Outlook Asia Pacific

China-US relations and regional implications

The difficulties that characterise the bilateral relationship between the US and China are structural, not cyclical, and will therefore be a major issue during 2021.

US foreign politics in relation to Beijing will not change significantly, but rather readjusted, retaining a strategy based on competitiveness nevertheless, without the confrontational orientation of Donald Trump’s presidency. Although the new US administration led by Joe Biden intends to transform the general US approach towards Beijing and Asia, strategic concerns regarding the Asian country will persist, particularly in the economic sphere. In an April 2020 Foreign Affairs’ article Joe Biden, outlining his political vision for the bilateral relationship, argued that the United States should build a united front with allies to confront Chinese politics and consider opportunities for cooperation on issues where the interests of the two powers converge.

The US government is unlikely to increase its current tariffs on Chinese products, as the ‘Phase 1’ economic trade agreement between Washington and Beijing is set to expire in 2021 and there is a real possibility for direct negotiations on a new agreement. The agreement included Chinese commitments to import US agricultural, energy and manufacturing products in 2020 and 2021 worth an additional USD 200 billion compared to the trade volume recorded in 2017.

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