The already fragile relationship between the United States and China has taken a turn for the worse as conflicts between the two rise nations and shared interests decline.
Officials Wage Adversarial War
The U.S. government is expanding the scope of investigations, export restrictions, and prosecutions against China. It is also cutting past cooperative programs with the East Asian giant and adopting adversarial policies at the cabinet-level.
Measures have been adopted by all 23 cabinet officials, with the Justice Department launching a “China Initiative” encouraging prosecution of China-related cases involving espionage, intellectual property theft, and hacking, while the Federal Communications Commission cuts China’s access to telecom infrastructure in the U.S., according to the Wall Street Journal.
The same adversarial attitude has been adopted by China, which has shown increasing belligerence in the South China Sea and has been intimidating Taiwan, an ally of the U.S. Chinese Officials such as Zhao Lijian, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, went so far as to suggest that the U.S. military was responsible for unleashing the coronavirus in China.
China has become an Election Issue
As the war of words on the viral outbreak escalates between Beijing and Washington, President Donald Trump has threatened to impose tariffs. During a press conference, Trump claimed to have seen evidence that the coronavirus started at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China.
When asked if the U.S. could default on its debt obligations to China, Trump said he could do it differently but in a “little bit more of a forthright manner.”
He reasoned, “I could do the same thing but for even more money, just putting on tariffs.” Trump has also withdrawn funding from the World Health Organisation, accusing it of being pro-Beijing and citing mismanagement.
Trump’s re-election campaign has sought to take a tough stand on the country as China falls out of favour among nearly two-thirds of Americans.
It is the campaign’s belief that this stance appeals to the president’s working-class base and works against his opponent Joe Biden, Vice President during the Obama Administration, which took a more accommodating stance towards Beijing.
Washington Scurries to Contain China’s Growing Influence
Beijing has emerged as a power to reckon with even though U.S.-China relations have been troubled for more than a decade. Underlying issues include trade, technology theft and China’s increasing military posturing in Asia.
China has sought to expand its presence and influence over the world through debt-trap diplomacy and initiatives like its Belt & Road Program. In response, the State Department has asked all U.S. embassies around the world to form working groups to keep tabs on China’s growing influence and to report back so counter strategies can be developed in Washington.
The U.S. has also appointed a special envoy to counter what a State Department spokesperson called “the malign influence” of China at the United Nations.
The envoy is tasked along with State and Commerce Department officials to stop a China-backed candidate from heading a U.N. body that promotes intellectual property protection. Meanwhile, the Secretary Of State Mike Pompeo, has come in for severe criticism from China’s state-run television, which labelled him a “public enemy of mankind” and “evil.”