THE tension of the Washington-Beijing conflict sets the discourse for global geopolitics for the next century, underlying the spectrum of fierce competition in various spheres.
The curtain raiser will be Washington’s attempts to maximise and take advantage of the power gap, while Beijing will align to a strategic policy challenging the existing Western system, and push the global order into its own periphery.
Washington’s primary objective should be a series of strategic measures to curb Beijing’s aggressive expansion of power in the Indo Pacific, which is increasingly being squeezed by China’s targeted, and comprehensive push under President Xi Jinping.
China’s development as a modern and dominant country under Vision 2049 – which is based on the aspirations of the ‘Chinese dream’ and the ‘great rejuvenation of China’ – brings a complex interweaving flow of intentions to global actors.
This mixture of anxiety and fascination with China’s return to power, as well as the revival of the perceived Eastern culture and influence, will shape the security and power architecture in the region for decades to come.
Washington – which previously tried to encourage Beijing to transit to democracy through capital and technical assistance – is now realising this policy is backfiring and actually coming at a greater cost.
The US is forced to remodel the game in the face of China’s sudden transformation with unclear intentions, posing the greatest threat to Washington since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The White House needs to align its resources against Beijing as a priority, with partisan objectives and policy differences halted in the face of the singular threat.
The notion of the Chinese stealing American lunches right under their very noses, worsened by the fact that the American elites have been the culprits in enabling this, will shape their view.
Competition and relations with Beijing remain structural, systemic and value-driven where individual influence and affiliations matter less.
The sole superpower status held by Washington will continue to be strengthened and maintained, despite the missteps in properly weighing China’s threat.
Beijing’s no hold barred impetus in narrowing the existing power gap by repelling Western and external containment measures, while simultaneously enhancing its foothold in the Indo Pacific, are the new major fuel for Washington.
Beijing’s dominance in new critical sectors – including hypersonic defence technology and mastery of semiconductor supply chains – compelled Washington to scramble so it would not relinquish its grip on the existing global system: build a global American led system of democracy and rules based liberal norms; invite others to join the system; and finally to protect the order from challengers.
Beijing is seen to be the only power that is capable of threatening this order and will continue to pose the greatest threat.