The Straits Times says

Signs US, China see value in cooperation

There are signs of hope, after the recent virtual summit meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his American counterpart Joe Biden, that both countries recognise that cooperation is in their mutual interest even if they are compelled to compete in certain areas. Thus, former United States treasury secretary Henry Paulson rightly dismissed the idea that it is impossible for them to compete and collaborate at the same time. Instead, in a globalised world, a wholesale US financial decoupling from China would be impossible – and even partial decoupling would make both countries and the rest of the world more susceptible to financial crises, he told the Bloomberg New Economy Forum here last week. Hence, the world’s two largest economies must have a mechanism to coordinate their actions. 

From a realist point of view, cooperation would allow Washington and Beijing to build up their economic resources so they can compete more vigorously for the attention of other nations. That strategy is a much better one than decoupling because third countries simply cannot afford to follow the US lead – if that should happen – given the extent of their own interdependence with China. Similarly, were China to call for strategic decoupling, even its friends and well-wishers would have to decline because of their interdependence with the US. What the two foremost powers need to recognise is that the very integration of the world, produced by their economic interactions in the closing decades of the last century, makes it impossible for other nations to choose sides between them in the opening decades of this century without hurting themselves in such an unbeneficial process. 

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