Tensions between China and US likely to escalate further: Chinese expert

This period when tensions seem to have abated is temporary, said a prominent Chinese scholar. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING - Recent high-level meetings between officials from China and the United States have sparked talk of a detente between the two superpowers, but a prominent Chinese scholar has said a thaw in relations is unlikely.

Instead, this period when tensions seem to have abated is temporary, and relations will continue to worsen as Washington will very likely exert further pressure on Beijing over trade, said Professor Shi Yinhong of Renmin University on Monday (Oct 11).

"On the whole, tensions seem to have stopped rising but... in the foreseeable future, this is not going to diminish. There might be less negative rhetoric, but the essence of the relationship is the same," said Prof Shi, who is an adviser to the State Council, China's Cabinet.

Bilateral relations appear to be headed towards a turn for the better recently, with a number of engagements between top officials from both countries.

The first sign was when US President Joe Biden telephoned his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping last month.

Weeks later, top Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou returned to China from Canada after US prosecutors withdrew an order for her extradition.

Last week, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan met top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi for in-person talks in Zurich.

Chinese vice-premier Liu He also held virtual talks on trade with US trade representative Katherine Tai over the weekend.

The Global Times tabloid has also adopted a more conciliatory stance in its editorials, pointing out in a recent piece that it was "obvious that the US side's attitude towards China has been adjusted".

But Prof Shi was less optimistic.

He said: "Some people in China are a little too optimistic. The Chinese people have a short memory, if the US President even so much as smiles, they get all excited."

He was speaking on Monday at a book launch at Beijing think-tank Centre for China and Globalisation.

The book, Consensus Or Conflict? China And Globalisation In The 21st Century, contains essays from Chinese and foreign experts that, among other things, discuss the implications of a rising China.

Pointing to Ms Tai's recent comments on the US trade policy with China, Prof Shi noted that she did not rule out new tariffs to "pressure or punish" China for not meeting purchase obligations under the phase one trade deal.

The US-China trade war would continue, and "new battlefronts could emerge as the US takes additional measures", he said.

Speaking via video-link at the same event, former Chinese vice-foreign minister He Yafei said Washington's current foreign policy has been shaped by domestic turmoil in the US - brought about by rising political divisions, rising inequality and mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"They have sought scapegoats and enemies to divert from this crisis. This has become the main strategy of US foreign policy," he added.

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