By Mason Quah
AMERICA will continue to feel threatened by Chinese economic growth but must negotiate rather than confront Beijing, a policy expert has told Redaction Politics.
The US will be increasingly defensive over their weakening global hegemony but won’t be able to outcompete China in the long term, according to former Singaporean diplomat Kishore Mahbubani.
If Biden rallied Washington’s western allies behind their banner, however, the contest with China would be much more easily resolved.
But the issue, according to Mr Mahubani, is that opposing China doesn’t offer much benefit to America’s allies.
Beijing’s hegemony is not on the line, and so while Europe may be uncomfortable with China’s actions on the global stage, it won’t feel as threatened as Washington currently does.
China’s surplus economic value is being largely redirected towards establishing soft power across the world and building up a strong international economy for China to trade with more profitably.
China has invested billions of USD into debt forgiveness and restructuring on loans given to developing economies, primarily in Africa.
“The EU isn’t worried about Russian tanks,” he explained, arguing that the bloc is more threatened by refugees from an economically malnourished Africa.
The World Bank’s 2018 predictions on the impact of climate change projected that over 143 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and South Asia will be forced to move across international borders to escape the impacts of climate change.
But China could alleviate European concerns through investment which helps raise living standards. By providing high enough living standards so that fewer refugees will move to Europe, Chinese intervention in the region may be beneficial for America’s European allies.
America is not in the economic or political position to match China’s surplus spending in this region, even if Biden were to attempt a New Marshall Plan.
Mr Mahbubani said: “If the United States decides to step up its foreign aid spending for any reason, immediately there would be huge opposition from the United States Body Politic.”
For America’s traditional allies in the UK, a post-Brexit Britain would see London’s financial influence further weakened if not able to trade in Chinese Renminbi.
The Chinese currency is predicted by Morgan Stanley to become the third largest reserve currency by 2030, remaining behind the US dollar and euro but overtaking the Japanese yen and British pound.
This expected growth in Chinese economic power and the significant amounts of foreign investment they have attracted is yet another reason why few nations are liable to stand with America in opposing their growth.
There is need for China to face opposition on key issues of human rights and environmental practise.
But the better solution to combatting China would be co-opt it into the world order rather than chance a second cold war, Mr Mahbubani said.
A potential issue he sees is how many of China’s human rights issues are internalised, allowing neighbouring countries and trading partners to still experience political stability despite events going on in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.
It would be a difficult task to convince these powers to enforce sanctions on Chinese trade and it might therefore be better to negotiate directly with China than attempt to strongarm them.
If Biden can bring America to accept a role as global number two then a great deal more can be done towards fixing the nation’s internal struggles.
An America that is unwilling to cease fully their growing hostilities towards China might ideally be able to pause them while the two powers cooperate on the global issues of Climate Change, Global Warming and coronavirus.
Kishore Mahbubani is a Singaporean civil servant, a career diplomat and an academic. He was President of the United Nations Security Council from 2001-2002.
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