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#AndrewSingerChina Newsletter Vol. 2, Issue 3

The United States and China are attempting independent engagement with the world. Access, influence, and security are the goals of this game. Many countries are along for the ride (sometimes on both sides) as the two superpowers race to carve up the next generations of political, economic, and military alliances. For all the economic co-dependency of the two nations, today’s geopolitical competition is, at the moment, predominantly winner-take-all rather than compromise and competitive co-existence.

  • China and America Jockeying for the Global Future

  • One More Thought (New Chinese Telescope to Monitor Solar Winds)


 

China and America Jockeying for the Global Future


Photo by Artem Kniaz, www.unsplash.com


There is a lot of jockeying going on in the world today between America and China. Both countries are trying to gain the upper hand in different regions of the globe and with various countries. Economic investments. Infrastructure deals. Trade agreements. Political allegiances. Intelligence sharing. Military position and posturing. The playing field is expansive in these bids for access, influence, and security. It can all be just a bit dizzying. Each side is notching seeming successes as well as encountering obstacles. And clearly counter to their stated intents, each side’s actions are often emboldening the other in this contest:


China: U.S. sanctions against Chinese technology companies and now the response to the war in Ukraine have further impressed upon the Chinese the importance of being self-sufficient. In the hi-tech arena this has spurred significant investments in R&D with the effort showing early signs of promise. Bloomberg is reporting that “19 of the world’s 20 fastest-growing semiconductor industry enterprises have come from China during the past four quarters. It was found that China-based suppliers of design software, processors and other chipmaking equipment are outpacing global heavyweights Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) and ASML Holding NV in terms of revenue growth.”


Similarly, China wants to become more self-sufficient in the chemical industry, specifically in higher-end materials. In 2021, “[w]hile China [was] indeed a net exporter of commodity chemicals (and even more so, of finished products requiring substantial input of such commodity chemicals), it [was] a substantial importer of specialty and fine chemicals.”


China is also trying to establish its currency, the yuan (renminbi), as a worldwide reserve to hedge against strength and power of the U.S. dollar. Most recently, this has entailed “…teaming up with Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Chile, with each contributing 15 billion yuan, about $2.2 billion, to the Renminbi Liquidity Arrangement.”


America: Chinese wolf warrior diplomacy, continued expansion of bases and development in the South China Sea, economic retaliation against Lithuania and Australia, and support for Russia in the Ukraine War have hardened positions across much of Europe and America towards a rising China. With a strong American presence, NATO and G7 are each newly focusing on China. NATO has identified China as a “strategic challenge,” and the G7 launched a new Global Investment and Infrastructure Partnership to aid development in poor and developing countries.


Indo-Pacific Economic Framework Meeting (Saul Loeb/Afp/Getty Images)


On the American front, a re-energized (though no less internally-fractured) United States is promoting and participating in the following efforts focused on Asia:

  1. The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) with Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam;

  2. The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) with Japan, India, and Australia;

  3. The AUKUS trilateral security partnership with Australia and the United Kingdom; and

  4. The “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing alliance with the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (rcepsec.org)


For its part, China is continuing its efforts to expand its position in Asia and beyond. These efforts include not only the ongoing (albeit slowed-down) Belt and Road Initiative, but also the following:

  1. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), an Asian-Pacific free-trade agreement with Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam;

  2. The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) with India, Russia, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan;

  3. The BRICS economies with Brazil, Russia, India, and South Africa. The BRICS countries recently not only invited Argentina, Egypt, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Nigeria, Senegal and Thailand to join, but are also discussing extending invitations to other developing countries as well;

  4. The Mekong-Lancang Cooperation Group with Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam; and

  5. China has also applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which was the former Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiated by the United States before it pulled out. The members of the CPTPP are Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam, Peru, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, and Malaysia.

China recently inked a security agreement with the Solomon Islands as part of its long-term efforts to build support and connections in the South Pacific. Announcement of the pact has for now lit a fire under Australia and the United States to expend more resources and attention in the region as well.


Asia (www.burningcompass.com)


China and the United States are each also seeking more targeted diplomatic and economic pushes to engage throughout the Pacific, Southeast Asia, Africa, Latin America, and elsewhere. These efforts include infrastructure aid, investments, bilateral trade agreements, and security assistance, as well as seeking friendships.


These are tenuous times. Russia, Taiwan, and Xinjiang are particular flashpoints. America’s democracy and economy are weakened and vulnerable. China’s economy (though to a much lesser extent its government) is rattled. Consumer confidence in China has plummeted, particularly among the middle class that has benefited so much over the past few decades. The job market for millions of new graduates and workers in many industries is soft. The Chinese Premier has held several recent meetings expressing his concerns about employment and agriculture and manufacturing and the economy in general. This economic stress is exacerbated by the mental health strains in Shanghai and other cities suffering from both spontaneous and draconian lockdowns and the fear thereof. I have heard from a friend on the ground that “Shanghai has a serious case of PTSD.”


The question of Why? is never far from the surface in the clash between our two countries and is often quite at the forefront. The United States is against the excesses of China’s form of government, and China is against the excesses of America’s form of government. While this much is straightforward and will not change, in a co-dependent world, I suggest it be the base from which we proceed forward.


 

One More Thought (New Chinese Telescope to Monitor Solar Winds)


Mingantu Observing Station (Chinese Academy of Sciences)


China, already home to Tianyan (Heaven’s Eye), the world’s largest filled-aperture radio telescope, is now also building what will be the world’s most sensitive interplanetary scintillation (IPS) telescope. The Mingantu IPS telescope (named after an 18th century Mongolian astronomer) will “…play a key role in monitoring solar winds to help protect power grids on Earth as well as astronauts and satellites in space.”