Owais Khan Marwat
In the ongoing U.S.-China rivalry, both nations perceive the progress of the other as a threat, creating a complex zero-sum dynamic where one’s victory signifies the other’s defeat. This dynamic hinders diplomatic efforts, impacts international relations, and shapes global alliances and policies.
Adding to the complexity, U.S. President Joe Biden grapples with daunting geopolitical challenges, including the intense Russia-Ukraine conflict and Israel’s unrelenting action in Gaza. The latter has garnered global condemnation due to the high number of child casualties and violations of international laws.
As a result, both Europe and the United States find themselves isolated, standing alone with agendas perceived as self-interested by the international community.
The situation is similar domestically. Rivals have launched vehement attacks against Biden’s performance. Despite the relatively positive state of the economy, the impending international crisis will soon impact the U.S.
Furthermore, the U.S. has been playing a diminishing role in international trade. Additionally, with the adoption of protectionist measures and imposed sanctions on countries, the dollar’s relevance as a global reserve currency has gradually diminished.
On one side, Biden, upon arriving in Israel, attempted to persuade his primary regional partner to avoid escalating action against Gaza due to U.S. economic interests in the Arab world and the pressures of international public opinion, which calls for an end to the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.
Additionally, Biden faced a snub with the cancellation of a meeting in Amman with Jordan, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority.
On the flip side, in Beijing, surrounded by heads of state and government, President Xi Jinping celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative. This global partnership involves more than 150 countries and 30 international organizations, with billions of dollars committed to significant investments in infrastructure.
These two worlds diverge significantly when considering other developments, such as China’s economy growing by 5.2 percent in the first three quarters of 2023. While Beijing focuses on economic development, Washington primarily engages in discussions related to wars and conflicts.
However, Western nations erected walls to isolate China rather than altering American policy to ease the situation. The rapid demolition of this wall is necessary to change the destiny of humanity. Resuming the Cold War would be futile and a zero-sum game for the entire world.
The world will pay a heavy price for a new Cold War, and the leadership of the West needs to understand this. But the West is unable to reverse its current trajectory.
Domestic conflicts within the European Union have weakened the bloc’s economy, especially since the conflict in Ukraine began. The question of how long the European Union will survive is very important.
The West can no longer resolve disputes through mediation. On the other hand, China has maintained open lines of communication with all parties involved. It has the unique ability to take on global obligations and address contemporary global difficulties because of its strategic neutrality.
The meeting of the senior leaders is influential in this uncertain situation. Beijing’s backing might alleviate most of the world’s challenges. Furthermore, Biden could go down in history as the political leader who struck the most successful cooperation agreement and engagement with China if he were to forgo protectionism, end former US President Donald Trump’s trade war, and sign long-term agreements with China.
Such acts will bury a hostile global environment that does nothing to promote development and peace.
Among all the areas that require improvement, technical collaboration can boost growth, trade, and development.
The world needs more advanced technologies to address issues like hunger, poverty, climate change, and declining life expectancy. Cooperation can propel humanity to unprecedented heights of prosperity and well-being.
Both the U.S. and China need to mend their differences. The idea is to move beyond the zero-sum mentality, recognizing that collaboration, mutual agreements, and shared interests can generate more substantial and sustainable benefits for all involved.
So, instead of solely focusing on competing in a zero-sum game, the U.S. often aims to create scenarios where multiple parties can thrive simultaneously.
Biden has an exceptional opportunity to avert a zero-sum game with China that will not strengthen the United States. The advice of Sun Tzu is still valid: Victory comes from finding opportunity in problems. Issues abound. Will it end with a win? It depends on the decisions made.
*The author is a research professional at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) and an author at Stratheia-Margalla Policy Digest.
**The opinions in this article are the author’s own and may not represent the views of The Diplomatic Insight. The organization does not endorse or assume responsibility for the content.