Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) visited Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (left) in the UAE capital to finalize oil and trade deals between the two countries. (Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty Images)

The US-China Confrontation: From Hong Kong to Hormuz Strait

Al-Arab, London, August 10

The US-China rivalry has recently entered a new strategic phase, following Beijing’s aggressive reaction to Washington’s plan to deploy medium-range missiles to the Asia-Pacific region, in addition to the trade war aggravated by US’ designation of China as a currency manipulator. But the tensions between the two powers extends well beyond these issues. The rivalry is now extending into other political issues, ranging from Iran to Kashmir, from Hong Kong to the Korean Peninsula. Clearly, the countries have somewhat diametric worldviews and ideological perspectives, including as pertains to the regulation of international markets and the reshaping of the international political system. Moreover, the world is now plagued by political instability, as arms races between major and regional powers have once again come to the fore, without any control mechanisms to prevent nuclear proliferation. Last week, the United States formally withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Missile Treaty, which it signed with Russia in 1987, signaling the return to a Cold War-style scenario. But Washington is demanding that negotiations for a renewed treaty include both Moscow and Beijing, revealing that this new Cold War is viewed as one being waged not only against Moscow, but also Beijing. With former US president Barack Obama announcement in 2011 that the US is shifting its focus to the Asia-Pacific region, the Asian continent has become a battle ground of sorts due to its wealth, resources and sensitive sites. This region is teetering on the edge of a delicate balance between economic dependence of China and the security provided by the United States to its allies. Concern is mounting as there have been no serious breakthroughs in the Korean crisis; the widespread protests taking place in Hong Kong against the “Chinese authoritarian model”; frictions in the South China Sea; the future of Taiwan; India’s moves in Kashmir; and the intensification of the dispute over the Iran nuclear agreement. China recently did not hesitate to invoke the famous Cuban missile crisis, an implicit warning to the White House. It is no exaggeration to say that Beijing will not facilitate a settlement with Pyongyang if it does not get anything in return on Taiwan and the South China Sea. Similarly, China’s ongoing support of Iran, including its oil imports from the country, cannot be separated from the sudden escalation of tensions in Kashmir and the growing animosity between India and Pakistan. In the past, US strategic theorist Zbigniew Brzezinski advised that Washington accept topical partnerships with Russia and China, a flexibility that would allow it to maintain its status as the world’s lone superpower. But the issues caused by globalization cast doubt on this positive scenario. Indeed, it seems more plausible that the restructuring of the world order will continue through proxy wars, economic warfare and digital disputes.  –Khattar Abou Diab

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