Competition and Coexistence
Just when the world needs to come together to tackle the pandemic and mobilize a response to climate change, geopolitical tensions are rising, threatening the prospects of cooperation. The situation demands a level of global statesmanship that has yet to materialize.
STOCKHOLM – These are demanding times. Geopolitical tensions are rising, primarily – but not exclusively – between China and the United States. Yet, at the same time, there is a deep need for inclusive global cooperation to fight the pandemic and meet the threat of climate change. How the leading powers manage these competing demands will set the course of global development in the years and decades ahead.
Over the past few weeks, the US and China have attempted to establish some guardrails to prevent rising tensions from spiraling out of control. Following a recent meeting in Switzerland with his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan spoke about the need for “responsible competition” between the two countries – a choice of words we haven’t heard before.
But as welcome as this rhetoric is, the reality is that the US and China are still locked in a deepening rivalry. The US decision to supply Australia with nuclear submarines – the delivery of which will not come for many years – was intentionally framed to seem like a major strategic move to counter Chinese maritime expansion. Similarly, at a two-day meeting in Pittsburgh last month, EU and US officials outlined an agenda for new talks over trade and technology, placing special emphasis on the need for defensive measures against China. In Washington, DC, speculation about a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan is running rampant and driving numerous decisions.