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Can China eclipse USA?

Can China eclipse USA?

طوبیٰ Tooba 4 months ago 0 3

US President Joe Biden (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping greet each other. — Reuters/File
US President Joe Biden (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping greet each other. — Reuters/File

United States Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns has expressed optimism that Beijing is not going to eclipse Washington.

Is this bold statement by a diplomat, who has served six US presidents and nine foreign secretaries of state, based on facts or fiction?

Well, the answer depends on a number of factors including the state of economy, advancement in technology, level of security, and strength of alliances both world powers enjoy. Each of these factors require in-depth analysis and is worth writing a book.

So, let’s focus on the content of the talk Nicholas Burns had with Suzanne Vares-Lum, the president of the East-West Centre and analyse it with recent developments.

The talk was organised to mark the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States of America (USA) and China.

This scribe also participated along with many others who were loaded with burning questions for Burns.

Can China eclipse USA?

In his remarks, Ambassador Burns admitted that China has made history by “40 years of the fastest rise to economic power”. Yet, in the same breath, he rejected projections that China will overtake America in terms of nominal GDP.

Taking a lead from President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address that ‘America is rising’, Ambassador Burns asserted that the tide is already tuned in the favour of Washington.

Burns cited some metrics to support his claim that “the growth rate of China is slowing down”. He said: “Most economists that I read out here, American and Chinese are predicting that in a year or two or three, China will probably be down to 2 or 3% nominal GDP, a GDP growth that is going to persist.”

He contended that there are structural issues that are forcing China to enter into a “different phase of its economic history”. The ambassador said that the lack of consumption in the economy, the property bubble, and the property crisis are a big part of the economy.

The picture painted by Burns is in stark contrast to what Vladimir Putin, the president of the Russian president had shown.

In his interview with American Journalist Tucker Carlson, Putin stressed: “It [China] is the biggest economy in the world today in terms of purchasing power parity and the size of the economy. It has already overtaken the United States, quite a long time ago, and it is growing at a fast clip.”

Strikingly, Ambassador Burns was of the view that the US is booming and “if you look at the transformative technologies for example biotechnology…..we are the world leader in artificial intelligence, machine learning and quantum sciences”.

Even though, he admitted that for many decades America has witnessed ups and downs. Yet, went on to claim that it’s time to be ever more optimistic.

Part of this optimism is probably due to the fact that China has opted non-aggressive attitude to most developments in the region and concentrating on strengthening resilience and the economy.

For this reason, some probable explosive situations are successfully averted. One such incident was caused by the former US House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan — a so called self-ruled island claimed by China.

The “provocative and malicious” visit in 2022 could have caused “serious consequences” as China was “fully prepared for any eventuality”.

It was a diplomatic triumph that the visit aimed at containing China, transforming relations, stabilising ties and promoting bilateral visits.

As a result, after almost four years of impasse, US Secretary of State Antony Blinkin, Secretary of Treasury Janet Yellen, and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo visited Beijing to have marathon talks with their counterparts.

A six-member bipartisan delegation of US senators, led by Majority leader Chuck Schumer, also visited China. Their productive meetings laid the ground-work for November summit between President Joe Biden and his Chinese Counterpart Xi Jinping in California.

The dust settled to some extent but the summit couldn’t resolve all outstanding issues between the systemic rivals.

As President Biden said in his State of the Union address: “I want competition with China, not conflict. And we’re in a stronger position to win the conflict (competition) of the 21st century against China than anyone else for that matter-than at any time as well.”

Winning the conflict or competition requires battles on many fronts. Restricting social media platform is one such move.

China has banned Facebook, Google, Instagram, WhatsApp, X and YouTube. On the other hand, the United States is enforcing curbs on TikTok.

“I find it supremely ironic that government officials here in China have been criticising the United States for the debate we are currently having on TikTok when they won’t even let TikTok be available to 1.4 billion Chinese,” Burns said.

In the last decade, technology has also turned out to be at the heart of that battle. After all, it is transforming the nature of military warfare, the global economy, and the way of life.

Hence, Washington is denying sales to or investments of advanced technologies in China, fearing it may come to hunt Washington.

This is something Beijing considers as “tactics to suppress China and kept lengthening its unilateral sanctions list, reaching bewildering levels of unfathomable absurdity”.

The confrontation also continues on the strategic and defense frontiers.

To a question, Burns said that the US “in many ways a guarantor of peace in the Indo-Pacific region and a guarantor of commercial traffic and maritime traffic in the busiest part of the world for commercial shipping and that’s the course the South and East China Seas, the Western Pacific and also the Taiwan strait”.

Yet, there are a number of countries in this region who are not a close US ally or partner. Most of them are an integral part of China’s flagship Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). So, what place do they have in the US Indo-Pacific strategy?

Burns said: “We are not forcing them to choose but we think our model and our friendship is very attractive proposition for these countries.” He went on to say that the world will see an increased focus on that.

In his own words, “A good part of our diplomacy here in our mission in China is to be talking to all the countries that have representation here in China that how can we work together, how can we get closer, how can we trade more often, how can they participate with us in our military exercises or participate with us diplomatically.”

Beijing believes that US is obsessed with suppressing China but “it will eventually harm itself”. However, for Washington, it’s a struggle to stop China eclipsing the United States of America.

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