Either way we are going to be the food on their dinner table
The world is moving towards a bipolar order, and the US and China will be the quintessential powers, according to scholar, CNN anchor and Washington Post columnist Fareed Zakaria.
“The world is now America and China”, he remarked. That’s the choice many nations have to make, some observers we talked to for comment said.
And either way we are going to be the food on their dinner table, S. M. Ali, author of a 7-vol series on US-China relations, agreed with us when asked to comment.
The author is Adjunct Professor of China Studies at the University of Malaya in Malaysia.
According to him, the world is “bipolar and a half” when asked to comment on Zakaria’s take. Dr. Ali refers to the DEC2017 NSS Document which lumps “China and Russia”, both substantial nuclear, conventional, and cyber-armed states, that the USA itself formally declared are its adversaries.
“China and Russia may not see things exactly as a mirror-image, but since 2014, in response to what they see as US unilateralist pressure against their core interests, have come closer to each other both economically and diplomatically. However, they are not allies, yet”.
Talking about the systemic changes the world order has undergone over the past couple of decades, Zakaria said the “rise of the rest” has been the most significant feature.
While the US continues to be way ahead of everyone else, when it comes to raw power — economically and militarily — it is no longer a unipolar world, says Zakaria.
He remarked that if Biden comes to power, there could be some restoration of the old “liberal internationalist” US foreign policies. “I think Biden will go back to Iran, join JCPOA, he’ll go back to the Paris climate change agreement,” he said. “There will be a very different immigration policy under Biden.”
“There will be important changes under Biden, but what won’t change is that we are entering a bipolar world,” added Zakaria.
According to him, the opinion polls for the upcoming US presidential election have given Biden a substantial and sustained lead over Trump in key US states such as Florida, which makes it very hard for Trump to win the November reelection,
While Zakaria critiqued a large part of Trump’s foreign policy such as the President’s treatment of key US allies, he also said some of the changes brought about by Trump were long overdue, such as dealing with China.
Prof. Ali adds: those who believe in the need to maintain US “global leadership”, i.e., systemic primacy, into a perpetual reality of the world order, support Trump’s China policy. This anti-China line is perhaps the sole area of bipartisan legislative consensus. So, yes, this school is on the winning side as far as US thinking goes. Even popular opinion has turned heavily anti-Chinese.
In his view, “broadly agreed, as Vice President, Biden was both then Vice President Xi’s guest in Beijing and host in DC. He knows Xi better than many. He has expressed the need to cooperate where possible but push-back where US interests demand it. So, both rhetoric and the edge in diplomatic engagement will calm down under a President Biden, but fundamentally, the US-PRC rivalry will remain the organizing principle behind US grand strategy”.
Zakaria’s views are part of his conversation with Editor-in-Chief of ThePrint at its latest edition of Off The Cuff program.
On “China threat” perception, Prof. Ali says it is injecting multilateral dynamism, “or, as I describe it, Systemic Transitional Fluidity”.
He refers to NATO’s 70th foundational anniversary celebration in which , Vice President Pence, in his view, formally urged NATO to consider countering China. “Or, expanding its North Atlantic Charter remit to the Western Pacific. NATO Sec-Gen complied”.
The author considers UK and French navies beginning to do joint drills with Quad member-states in the South China Sea as one evidence. Secondly, he says, a few days before Xi Jinping visited Italy and France, “the EU Commission, in a new grand-strategic policy document, described China as a “systemic rival”.
“So China-rooted “Displacement Anxiety” is triggering much “systemic fluidity”. Will this force changes in Chinese external behavior? Can’t see many signs yet”.