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Sino-US rivalry: Did it result in confrontation or cooperation?

By Zumra Nawaz Cheema

“The future of politics will be decided in Asia, not Afghanistan or Iraq, and the United States will be right at the centre of the action”.

                                                                                                                            Hillary Clinton 

As Sino-U.S. rivalry is getting intensified with the passage of time. U.S. policies towards China is being undergone through an abrupt change from the Kissinger’s administration to the Obama’s government, “to contain China to Cooperate China”. Presently, U.S. is really anxious upon Chinese rapid growth in terms of economics and military aspects. Competitive tensions between both powers are getting strong. if at the one hand China is emerging as world’s largest economy, on the other hand U.S. economy is heading towards downfall .

As China’s economic and military innovations are oriented toward developing capabilities for  displacing U.S. influence in the Western Pacific and asserting China’s status as a leading regional power and major world power, thus US as an existing superpower is worried of China’s steady and precise progress and development.US is visualizing  China as an actual challenge to its hegemony and monopoly in anarchical international system.

Under such state of affairs it seems that once again two ideologies Capitalist (U.S) and Communist (China) are getting involved in competition just like Cold War. As it is a general experience that rising powers seek to gain more authority in the global system, while declining powers rarely go down without a fight, thus it would have to see that what would be the consequences of this strategic competition, either confrontation or cooperation ?

Presently American policies are going through a transformatary phase. U.S is trying to divert its strategic posture from so called anti-terrorist to any other direction. As an American analyst stated that “the U.S. global strategy has basically completed a major transition shifting from anti-terror to dealing with emerging powers, from the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific”. Recently, U.S. announced “Pivot towards Asia” to restore  its declining economy. Accordingly U.S. is building up economic and military ties with emerging powers i.e. India, China, Singapore, Indonesia etc. Moreover,  US “twin trade” agreements, The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and The Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are also the part of US agenda to rebalance its economy. Resultantly China is feeling a strong strain on itself. China sees all of these U.S. initiatives against itself. China has view that US wants to hamper Chinese progress and development  so it can keep its supremacy and hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region. Accordingly, China is also taking steps to neutralize U.S. impact in the regional dynamics.  The One Belt, One Road (OBOR) strategy, the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank (AIIB), the revival of the Free Trade Area of Asia and the Pacific (FTAAP) initiative, the intensification of bilateral partnerships with its neighbors and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) are some counter initiatives adapted by the Chinese side.

Currently,  there are two major flashpoints between China and U.S. First one is Cyber Warfare (CW). U.S. and China both countries are headed toward an escalating cyber war. Recently few Chinese hackers have arrested in U.S., accused of masterminding government-led cyber hacking to steal trade secrets from six major American companies, working in the key power and metals industries. Now U.S. decision-making elite is facing a critical issue that how the US will have respond to the cyber intrusion.

Second area of concern for U.S. is Chinese military modernization especially in terms of Navy. China is the second largest arms exporter, the second largest arms importer and China’s military budget is the second largest in the world after  U.S. Currently China’s improving naval capabilities posing a potential challenge to U.S. naval capabilities in blue-water. It is the very first time, when U.S. is facing a potential threat to its longstanding status as the leading military power in Asia-Pacific since the end of the Cold War.

Now it is recommended that cooperation, rather than confrontation, would benefit both powers as well as enhance stability in the Asia-Pacific. While competition; resulted in confrontation would have disastrous outcomes i.e. global instability and insecurity.

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Zumra Cheema

Zumra Nawaz Cheema holds a Master's degree in Defence & Strategic Studies from Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. She works as Researcher at the Strategic Vision Institute in Islamabad, Pakistan

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