US-China rapprochement good for pandemic-inflicted world economy

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As the United States of America remembers the tragic events of September 11, 2001 — 20 years ago yesterday — we empathise with their grief, and acknowledge how much the world has been changed by the event, especially airport security and movement of money.

Those dreadful events caused the very sheltered among Americans and other countries to feel and empathise with what thousands across the world experience every day. Americans will also have fresh in mind the experience of those who have fled the terrorism of the Taliban in Afghanistan and those still trapped there.

The events of 9/11 impelled the Administration of President George W Bush on a course of action, the wisdom of which is still being debated. The invasion of Afghanistan proved futile as the Taliban have regained political and military dominance.

The lessons are many and should have been learnt from the Vietnam War. In the case of Afghanistan, no invading country in history has been able to conquer that country and control the people.

The British, at the height of their global dominance in the 19th century tried, failed, and withdrew. The Russians, who were willing to kill anything and everyone, tried, failed, and withdrew. American policymakers were so confident of their military prowess that they invaded and after 20 ye ars, enormous financial cost, and loss of lives have withdrawn.

The Administration of President Joe Biden is on a course of defusing wars of all sorts. One such is the US-China trade war started by his predecessor Mr Donald Trump. To reduce the trade deficit with China, Mr Trump imposed tariffs on a wide range of imports from China, which retaliated, leading to further escalation of the Trump tariffs.

In the midst of this antagonistic atmosphere, the two sides commenced negotiation at a very high level, but after several rounds of negotiations talks broke down in irreconcilable disagreement.

If a normalisation of trade could be accomplished it would give the US economy, China and indeed the global economy a badly needed fillip. The trade war has failed, as is seen in the fact that the US trade deficit with China has increased and many industries stalled, for example, motor car production because of lack of microchips.

It is strange how such trade wars hurt more than the combatants, even in relatively small ways. Jamaica, as an example, has been out of material for canvas to make awnings because the big US importer, Sunbrella, cannot get access to Chinese supplies.

The Biden Administration, like 70 per cent of Americans, feels that a strong approach to China on trade is necessary because of unfair trade practices by the Chinese. But a less combative and more diplomatic approach was needed.

The rapprochement began last week when a telephone call took place between President Biden and President Xi Jinping of China, the first in seven months. The objective is to restart the US-China trade negotiations.

Hopefully, this is the start of defusing the tension between these two rival superpowers. The pandemic-inflicted world needs them to cooperate.