ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Overcoming the China Conundrum

Narratives of the new Cold War and the “liberal” West versus “authoritarian” China are neither adequate to grasp the political economy of contemporary China, nor do they explain global contradictions. More importantly, such narratives serve to obfuscate the reality of political and economic challenges faced by the vast masses of the developing countries as well as advanced capitalist countries.

As the Covid-19 pandemic ravaged the United States (US), the administration of Donald Trump launched an all-out campaign against China in its efforts to cover up its own failures in saving lives and containing damages to the economy. It was thought to be easy to sell it to the public because the Covid-19 virus was first found and identified at Wuhan in China. A narrative was set in motion that China failed to intimate the world on time and control this infectious disease effectively. It was told that the world was paying heavy price for Chinese failures. Some leaders of the Republican Party in the US went even further and blamed the Chinese food habits as well as their lifestyle for the emergence of the new version of the coronavirus. In President Trump’s scheme of things, China bashing had been a tried and ­tested formula for political success. In 2015–16, when he launched his presidential campaign, Trump had targeted China with the rhetoric that it has stolen American industries, jobs and technology to become a powerful nation. And he blamed “establishment” politicians in the US for having let it happen. In his simple narrative there was no place for nuances of post-Soviet era globalisation, driven and led by the US itself that had resulted in the migration of industries and investments from the West to China (and to many other developing countries).

Inconsistencies in policies and actions remained a hallmark of Trump’s term in the White House. China was no exception for it. His promised hard line against China was intermittently interrupted at certain occasions, like his wholesome praise of president of People’s Republic of China (PRC) Xi Jinping (while meeting him), his administration’s trade deals with China (when Trump reportedly pleaded before Xi to buy agricultural products from the US and help him in his re-election bid) (Bolton 2020), and while Trump was trying to befriend Kim Jong-un of Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea. In earlier moves, the Trump administration had imposed levies on Chinese goods, sanctioned 5G technology of Chinese company Huawei, and had forced the US allies in Europe and North America to follow his anti-China line. In the era of the Covid-19 crisis, all these moves turned more aggressive and the term ‘‘new Cold War’’ became part of the everyday world discourse. It heartened many people in the West and in developing nations, including India, as well.

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Updated On : 4th Jan, 2021

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