China-USA trade war possibly less severe than cold war

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Flags of U.S. and China are placed for a meeting at the Ministry of Agriculture in Beijing, China, June 30, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Lee

The decades-long conflict between the US and the Soviet Union, which involved “hot wars” – such as the Cambodian civil war, the Korean War, Vietnam War as well as the Cuban missile crisis and a long campaign against communism in Malaysia were far more severe than the current China United States trade war, a Malaysian researcher claimed.

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Speaking at the two days South China Morning Post’s China Conference held in Kuala Lumpur last week, a senior analyst with Malaysia’s Institute of Strategic and International Studies Shahriman Lockman went against the norm by stating that it probably is quite alarmist to suggest that the United States and China were headed towards a full blown cold war fueled by the ongoing tit for tat tariffs on products originating from both countries.

“In my belief, I doubt the United States can contain, nor does it want to contain China as in attempting to do so would shake the uneasy peace in terms of international trade and geopolitical sphere of influence each nation has in this region.

“The trick or strategy in this context is for the affected member states to refrain from taking sides if and when the current trade war intensifies to a point where global trade becomes collateral damage and suffers the consequences of a protracted dispute between the world’s two leading trading and economic powers,” the researcher said.

He said the current situation made it even more urgent for the 16-nation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) to be finalised by the end of the year. Thus far, a total of 23 rounds of negotiations stretching back to 2012 have been carried out with no finality.

He pointed out that countries such as Singapore and Malaysia had initially viewed the RCEP as of secondary importance to the United States-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

“But that has changed since President Donald Trump pulled the US out from of pact, leading to other major trading countries such as China to initiate their own trade pacts.

Earlier, Datuk Norazman Ayob, deputy secretary general of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry pointed out that there were several contentious factors which affected the conclusion of the RCEP.

“However, with economies around the region and especially the Asean feeling the pain of the US-China trade dispute, the RCEP is now thrusted to the top of the agenda of many countries,” he said.

On China’s Belt and Road Initiative, he said that there was a certain level of consternation and relation to the much touted debt trap among participating nations as there was common belief China was using this initiative to create ‘client states’.

He pointed out that one way of mitigating these suspicions was for the Belt and Road Initiative to focus more on enhancing cooperation programmes in technical, production capacity-building and technology transfer among participating countries.

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