The APEC summit held in November 2018 was a clear example of the destructive influence of the US-China confrontation on the regional development prospects. The dispute over the joint communiqué reflected the depth of divergence between Washington and Beijing. The United States demanded that the participants strongly condemn China for “dishonest” trade. China wanted the forum to speak out against protectionism and unilateralist policies – that would amount to unequivocal criticism of the United States.
The two sides failed to find common ground. Speeches by Chinese leader Xi Jinping and US Vice President Mike Pence showed that this is becoming more and more difficult. The United States is dissatisfied with China’s trade policy and its desire to obtain advanced technologies from American companies, which are entering the Chinese market, and is indignant about the “theft of intellectual property.” Add to this statements about protection from Chinese “threats to the freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea and criticism for non-observance of human rights. The American side wanted to create a weighty ram against China by binding together economic, military-political and humanitarian arguments.
China is not against expansion of the share of American business on its domestic market. Protection of intellectual property in China is gradually strengthening, as the number of Chinese patents increases and the national innovation system is developing. Xi Jinping tirelessly convinces foreigners that China will open its markets, facilitate access to foreign companies, reduce duties and expand the consumption of foreign goods and services. These proposals are addressed to the business communities of the whole world, which does not exclude discussion about additional preferences for the US companies.
The obstacle is the rapidly growing conviction of the American political elite that China challenges national security and economic interests of the United States. American politicians try to make China change the model of economic development, which creates “unfair” advantages in international competition. They want Beijing to abandon state support for the innovation sector of the economy.
Trump is unhappy with the “Made in China 2025” program, which was released in 2015. Its goal is to gain leadership in ten spheres (IT, robotics, aviation and astronautics, transport, power equipment, new materials, etc.) by the middle of the next decade. China will not sacrifice any of these areas. Moreover, the widespread use of the sanctions policy and trade embargoes by the US administration is an additional argument in favour of China’s decision to create its own advanced scientific and technological base.
Forty years has passed since the beginning of the Chinese reforms in December 1978. It is possible that the Chinese economy will meet the most stringent American market standards in another four decades due to the smooth transformation. However, Donald Trump will not be able to credit himself with this merit. He needs an obvious and convincing success that can be presented to voters in 2020.