Another summit of the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) took place in Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, on November 17-18. In general, the summit was a failure. For the first time in many years, from 1993 to be more precise, the forum did not see the signing of the final declaration "for all good and against all bad." The reason for that was a tough and non-diplomatic dispute between China, a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the United States. These two super-powers are accounted for a major part of global trade in the Pacific region. By the way, APEC is accounted for slightly over 60% of global trade.
If China doesn't change its conduct, it will face an all-out cold war with the United States and its partners, Vice President of the United States Mike Pence said in an interview with The Washington Post. He advised Beijing to conduct large-scale changes in its economic, military and political activities, saying that it is "the best and last chance." Incidentally, another senior American politician used the "cold war" phrase in the context of China. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the United States does not want a cold war with China.
"The entire world is worried!" Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea Peter of O'Neill commented on results of the APEC summit. The heads of both delegations, Chinese President Xi Jinping and US Vice President Mike Pence, played with subtle, and sometimes not subtle, innuendos against each other. The United States accused China of unfair trade. Beijing in turn responded the same way underlining that this is the return to protectionism, which contradicts the spirit of the 21st century. The New York Times drew a bottom line, "It boils down to mutual intransigence between the United States and China."
Mike Pence harshly criticized China's One Belt, One Road project. Many programs are of poor quality and burden developing countries with unbearable loans, he said. The United States and democracy are much better partners than authoritarian China, Pence said. China returned the favors saying at the level of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that no developing country has found itself in debt because of cooperation with China, and the United States should stop criticizing others and have its actions match its words. "We have noted the relevant remarks made by the US side. On the basis of mutual respect and win-win cooperation, China has conducted good cooperation with many countries around the world, including the mutually beneficial cooperation with the developing countries under the framework of South-South cooperation. When advancing such cooperation, China has followed the principle of sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith and pursuing the greater good and shared interests to offer assistance to the economic and social development of the relevant countries as its capacity allows with no political strings attached and by fully respecting the will of the governments and people of the recipient countries," the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
Senior representatives of 21 states, including Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev followed verbal innuendos of Mike Pence and Xi Jinping in Port Moresby. There were a lot of accusations that day. Mainly, respectful conservative American vice president, who has strong influence in and outside the United States, voiced them. America is not going to give up restrictive measures in trade with China unless Beijing changes its trade policy, Mike Pence said. He made the statement right in his speech at the APEC summit. "The United States, though, will not change course until China changes its ways. We put tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese goods, and we could more than double that number," Pence said.
Trade war has become a reality. In early April, the United States published a list of 1,300 Chinese goods that may fall under import duties in return for China's breaches of American copyrights. China in turn decided to introduce 25% duties on 106 goods imported from the United States. In June, the United States imposed a 25% duty on some goods from China. China mirrored the move, introducing a 25% import duty on 659 goods from the United States. A month after the confrontation escalated after the United States introduced a 25% import duty on 818 goods from China worth $34 billion a year. China introduced on the same day a similar duty on the same amount of imports from the United States. In late September, the United States introduced new 10% duties on goods from China worth $200 billion a year. China mirrored the move.
However, confrontation between the United States and China is taking place not only in the economic and trade sphere. Earlier, Vice President Pence accused China of meddling in American politics and attempts to undermine Donald Trump right ahead of the midterm elections. "President Trump's leadership is working; China wants a different American president," Pence said. China is seeking another leadership in the White House and meddle in the elections, he said.
To put it short, the countries entered the confrontation that simply cannot limit itself to the economic and trade sphere alone. It's well known fact that politics and geopolitics always follow economics. The United States and China are the world's largest economies accounted for more than a half of global GDP. After Donald Trump came to the White House, Washington has started to more often use anti-Chinese rhetoric. The Republican Party sees America's main enemy in China's growing potential, while the Democratic Party views Russia as the main threat of the United States.
Confrontation in the information, political, economic, and possibly military spheres will inevitably escalate. It is hard to say if the Beijing-Washington conflict is cold war, since it seems that ideological confrontation was the key issue in the classical Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States. Ideology is unlikely to be found now in confrontation between the United States and China. However, the conflict of interests and economic potentials of the two superpowers is obvious. Apparently, the next several decades of the 21st century will be governed exactly by this confrontation, and this will affect many other countries. And the APEC summit in Papua New Guinea was yet another signal that the world should prepare for this conflict.