Pandemic Accelerates US, China Tensions; ‘Beijing Will Need Every Hand’

DESPARDES (Updated) — U.S.-China relations are shattering in at least five areas where competition was already substantial, says Foreign Policy in its latest analysis. The pandemic, it says, has accelerated preexisting tensions—and there’s no slowdown in sight.

1. Military competition; 2. Economic decoupling; 3. Technology; 4. The future of order; 5. Information competition are major factors behind the global contests for economic advantage, military dominance, technological prowess, and ideology. “These will be part of geopolitics for years to come”.

The pandemic, it says, has only made this more clear. “Washington will need to find a way to navigate this reality through the pandemic and beyond”.

The message is therefore clear for smaller nations: brace for the upcoming competition/conflict…”and may be (even) war” says a senior Pakistani defense official.

Islamabad and Beijing have been traditional allies and call themselves ‘iron brothers’, ‘all-weather friends’.

ALSO READ: China says it will never forget Pakistan’s support in critical moment

The COVID-19 global crisis has further strengthened Pak-China mutual relationship, says strategic affairs analyst Dr. S M Ali.

The $62 billion Pakistan-China Economic Corridor (CPEC) converted their traditional alliance into a multi-dimensional geo-strategic and geo-economic partnership. This has attracted a lot of interest from most regional states. Some are unhappy though.

Sen. Mushahidullah Khan, a key Pakistani opposition leader and Vice President of PML-N party, looks at the upcoming roller coaster the same way as the defense analyst. When DesPardes asked him for his take on the developing situation, his response was: “the world order is undergoing change”.

A special assistant to PM Khan says, “Nothing good, I’m afraid”, when asked to comment on how he’s looking at things due to the pandemic.

Earlier this week, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson praised a resolution unanimously passed by the Pakistani Senate and said China would never forget Pakistan’s support and medical supplies in a critical moment in its fight against COVID-19.

“The virus knew no borders and races. To smear and stigmatize other countries was to interfere with international cooperation against the virus”, he said. “The right and the wrong were very clear and the justice always prevailed”, he said.

“Yes they do appreciate Pakistan’s help and will need more of it.
What is to be seen though is are we ready for the roller coaster? My answer is we may not be ready but we are accustomed to such rough rides”, the defense official said.

An internal Chinese government think tank report, which leaked this week, warned China’s top leaders that there was increasing risk of the U.S.-China relationship sliding into conflict, a view upheld by several independent observers when asked to comment.

Back in the 70s, Pakistan had rolled out the red carpet for Washington and Beijing to shake hands. It worked.

Fast forward half a century, and the two global powers have become global competitors, with Pakistan closely tucked in China camp.

Will or can Islamabad roll out a red carpet again for the two, whether conflict or cold war?

“Beijing will need every hand”, the official says. He spoke on condition of anonymity as he’s not authorized to comment officially.