilization Initiative calling for “called for respecting the diversity of civilizations, advocating the common values of humanity, valuing the inheritance and innovation of civilizations, and strengthening international people-to-people exchanges and cooperation.”  China’s focus on increasing its CNP is driven by its desire to become a major global power and to challenge the U.S.’ dominant position in the international system. While China’s rise has brought many benefits to the country and the world, it has also raised concerns among some countries, particularly the U.S., about the potential implications of China’s growing power and influence. This is especially true as we have seen a growing track record of economic coercion, grey zone tactics, and rejecting international law such as the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s July 2016 decision against its claims in the South China Sea.Conclusion Chinese analysts clearly view the relationship between the United States and China through a complex lens. They see the relationship with the United States as one of the most important in the world and believe that it will continue to shape the trajectory of global politics and economics for years to come. While there are significant challenges and tensions in the relationship between the two countries, Chinese analysts also see opportunities for cooperation and collaboration, particularly in areas such as climate change and global health.

Diplomacy
Joe Biden holding hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping

Biden’s ‘de-risk’ from China policy has a few flaws

by Nathaniel Sher

In order to ‘walk, chew gum, and play chess’ at the same time, the US will have to both invest at home and sign more trade deals. A speech late last month by Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser, on “Renewing American Economic Leadership” clarified that the administration wants to build resilience to “de-risk” from China. But dealing with Beijing will require more than investing at home. Washington also needs to re-engage in negotiations with China to manage difficulties in the bilateral relationship. And to better compete, the United States should get back into the business of signing trade deals. As Trade Representative Katherine Tai quipped during her 2021 confirmation hearing, the United States can “walk, chew gum, and play chess” at the same time. The Biden administration should not only invest in domestic resilience, but also participate in new trade agreements and negotiate directly with Beijing. Over the past two years, China joined the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), began acceding to the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA), and applied to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). China’s integration into these new frameworks will create efficiencies in its own economy, while binding Beijing closer to the rest of Asia. Meanwhile, the United States does not expect to see the first “real outcomes” from the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) until the end of 2023, more than one year after its announcement. IPEF, moreover, lacks the market-access agreements characteristic of other, more substantive economic agreements. It is not surprising, then, that the 2023 Lowy Institute Asia Power Index ranks China 100 out of 100 on its “economic diplomacy” index, while the United States receives a ranking of only 34.6. The 2023 State of Southeast Asia survey similarly shows that only 21.9 percent of respondents view the United States as a leader in championing free trade, down from 30.1 percent in 2022. To be fair, Beijing has significant ground to cover before its markets become as free and as open as those in the United States. What many trade partners care about, however, is not where China and the United States have been, but where they are going. To many, it appears as if Washington is turning inward while Beijing continues to open its markets. This leads to the second error in Jake Sullivan’s “new consensus” on international economic policy. He expresses fatalism about China’s economic trajectory without giving credence to the possibility that China may change, or that the United States can play a role in influencing Beijing’s behavior. Sullivan explains, when “President Biden came into office, we had to contend with the reality that a large non-market economy had been integrated into the international economic order in a way that posed considerable challenges.” In response, Sullivan focuses on building domestic “resilience” and “capacity” to reduce America’s dependence on China. Washington appears to have given up on addressing the non-market practices contributing to U.S. dependence on China in the first place, including state subsidies and dumping. The administration also seems to have forgotten that access to low-priced imports is an important factor in the competitiveness of U.S. firms and the standard of living of American consumers. Fatalism about China’s trajectory tracks with the Biden administration’s overall Indo-Pacific Strategy, which does not seek to “change the PRC but to shape the strategic environment in which it operates.” Fortunately, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has bucked the trend by stating that she hopes to “engage” with Beijing “in an important and substantive dialogue on economic issues.” Not trying to influence Beijing, on the other hand, would give up an essential element of any effective China policy. Of course, prior negotiations were by no means unqualified successes. The Trump administration’s “phase one” trade deal largely failed to change Beijing’s behavior, in part, because the bilateral purchase agreements effectively, as Yukon Huang and Jeremy Smith of the Carnegie  Endowment for International Peace put it, “prescribed state-managed trade over market forces.” Other negotiations, however, have seen more success. Former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson was able to persuade Beijing to revalue its currency by more than 20 percent in the late 2000s, helping to level the trade relationship. China’s WTO accession negotiations also moved the needle on the country’s economic policy. While Beijing failed to carry out many of its WTO commitments, China did reform key aspects of its economy and, notably, slashed its average tariff level from 15.3 percent in 2001 to 9.8 percent over the next decade. U.S. policymakers should learn the lessons of past negotiations rather than standing by as U.S.-China economic relations deteriorate further. One way to pressure Beijing to continue along the path of reform and opening up would be to carry out negotiations in concert with U.S. friends and allies. The Trump administration gave up significant leverage by dealing with Beijing bilaterally, outside the parameters of the international trade system. Plurilateral negotiations with U.S. partners — many of whom share U.S. grievances — may be more effective at convincing China to change course. The consequences of not having an effective economic dialogue with Beijing will become more apparent over time. Despite Washington’s wishes, China is simply not going away. Beijing will continue to join new trade agreements and integrate itself deeper into the global economy, even as the United States focuses on building resilience at home.