The great rivalry between the United States and China will shape the 21st century. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a great power will never voluntarily surrender pride of place to a challenger. The United States is the pre-eminent great power. China is now its challenger.
“The only indispensable superpower” is also a super-indebted power, and its biggest creditor happens to be its presumed chief strategic rival. Is it logical and workable to encircle one’s own banker militarily?
During his election campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly castigated China accusing it of gaining an unfair trading edge with the United States by manipulating its currency, threatening to slap tariffs on Chinese exports and announcing his intention to withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He even mused about ending the “One China” policy that governs the US policy vis-à-vis Taiwan.
Chinese leaders are contemplating the prospect of a more assertive US president willing to upend decades of Sino-US relations. Trump’s Asia policy represents the first major reshaping of US policy toward China since the normalization of diplomatic relations in 1979 under the Nixon administration, and, from Beijing’s perspective, it is currently on a worst-case trajectory, heading toward a trade war and a military standoff over China’s basic interests in Asia, including Taiwan.