Check out other comments in this series from: Graham Allison, Gordon G. Chang, David Denoon, Michael Fabey, John Glaser, James Holmes, Lin Gang, Kishore Mahbubani, Robert Ross, Ruan Zongze, Robert Sutter, Xie Tao, Xu Feibiao and Wang Jisi.
Lin Gang, Shanghai Jiaotong University Chair of the Academic Committee of the School of International and Public Affairs and Director of the Center for Taiwan Studies:
Looking into the near future of U.S.-China relations, a permanent state of competition seems unavoidable. For Beijing, trade conflict with the United States may hurt the Chinese economy, but the damage is manageable thanks to its growing market for domestic consumption. Beijing does not want to have a trade war with America, but it will not give in easily either.
For Washington, President Trump is acutely concerned about the huge trade deficit with China and high-tech transference to that country. The administration’s resoluteness to push back against China is revealed in the U.S. National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy, in which China is labeled as one of America’s major “strategic competitors.” For the first time since World War II the United States claims that “our competitive military advantage has been eroding.” Trump’s blaming of China as an “economic enemy” and his recent decision to impose tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese products, followed by the unusual passage of U.S. warships through the Taiwan Strait amid the heightened tensions, convey a clear message.
Meanwhile, Taiwan’s strategic importance to Washington has been reemphasized. Since the beginning of 2017, Washington has increased its security cooperation with the island, particularly in nontraditional spheres like anti-terrorism. Besides, the sale of a $1.42 billion arms package to Taiwan on June 29, 2017 is the first such sale under the Trump administration, which has surely overshadowed the Xi-Trump summit in April of that year and threatened to undermine PRC-U.S. relations.
In addition, the U.S. Congress has pushed for new resolutions to upgrade Washington-Taipei relations, enhance the security of Taiwan and bolster Taiwan’s participation in international organizations. Some proposals may lead to a port call by the U.S. Navy to Taiwan and sending uniformed Marines to the AIT in Taiwan. Another decision that would exert a serious impact on the cornerstone of U.S.-China relations is the Taiwan Travel Act (TTA), a breakthrough in Washington’s and Taipei’s unofficial relationship at the price of U.S.-China ties.
This does not mean that U.S.-China relations are doomed to be pessimistic as the two powers are comprehensively interdependent. In the words of Graham Allison, the two countries are in a state of mutual assurance of economic destruction (MAED). Strategically, without China’s cooperation, America can achieve only limited outcomes in global affairs. However, more efforts and dialogues are indispensable for crafting a working relationship between the two countries in the years to come.