2022: Will the competition between China and the United States escalate? | World | DW

The United States and China reach a new level of confrontation in 2021, with trade, diplomatic, and defense policies marked by growing mutual suspicion and antagonism.

This trend is likely to continue into 2022. In the United States, Democrats and Republicans are deeply divided towards midterm elections. But both sides seem to agree on one thing: there is no room for softness in China.

In Beijing, for his part, President Xi Jinping is preparing to further consolidate his power during the Chinese Communist Party congress, to be held in October. The party says it fully supports Xi’s hardline political line.

Cold start

The Beijing Winter Olympics mark a rocky start to 2022. The United States has said it will not send government officials to the games, and Britain and Australia have joined in a diplomatic boycott of Washington. China, in response, promised unspecified “consequences”.

Tensions are likely to rise as February approaches, with the United States using games and boycotts to draw attention to China’s crackdown on the Uighur Muslim minority.

In Hong Kong, Beijing’s continued pressure on civil liberties is also likely to continue in 2022, as more pro-democracy activists are jailed under the national security law implemented in 2020.

“These tensions between China and the United States will continue in 2022, including in the areas of human rights, geopolitics and security,” Beijing-based independent political commentator Wu Qiang told DW.

Taiwan 2022

As Beijing undermines special autonomy for Hong Kong, wary Taiwan is watching as Chinese military jets have carried out hundreds of sorties into its air defense zones in recent months.

In 2021, the United States angered Beijing by sending an unofficial delegation of lawmakers to Taiwan, and declared its support for President Tsai Ing-wen’s government.

With Xi, Beijing is following a policy of “reunifying” Taiwan with mainland China. It can be expected that in 2022 it will continue to oppose efforts for diplomatic recognition of Taiwan.

The possibility of a military invasion of China is considered the most dangerous potential for armed conflict between the United States and China. But as the Communist Party prepares for its big October event, it will likely end up choosing stability over clashing swords.

“The risk of an attack by the People’s Republic of China on Taiwan before the 20th Communist Party Congress in the fall of 2022 is very low,” Bonnie Glaser, director of the Germany Marshall Fund Asia Program, told DW.

“It is unlikely that Xi Jinping would take a risk that could jeopardize his acquisition of a third five-year term,” Glaser said.

Technology separation

Cybersecurity will be another big bilateral issue in the future. In 2021, the United States accused China of sponsoring a massive cyber attack. Washington also opposes the global rollout of China’s next-generation communications technology.

The US push to isolate Chinese technology from the rest of the world is likely to continue into 2022, with Washington making it harder for Chinese companies to acquire critical hardware made on US soil.

“The United States has just begun to impose stricter restrictions on technology transfers to China, and further action will be taken in 2022,” Glaser said.

Expansion and slowdown

China’s economic expansion is expected to slow in 2022, with some estimates suggesting growth could be as low as 5 percent next year. Some analysts say this could provide an incentive for Beijing to negotiate with the US to reduce Trump-era trade barriers.

In November, Biden and Xi held a conference call in which the two leaders pledged to manage the competition in the future. But observers remain skeptical about the prospect of the two countries working together to resolve their differences peacefully.

“As the economic power between the two countries shifts, China is now closer to the United States than ever before in terms of economic strength. Therefore, bilateral relations will be more competitive than cooperative.”

(yang / ers)

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