The last week has seen both the US and China flexing their respective economic muscles, as both countries show signs of growing awareness that their relationship will be the most significant defining factor for the geopolitical order for the foreseeable future.
As the last US presidential debate showed, America’s future stance on China is likely to be a key vote driver for candidates Obama and Romney. With Romney’s promise of labelling “China a currency manipulator” and Obama in turn highlighting Romney’s involvement in off-shoring US manufacturing to developing markets, both represent two extremes of the same view among American voters: that China is a growing economic threat.
Also this week, the most recent Pew Global Attitudes China project opinion poll indicated that Chinese views on America have also declined. Since the last poll two years ago, the percentage of Chinese who view U.S. relations as cooperative has declined from 68% to 39%. However, many of those polled still expressed positive views about US democracy.
These domestic opinions are becoming increasingly visibility at the international level.
Last week, the US Commerce Department levied steep import duties on Chinese made solar cells and panels, and was joined by Canada in blocking Chinese telecommunication giants Huawei and ZTE from government contracts due to claimed security concerns. As a back drop to these moves, Chinese PC manufacturer Lenovo knocked Hewlett-Packard Co from the top spot as the world’s number one for the third quarter of this year.
The motives and legitimacy of these moves are highly questionable. Not only do they go against free trade, which has underpinned US economic ideology throughout the 20th century, but they have also been based on questionable evidence: the claims of spying by Huawei have since been rebuked by The White House, and it seems that many mutli-national companies operating in China (such as IBM) also have Communist Party committees as part of their operations.
A few days later, the IMF dismissed the notion of a crash for the Chinese economy, regardless of the continuing problems in Europe. According to Anoop Singh, director of the Asia and Pacific department, “China is not having a hard landing. The numbers are clearly recognising that China will grow this year”. This was followed by the announcement that Chinese exports in September had grown much more than expected – by 9.9% year on year.
Such positive news no doubt spurred on the decision by China’s finance minister and central bank chief to miss the current IMF meetings in Tokyo. This move was clearly designed to remind that world that it needs China as much as – if not more than – China needs it.
Now that the China/US relationship is firmly centre stage, this recent sparring between the two is likely to continue as both seek to adjust to relative changes in their relationship. Up until now, China has largely played by America’s rules, as demonstrated by its entry into the World Trade Organisation (WTO). However, as its power grows, it is likely to attempt to adjust the international system to one that suits its needs – just like the US did.Originally posted on All Eyes East
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- China’s Huawei row shines light on East-West culture clash (chinadailymail.com)
- Economic warfare over Huawei – New Zealand Herald (nzherald.co.nz)
- U.S. China News 2012.10.18 (americachina.wordpress.com)