US fires salvoes as Cold War escalates

The US appears bent on decoupling from China and pushing American companies to buy and manufacture goods outside of China, writes Shannon Ebrahim in the last of three articles unpacking the rising tensions between China and the US.

As if banning Huawei and its ratcheting up of tensions in the South China Sea were not enough, the US has fired a range of other missiles in its arsenal bent on containing China’s rise.

It was like waving a red flag to a bull when the US State Department approved a package of arms sales to Taiwan on July 9th worth $620million (R10.2billion). The arms are for the overhaul and recertification of Taiwan’s Patriot Advance Capability-3 air defence missiles, in order to extend the use of these weapons. China is so infuriated that it plans to impose sanctions on Lockheed Martin for selling arms to Taiwan.

China is equally aggrieved by the US signing of the Hong Kong autonomy Act which abolished Hong Kong’s special status in terms of customs and tariffs.

READ: Lack of vision revealed in US policy bullying

China perceives this as direct interference in its internal affairs, and an attempt by the Americans to further weaken the appeal of Chinese goods in the context of an antagonistic trade war between the two countries.

The US appears bent on decoupling from China and pushing American companies to buy and manufacture goods outside of China.

Despite the tensions, China has been implementing phase 1 of the China-US trade deal by purchasing agricultural products from the US and lifting some restrictions on foreign companies’ access to China’s financial markets.

READ MORE: US dangerously throwing its weight about in South China Sea

China has significantly increased its import of agricultural products like soya beans from the US. US corn and pork sales in China have increased eight times, and cotton sales are three times higher than during the same period in 2017, before the start of the trade war.

The frosty relations between the US and China may now even affect tourism between the two countries as the Cold War continues on a downward spiral.

The US administration is weighing a blanket ban on travel to the US by 92million members of the Communist Party of China, and expulsion of CPC members that reside in the US.

That would create new walls between the two countries that will be hard to tear down in this tit-for-tat chess game.

Tensions reached acute levels last week when the US ordered China to close its consulate in Houston within days, saying China was stealing intellectual property and using its consulate as a hub for spying.

China retaliated by ordering the closure of the American consulate in Chengdu within 72 hours. China has accused the staff at the US consulate of being engaged in activities outside their capacity, and having interfered in China’s internal affairs. The consulate was strategically important from US perspective as it gathered information on Tibet.

What is evident is the decline of the US as a global leader. US hegemony rested not only on its wealth and power, but also on legitimacy based on the provision of global public goods and the ability to coordinate a global response to crises.

The coronavirus pandemic is testing these elements of US leadership, and the US is failing the test. China is moving quickly to take advantage of the leadership vacuum and presenting itself as a responsible global leader in response to the most deadly pandemic of our times. The strategy of the US to contain China has certainly not won it any kudos, but has rather left it looking weak and without imagination.

* Ebrahim is Independent Media group foreign editor.

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