War and conflict are considered a final form of diplomacy towards peace when every other form of diplomacy fails. It is in fact a historical cycle of brutality that has repeated and adopted a new attire each time. The dissolution of Soviet Union in 1991 left a bleak void in the international arena. United States (US) emerged as a single uni-polar superpower with no impediments to challenge or balance its might. The Asian emerging power, China, has already forced US to revise its geopolitical and economical strategies. Is a new rivalry already on the table?
China achieved the milestone of being the world’s top exporter in 2009, the country made total exports of US $2.5 trillion in 2019. The economic giant has adopted what is called a third way economic system lying between capitalism and socialism. The World Bank figures suggest the percentage of extremely poor people in China has alleviated from 88.3% in 1981 to 0.7% in 2015. The aforementioned economic evolution has made China a new pole of power in the making and a concern for western power politics.
Over the past 500 years, history has witnessed a cycle of rise, equilibrium, and end of five different powers starting from Portuguese cycle in 15th century to the contemporary power relations of United States in 21st century. Every cycle saw a rise of power, an equilibrium period where it ruled uncontested, and an end – challenged by another cycle in the rise.
If history is the best guide to the future, then the US – China saga is on the brink between equilibrium and conclusion. However, the Western might, be well aware of the changing dynamics, has ultimately started to show its defiance and attention. The economic policy of China is mainly concentrated on the fact: to extend the reach of its local manufacturer to every market of the world. The One Belt One Road initiative is manifestation of the same objective.
Technology has evolved, the world has been globalized, and so has the very nature of confrontation. United States under Trump administration focused exclusively on Asia Pacific. The entry of India to the US circle of influence is the addition of one important variable to US economy and a worth mentionable ally. But the play doesn’t halt here.
In response to Chinese increasing economic influence in Asia, the US has now started to melt the long-standing impediments between Middle East and Western markets. The diplomatic peace deals between Israel, United Arab Emirate, Bahrain, and now Sudan is a substantial move put forward by US to strengthen its influence and boost up the Middle Eastern and Western market forces. United Arab Emirates has already signed multiple deals with Israel to boost up trade between the two including mutual entry visa exemptions within months after their peace deal. The Middle East no longer posits a threat to US and its allies for the moment.
The tug of war is not confined to primary economic retaliations either. United States is geopolitically influencing Asia to make room for the schism between China and its traditional adversaries. The Quadrilateral Security Doctrine (The Quad) between United States, India, Japan and Australia, which was abandoned earlier, has gained impetus once again. China considers it a serious interference by Western might in the domestic affairs of Asia and a move to oppose China. Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, known for his policies imitating Chanakya Doctrine is another opposition to China on geographical and economical grounds. Recent tensions between the two on disputed Ladakh Region led to the violation of decades old peace agreement of not using firearms in the region, as proclaimed by Indian media.
United States and India recently signed Basic Exchange Cooperation Agreement (BECA) days before the US Presidential Election on 3 November 2020. The act is destined to arm India with necessary technology to counter China’s hegemony in the region. Agreement will allow sharing of Satellite Geo-spatial data between the binding countries. The move is criticized by Pakistan as a relative threat to strategic balance in South Asia. It will alter the relative balance between other South Asian countries and India.
Moreover, tensions between Pakistan and India have boosted the impetus of arms race between the two neighbors. After close aerial confrontation by their Air Forces and diplomatic stand-off in February 2019 following Pulwama attack, a question has been raised on Missile Defense Systems of the two, both have none. India is in negotiations with Russia for its S400 Air Defense System. Pakistan, to deter, is looking for Chinese LY-80/HQ-16. Similar system is with United States and Israel called Patriot and Iron Dome, respectively.
United States recently ratified Hong Kong Autonomy Act in June 2020 in a response to Chinese Hong Kong National Security Law. The former will place sanctions on individuals aiding the Mainland in any act violating the freedom of annexed region. Hong Kong became a part of China in 1997 as a consequence of Decolonization for a period of 50 years. The recent legislation put forward by China has experienced a strong disapproval from United States, considering it an act to violate Hong Kong’s sovereignty and autonomy. The opposition to Chinese belief of “One Country-Two System” is considered a serious interference in Chinese Domestic affairs by the Xi Jinping government.
Sensing the geopolitical gravity of 21st century, the People’s Republic of China has finally changed its sole reliance on conventional foreign policy directions; transition to The Wolf Warrior Diplomacy has already started. The word is recently and seldom used by Chinese Diplomats while addressing American aggression and interference. The incident on Fiji Island during the celebration of Taiwan’s National Day in October 2020 is a mere display of Chinese anger over interference in its internal affairs. Perhaps a retaliatory response to American policies of interference has been realized in Mainland by the Xi Jinping regime. The void left by USSR has finally started to fade. Will the cycle end and repeat as it always have? Or will the end set a new precedent? The answer is open to imaginations and a test for International Relations analysts.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Dunya News’ editorial stance.