These walls even extend beyond the Earth into outer space. Thanks to the 2011 Wolf Amendment, the US and China are exploring Mars
in complete isolation. Separate space stations are becoming the new reality.
There has been a surge in politically motivated legislation and lawsuits, with fabricated accusations of espionage
and national security breaches frequently reported.
Nations are capriciously discarding concluded agreements
and contracts more easily, acting on narrow political impulses while paying lip service to the “rules-based international order”.
Insulting sanctions against nations, companies and individuals
as well as rude diplomacy
that breaks protocols have become more common. Fake news and distorted press campaigns from the mainstream media in the West have been widely criticised both at home and abroad.
We are witnessing the return of overt and covert arms races. The display of force has intensified in the South China Sea
and the Taiwan Strait, for example.
In short, as the well-known Chinese verse goes, “the wind sweeping through the tower heralds a coming storm in the mountains”.
However, while being a party to the confrontation, China is neither the former Soviet Union nor the same country it was 40 years ago, when at the end of 1978, China adopted the reform and opening up policy and established diplomatic relations with the US.
Nor is the United States what it was 30 years ago, when in 1991, the Soviet Union fell apart and the superiority of the US over the USSR was at its height. The best-known final judgment on the Cold War was American political scientist Francis Fukuyama’s pronouncement that it signalled “the end of the history”.
In 2021, the year in which the Chinese Communist Party celebrates its 100th anniversary
, the US is again containing China. Among the numerous laws aimed at China, the Strategic Competition Act
of 2021 authorises US$300 million each year to counter the “influence of the Chinese Communist Party” globally.
Like it or loathe it, China’s importance and influence is widely felt throughout the world, even in the country’s absence
at the recent G7 summit.
To be sure, China is not competing for the ability to destroy the world by having more nuclear weapons than others, or seeking to dominate the world with a military that’s armed to the teeth. China is recognised mainly for its own outstanding performance
and achievement as well as its contribution to and outlook on global development.
In 2012, the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party announced that it would promote a “community of shared future for mankind”. The Congress pointed out that for humanity there is only one Earth, and people all over the world have long been yearning for peace and development. In essence, the concept calls for building a “community of coexistence and co-development for mankind”.
In 2013, President Xi Jinping further proposed the Belt and Road Initiative
that aims to connect the world with modern infrastructure as a major step towards building a “community of coexistence and co-development for mankind”.
Given that the belt and road has had global repercussions, eight years later the G7 has offered
in response a competing global infrastructure plan, “Build Back Better World”.
This is not merely a sign of arriving at a crossroads but, rather, of the heightened competition and confrontation China is facing from the US.
China upholds the values of inclusive and cooperative multilateralism, rather than forming an exclusive and confrontational coterie, such as the Indo-Pacific strategy
Nor has China – which suffered in the past from the actions of Western imperialists – inherited these aggressive and bullying traditions. Instead, it learned from historical lessons and is now better equipped to defend its own sovereignty, security and development interests.
Moreover, since the late 1970s, an open China has not only shown its firm support of, but also benefited from, the rules-based international order in accordance with the principles and rules of the UN Charter and international law.
Looking to the future, virtuous Sino-US competition can contribute to world peace and development by promoting essential infrastructure, life-saving vaccines
, a better environment and a diversified world, while vicious competition will only lead to entrenched distrust and division, unwarranted charges and sanctions, irrational political and ideological attacks, ugly legal or diplomatic battles, and even a real war, whether hot or cold.
More than 70 years ago during China’s civil war, when an awakened nation fought for and founded a new China, the US chose to support the nationalist government, which was defeated and fled to Taiwan in 1949. It took the US Seventh Fleet and the Korean war to save it.
Seventy years later, when a reviving China is making unprecedented progress in its national rejuvenation by emerging from chronic poverty, the US has provocatively chosen to back
the separatist government in Taiwan. This may set off the unfinished Chinese civil war. Will the US again be left standing on the wrong side of the history of China? You bet.
Xu Xiaobing is director of the Centre of International Law Practice at Shanghai Jiao Tong University Law School