There is growing believe that the outcome of US-China trade agreement is heavily tilted in favour of the US. Even within China, there has been uneasiness. Few think tanks have quietly been circulating public discourse that President Xi Jinping has succeeded in moving China to a position of parity with the US.
Robert Delaney, Bureau Chief of SCMP North America says, “…The outcome of the Phase One deal was much more about cooperation than competition…” He goes on to say, “Let’s understand it is a template set by the G 2, very much in the interests of two countries’ leaders, and a continued diversion away from the global trajectory of the past few decades”.
Possibly an understanding has been reached between the world’s top two economies that if China is attempting to overtake the US economy, it must not be in a hurry. The US still has handled to steer the world economy now that it has pulled out of multilateral fora. The fact that the US extracted much out of China and slowed its growth down reflects that the superiority that the US enjoys over China, is of a reasonably wide margin.
Latest IMF assessment has cut India’s growth to 4.8% whereas China has bounced back to 6.1%, thereby China will remain the world’s fastest-growing major economy. This would slow down the rate of closing off the gap between China and India.
Yet, China would leave India, Japan, EU, Australia behind by significant monetary advantage. Having taken advantage of multilateralism China has grown both economically and militarily. It is closing the technology gap with the US rapidly, having taken advantage of manufacturing hubs of American and European technical giants in China.
Presently China is concentrating on channelling its energy for developing irregular warfare tools— 5G, Artificial Intelligence, Space technology, Laser beam disruptive technology, Quantum technology, hypersonic weapons, Anti Denial measures etc. The future of military contestation is unlikely to be between two militaries but would touch the daily lives of citizens around the world.
Syria and Yemen are live examples. Current coronavirus impact is not limited to Wuhan but many countries around the world with little end in sight. There are some unsubstantiated reports that a Harvard University Professor was paid large sums by China to research and develop biological weapons in Wuhan.
Unfortunately, the infectious threads leaked at the wrong time and have taken a toll. If it is true then the destruction to mankind is evident. Warfares will be in domains not envisaged earlier.
While destructions will be similar everywhere, the means and methods used will be different, it will be in two dimensions. And that points at the leadership role that two countries, i.e, US and China, are playing. Other countries are very far away from the top two countries.
With a clear divide in the methods of governance of the G2 nations and the rest engaged in making new alliances for economic prosperity and military preparedness, it appears that multilateralism is on life support systems. US pulling out of WTO, Climate Change cooperative agreements, withdrawing from the nuclear deal with Iran, compelling NATO and Alliance countries to increase their share for security are but some examples which point at geopolitical bipolarity.
The middle powers are coming together to form a different kind of cooperation both economically and technologically. Gradually, multilateralism is braking into bilateralism and mini or microlateralism.
Will the economic prosperity and technological advancements in other than these two countries be adequate to create multipolarity? Or, we are staring at the G2 world?
Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha, PVSM, AVSM, NM and Bar is the former Commander in Chief, Western Naval Command & former Chief of Integrated Defence Staff. He is presently Chairman, Board of Trustees, India Foundation.