The ‘India Question’ is a side show for the United States. So far, it is preparing for China 2027
The ‘India Question’ is a side show for the United States.  So far, it is preparing for China 2027

The ‘India Question’ is a side show for the United States. So far, it is preparing for China 2027

To most observers, US President Joe Biden’s recent approach to China resembles nothing more than a seesaw in a children’s park, with serious threats in one moment and airy waves to the expressionless Xi Jinping in the other. While some American experts argue that both sides have vested interests in stability, others warn of Beijing’s hegemonic design, which left allies and friends confused as to the intentions of the United States. That includes India confronting China more closely than it likes. To decipher all these mixed signals, let’s get some basic factors that influence decision – making in Washington, clear and open.

Some are famous, others not so much.

The latest zigzagger

By Glasgow COP26 climate summit, President Biden claimed China’s non-participation as a “big mistake”. Beijing launched its own bladder attacks two days later on November 4th. And on November 10, the United States and China reached a surprise The Glasgow Declaration about climate change, which was hailed quite dubiously by US allies.

Meanwhile, even when the Pentagon launched its annual report on Chinese military power, which was even more alarming than the previous one that was it virtual meeting between the two presidents. That meeting radiated bonhomie, at least on the part of the United States, and reiterated the United States’ commitment to “One China” policy, even while declaring clear opposition to any change in the status quo. As Beijing increases pressure on Taiwan, it is yet another confusing position, as the United States does not officially recognize Taiwan’s sovereignty despite repeated references to ‘Six insurances’ or the Taiwan Relations Actincluding read aloud of the virtual meeting. Whether Washington would go to war in support of Taiwan or any other power (read India) must be seen through the prism of several factors.

Also read: New study shows China’s strong influence in 70 global institutions in charts

The trade question plus plus

It is now a given that the almost revolutionary shift in US-China relations is closely linked to China’s economic progress, especially after Beijing joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 in the wake of President Bill Clinton’s nurtured belief that this would open up economic freedoms. , which, incidentally, was cheered by all business houses.

By 2015, China was the United States’ number one trading partner, leading directly to President Donald Trump’s noisy trade war that cost the US economy 0.3 pct of its real GDP. As the issues were resolved, Trump promised to back Hong Kong protests and Xinjiang detention camps to secure a trade deal and win elections. So important is China in American politics.

President Biden has inherited the same set of parameters, only worse. When the Covid pandemic broke out, China, not the United States, was the largest destination for foreign direct investment (FDI). Business followed the money, while U.S. foreign direct investment to China clocked one 9.4 pct rise as Covid hit the U.S. economy. And do you remember the old chestnut that American companies would leave China when relations got sour? A study of American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai of 338 US companies operating in China found that 59.5 percent of them had actually increased their investments over the past year, while 82.2 percent of the companies predicted ‘revenue growth at a level that was unsurpassed since 2018 ‘. These are the really big companies, so that’s it.

Also read: Biden maps the way forward with Xi, while both leaders stress for more conversations amidst tensions

The jobs on earth

Any presidency that is worth salting must first and foremost think about the job market. In its latest report, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics states that unemployment has fallen by 0.2 percentage points to 4.6 per cent. However, analysis points out that the actual rate can be as much as 22 percent, harming the poorest the most. Note an analytical report from 2012 from Rhodium group who noted that Chinese investment in just two years supported about 27,000 jobs in the United States. Its future assessment was that Chinese companies would employ 200,000 – 400,000 Americans by 2020. The reality was that precisely export to China supported 1.2 million jobs in 2019. But since then, things have turned around.

That USA-China Business Council estimated that Trump’s trade war caused a peak loss of 245,000 U.S. jobs, but that a cut in tariffs on both sides would boost growth and lead to a further 145,000 jobs in 2025. Some tariff reduction is specified, even as further conversions are evident elsewhere. Chinese incoming investment has declined steep on the back of tighter control. Another figure. The United States has $ 1.2 trillion in Chinese securities against $ 2.1 trillion in Beijing’s hands. Although such a simple prayer number does not give the whole picture, it indicates not only strong interdependence, but a certain American vulnerability at this time, as the Covid Delta variant is rising again and inflation is rising against the background of rising fuel prices. This may change with the government’s rescue plans and Biden’s expansive American job plan. But that’s it right now.

Chinese military power and war with Taiwan

There is no doubt at all that China is arming itself at an alarming rate. Pentagon’s Annual report about Chinese military power mentions a significant increase in nuclear weapons and notes an “accelerating pace of China’s nuclear expansion” that could enable China to have up to “700 deliverable nuclear warheads in 2027 and 1000 by 2030”. The report moves from previous speculation to certainty of an incipient “nuclear triad”, and even more dangerously, that Beijing intends to increase peacetime preparedness for its nuclear forces by moving to a “launch-on-warning (LOW) position with a expanded silo-based power. ”All of this is alarming, combined with the reality that China now (numerically) has the largest navy in the world.

Despite all this, the United States is still dominant in specific areas such as nuclear-powered submarines (63 to China 10) even though these have to be staged in different theaters. In addition, the United States can also draw on powerful fleets among NATO allies such as France, Britain and Australia, all of which would add a formidable force. But the point is, with all factors combined, any action against China would be no walkover. In fact, it is almost unthinkable.

Also read: China may be in trouble, Xi’s absence in G20 tips. Time for India to become Asia’s new leader

Come 2027 and the odds are worse

It will be even less of a walkover in 2027, which is when the Pentagon estimates that Beijing will hone its combat capabilities to the fullest, thereby deciding it’s time for a strike to ‘reunite’ Taiwan. This is not only a question of the United States’ sensitivity to Taiwanese freedoms – arguably the freest country in the world – but also the implications of adding a $ 668 billion economy – now the 18thth largest economy in the world – to China’s already formidable size.

It would be suicide for the unity of the great powers in threatening China. Money speaks louder than arms. China is well aware of this and that is why it has applied to join the CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership), as it pits economic integration against such stand-ups as QUAD or AUKUS – one is intended for political-economic unity, while the other is intended to threaten Chinese naval ambitions.

The resulting reality is that the ‘India issue’ is a side show for the US, not because of indifference, but simply because China can not really add much territory without escalating into a full-fledged nuclear war. It is also unthinkable, although ‘much’ is subjective.

So the bottom line. Even as Chinese companies negotiate for imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the United States is Biden in conversations with India, China and Japan to coordinate the release of crude oil reserves to reduce high oil prices that hurt everyone, including the US presidency. So that’s how it will be. Conflict and a testing of the waters by the People’s Liberation Army, further strengthened by China’s new Land Boundary Act, and a president strengthened by the party who is to deliver the goods. Conflicts arise when a growing power reaches out for energy, water and global dignity. Welcome to the not-so-brave new world of a bunch of less-than-superpowers pushing for power while the unlucky others are being pulled one way or another.

The author is a Distinguished Fellow at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, New Delhi. Their tweets @kartha_tara. Views are personal.

(Edited by Neera Majumdar)

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