“East and West”: Eternal Confrontation and Cooperation

5 m.   |  2019-02-27

The borders between the civilizations of Western and Eastern worlds pass not geographically, but on the principle of cultural and philosophical worldview. Unlike many modern states having a history of only a few centuries or even decades, China is one of the oldest countries in the world. Among such countries are India and Iran, Greece and Armenia, as well as a range of Old World and West Asian countries, which after a millennia managed to preserve not only their national identity, but also their statehood on the modern world’s political map as an independent subject. Such states, in view of a certain “maturity”, perceive time a little bit differently. They are more cautious and latent in their foreign and intergovernmental policy activities. They adopt national strategies for many years ahead, taking the next 25-30 years as a short-term perspective.  

Since now the philosophy of Chinese civilization hasn’t been fully comprehended and studied by political and economic experts of the Western world. The millennial experience of state-building has become a strong foundation for modern China, which is the heir of everything that has any connection with the history of Celestial Empire. When the country was ruled by foreign nationalities, for example, by the Mongols during the Yuan dynasty or by the Manchus during the Qing dynasty, Chinese took them for “natives”. We will hardly find an Armenian who will consider the Roman, Arab or Ottoman conquerors as “natives”.

In the modern world, as a result of fundamental “age” differences and, consequently, as a result of different perception of time, certain disagreements arise between the “young” and “mature” states, in the same way, as between teenagers and adults in everyday life in our families or around us. As a civilizational example, we will focus on bilateral relations between the United States and China. These states are leading geopolitical competitors for their military-political, economic and cultural dominance in the Asia-Pacific Region (APR). At present the Asia-Pacific region has up to 40% of the world’s GDP and about 60% of world trade [1]. According to the opinion of the leading analysts in the field of economy, by 2030 the APR countries’ GDP growth is expected to rise from global up to 70% [2]. Growth rates of economic indicators of this dynamic region (in particular, 2016-2018) are estimated more than 5% per year [3]. Moreover, the developing and developed countries of the Asia-Pacific region are major exporters and importers of high technology.

The attempts of the previous US administration headed by President B. Obama to establish a new world order, where Washington and Beijing would become global leading powers under a certain leadership of the United States, have failed. The Americans came across with Beijing's intractability in the formation of a new world order on the principle of the US-China duumvirate [4]. Despite all the populist election slogans, the new US administration led by President D. Trump continues the policy of Chinese “deterrence”. The mutual trade war between Washington and Beijing in July 2018 didn’t lead to large-scale economic relations break between these two states. The bilateral trade between the USA and China exceeded $700 billion by the end of 2017[5]. In this regard, it will be worth recalling a well-known proverb: “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”. It is considered that the below mentioned three pillars are the most probable tools for the Washington policy for “rapprochement” with Beijing:

-  Using Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and other regional summits for trust-building between the two countries;

- Making great efforts in negotiating on “Bilateral Investment Treaty” (BIT);

-  Rejecting the “Trans-Pacific Partnership” (TPP) for productive bilateral relations with Beijing.

Most of the East and South-East Asian countries will continue to rely on Washington as a main guarantor of regional security, and on Beijing, as a rapid economic developmentThe maintenance of political tension between Beijing and its regional neighbors is in favor to Washington, so as these countries continue to see the United States as a “regional security guarantor”. We believe that despite the rejection of the TPP, Washington, will continue to strengthen and develop long-standing political and economic bilateral relations with all the countries that have previously expressed their wish to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The world economy and trade development mostly depends on the state of affairs in the Asia-Pacific region, where economic changes on a global scale happen. This region will become a new arena for intercivilizational competition between the Western and Eastern worlds. The fact that China is a key trade and economic partner for the United States, Washington cannot impose unilateral military-political and economic sanctions, thus resorting direct confrontation with Beijing, which will make serious problems for Americans. In this regard, the most pragmatic solution to the issue of China’s “containment” is drawing him into a regional conflict with its neighbors because of disputed territories, particularly with Taiwan, Spratly (Coral Islands), Xisha (Paracel Islands) or Diaoyutai Islands  (Senkaku)However, we should take into account the Chinese pragmatism, whose ruling power follows the precepts of Confucius till now. It won’t be easy for Washington to implement this scenario for this and many other reasons.  

[1] Asia-Pacific now accounts for 60% of world economic growth, https://www.publicfinanceinternational.org/news/2017/04/asia-pacific-now-accounts-60-world-economic-growth-adb-says, 15.02.2019

[2] World GDP Forecasts for 2030, https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2019/01/world-gdp-forecasts-for-2030.html, 17.02.2019

[3] Asia's Dynamic Economies Continue to Lead Global Growthhttps://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2017/05/08/NA050917-Asia-Dynamic-Economies-Continue-to-Lead-Global-Growth, 18.02.2019

[4] Barack Obama U.S. China relations,  https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/obama-legacy/relations-with-china.html, 18.02.2019

[5] The office of the US Trade representative https://ustr.gov/countries-regions/china-mongolia-taiwan/peoples-republic-china, 18.02.2019