The coronavirus and the tied hands of USA and China

Feeling threatened to the core in its global leadership, the United States has reacted strongly. The Chimerica of some years ago was replaced by a new Cold War...


Feeling threatened to the core in its global leadership, the United States has reacted strongly. The Chimerica of some years ago was replaced by a new Cold War... The coronavirus and the tied hands of USA and China
The coronavirus and the tied hands of USA and China
As the world's two largest economic and political powers, the United States and China should be coordinating efforts not only to confront the global pandemic but to mitigate its impact on the international economy. Instead, they are using it as yet another chapter in their Cold War. Exchanging accusations and disqualifications, both parties seem unable to rise to the occasion and understand the need for convergence that the current planetary crisis is calling for.
Such anger is, of course, relatively recent. In 1972 President Richard Nixon traveled to Beijing, ending more than two decades of acute hostility that had included a nearly two-year war between the two on Korean soil. From this historic trip, not only was an agreement of transcendental importance achieved, but also the launch of an immensely successful process of reciprocal cooperation.
The agreement reached between the United States and China was simple, but its implications were profound. By virtue of this, Washington recognized the Chinese Communist Party as the legitimate government of China and Beijing recognized the American leadership in Asia. As significant as the agreement itself was the basis the parties chose to adhere to. Instead of using high conceptual formulations, the parties decided that each of them would be guided by their respective national interest. In other words, pure and simple pragmatism became the compass that would guide his steps.
This last choice allowed the agreement reached to continue in force despite profound changes on the international scene. The most significant of these was the collapse of the Soviet Union, a shared threat that had motivated the rapprochement between the two countries. However, the subjection to the respective national interests allowed the parties to reorient towards the pursuit of economic benefits. Such a convergence factor allowed Washington and Beijing to overcome the multiple crises in the bilateral relations that appeared along the way. The most serious of them, without a doubt, was the Tiananmen massacre.
Thanks to the agreement reached, China was able to concentrate on the development of its economy without worrying about dissonance in the international environment. Conversely, the United States was able to focus its attention on the Middle East without worrying that Beijing would take advantage of that absence to curtail its leadership in Asia. Such was the strength of this approach that the term Chimerica was coined to refer to the complementarity of their economies.
In 2008, however, everything began to change. A Chinese concept whose origin dates back to ancient times, and whose existence was unknown to the United States, was responsible for it. It was about the Shi, a notion associated with a fundamental change in the configuration of factors that imposed the need to take advantage of the moment. This change was determined by what was seen as the beginning of the American economic decline, product of the economic crisis of that year. Added to this was the inability that Washington had shown to prevail in two peripheral wars in the Middle East. In short, China contrasted perceived US weakness with its own strength and concluded that the time had come to decouple its national interest from the United States.
The process started in 2008, it was consolidated and acquired new conceptual bases with the coming to power of Xi Jinping in 2012. China pursues the ‘resurrection’ of its former greatness, which is expressed through convergent strategies such as the ‘Chinese Dream of National Rejuvenation’ and ‘Made in China 2025’. Through them, China proclaims its manifest intention to transform itself into a great world power. Feeling threatened to the core in its global leadership, the United States has reacted strongly. The Chimerica of some years ago was replaced by a new Cold War in which two models of society compete for primacy.
The coronavirus has become a favorable occasion for this competition. While China seeks to contrast the efficiency of its response capacity to the virus with the disorganization and inconsistencies evidenced by the United States, the latter country refers to the lack of transparency and the vital time lost by China in its initial attempt to cover up the epidemic. Unlike the Soviet Union, however, China does not seek to support the superiority of its model in an ideology, but in the operational effectiveness of its authoritarianism. The competition between the parties is thus transformed into a duel between democracy and authoritarianism. However, at the moment, the United States government is the expression of an anomaly of democracy: populism. Under such circumstances, and to China's advantage.
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