Should Taiwan be protected from China

An overview of the China-USA confrontation

No sooner had the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced the closure of the US Consulate General in Chengdu in response to the closure of the Chinese Consulate General in Houston than photos of the fire brigade in action in front of the US Consulate building were circulating online. On Wednesday night, a local US broadcaster broadcast aerial footage of billows of smoke over the premises of the Chinese Consulate General in Houston. Files were apparently burned there after Washington surprisingly ordered the representation to be closed.

Washington’s move is a “great loss of face” and “shameful”, write many users in China's social networks. Beijing has announced "resolute countermeasures." Now the US must close its consulate general in the populous Sichuan province, which is responsible, among other things, for consular affairs in the Chinese autonomous region of Tibet.

The Chinese consulate general in Houston is to be closed

In a speech on Thursday, US Secretary of State Pompeo accused China of "tyranny" and called on the "states of the free world" to face the threat from Beijing. "We can no longer ignore the fundamental political and ideological differences between our countries."

It is the latest escalation in a confrontation that intensified with the inauguration of US President Donald Trump, but whose origins lie before that.

Trade dispute

In 2016, the newly elected US President Donald Trump announced his intention to reduce the trade deficit between the USA and China. The US imports significantly more goods from China than it exports to China. In 2018, Trump decided to impose punitive tariffs on goods from China, citing a 1974 trade law. The reason was that China had not adequately protected copyrights and thus harmed the interests of US companies. The threatened and partially implemented punitive measures initially amounted to 50 billion US dollars and rose to 500 billion US dollars over the next few years.

China criticizes the US punitive tariffs and describes them as protectionist measures. Whenever a new round of US punitive tariffs came into effect, China in turn responded with punitive tariffs on US imports of the same value. While Washington guided its trade policy along the lines of Trump's election motto "America first", China presented itself as an advocate of open world trade and globalization.

At the end of 2018, Trump adopted a conciliatory tone after a meeting with China's President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Argentina. Both heads of state agreed to pause the tariff war and gave negotiators three months to negotiate a deal. It took until January 2020 for a partial agreement to be signed. China pledged to import more manufactured and agricultural products from the US. Since then, things have been a little quieter on this front.

China has a keen interest in the continued consumption of Chinese goods in the United States. Due to the structural reform of the Chinese economy and the corona pandemic, China's growth is under enormous pressure. Export continues to be an important factor for the economy, alongside public investment and domestic demand, which has not yet sufficiently started up.

High-tech company

Huawei's chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou is threatened with extradition to the US judiciary while under house arrest in Canada

In the course of the trade dispute, China's high-tech companies moved into the focus of US regulators, especially telecommunications equipment manufacturers. First, in April 2018, the US Department of Commerce imposed a seven-year ban on the supply of semiconductors and other high-tech components to the Chinese company ZTE. The reason: Violation of Iran and North Korea sanctions. The technology group, which is listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange, had to admit in an ad hoc announcement in May that it could no longer maintain operations due to the sanction, since ZTE relies on high-tech components from the USA for its products is instructed. In July, ZTE paid $ 1.4 billion to have the delivery ban lifted.

The USA used the same reasoning against the telecom equipment supplier Huawei. On May 15, 2019, Washington added Huawei and 68 companies affiliated with Huawei to the so-called "Entity list", which makes trading in US products subject to authorization. As a result, for the end user, this means that his Huawei cell phone does not receive any security updates for Google applications and especially for the Android operating system developed by Google. Even more important for the company: The US is exerting massive pressure to prevent Huawei from expanding its 5G networks abroad.

Meng Wanzhou, Huawei's financier and daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei, has been in custody in Canada since December 2018. Meng was arrested by the Canadian police as part of a mutual legal assistance agreement with the United States while transferring in Vancouver. Huawei allegedly illegally sold US equipment to Iran. The extradition is being tried in a Canadian court while Meng is under house arrest. In response - albeit denied by Beijing - China has arrested two Canadians on charges of espionage.

Corona crisis

A doctor in Wuhan

The outbreak of the corona crisis, which began in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, gave Trump and his hardliners a new stepping stone to criticize China. Washington accused China of having communicated important findings about Covid-19 too late or not at all to the international community, especially the World Health Organization. China denied all allegations and defends itself against any "politicization" of a scientific question about the origin of the virus.

While the US withdrew from the WHO, China increased its donations to the UN body, which mainly supports countries with weak health systems in dealing with the pandemic.

South China Sea

Even before Trump's presidency, China massively expanded its presence in the South China Sea, which is partly claimed by its neighbors and wholly by China. Beijing claims it is building artificial islands there to "provide humanitarian aid in the event of a disaster". Radar stations, runways and hangars were built and missiles were stationed on the artificial islands, as satellite photos show. The USA as a traditional Pacific supremacy see themselves challenged by China's expansion, even if this is initially at the expense of the neighboring countries directly affected, such as Vietnam and the Philippines.

With so-called "Freedom of Navigation" voyages, during which the US sends its warships through the waters claimed by China, Washington is demonstrating that it is rejecting the Chinese claims. Most recently, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rejected the so-called "nine-dash line" in the South China Sea, which China officially sees as a national border, and called China's claims "illegal".

Hong Kong Security Act

The Hong Kong Security Act was in effect on July 1, 2020

On July 1st, the Chinese Security Law for Hong Kong went into effect. The law criminalizes separatist activities and interference by foreign forces. It is criticized in the West and by pro-democratic forces as the end of the Hong Kong autonomy guaranteed by Beijing. The US responded with sanctions. US President Trump passed a law in mid-July to punish individuals and institutions who "wipe out Hong Kong's freedom".

The possessions of those affected in the USA can be frozen and their entry denied. Trump also withdrew preferential treatment for Hong Kong in trade. The Chinese special administrative region should now be treated as part of China, for example with customs duties and the issuing of visas. For its part, China is reacting with entry bans for certain US politicians and threatens with visa restrictions.

As early as June, a US law came into force condemning China's repression against the Muslim Uyghur minority in Xinjiang and imposing sanctions on a member of the Politburo.

The US and China are also imposing visa restrictions on each other in the dispute over Tibet. Beijing announced measures against US citizens who "misbehave" on the Tibet issue.

Taiwan question

The call for independence in Taiwan is getting louder

The ice age between Taiwan and the mainland also affects the Sino-US conflict. The US has pledged to assist Taiwan in the event of a threat from the People's Republic. That is why they supply armaments, which Beijing regularly comments angrily. About two weeks ago, the US government gave the go-ahead to modernize the Patriot air defense system in Taiwan for $ 620 million. The armaments company Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor. Beijing threatened sanctions. According to information from the nationalist newspaper "Global Times", China could stop supplying Lockheed Martin with rare earths, the largest producer of which is China.

Space travel

China launched the first Mars mission on Thursday

The rivalry between the US and China also takes place in space. After the US has landed robots on Mars several times, the Chinese finally want to follow suit and prove that they have mastered such a complicated operation. On Thursday (July 23), China sent a lander the size of a car on its first own Mars mission on a journey to the neighboring planet. In February 2021, the probe called "Questions to the Sky" is expected to reach its destination. The USA will soon launch another mobile Mars rover.

The competition is also about a new manned mission to the moon. So far there have been twelve astronauts on the moon, all of them Americans. China intends to carry out a manned moon landing in 2025 at the earliest, the USA as early as 2024.