US-China Standoff

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Asad Tahir Jappa

Pakistan and China consider each other as trustworthy and all weather friends. The two countries enjoy a history of defense cooperation but Pakistan pursues a policy which aims not to target someone or to become a part of any confrontation

The Biden administration has placed a dozen Chinese companies on its trade blacklist on November 23, 2021, citing US national security as well as foreign policy logics. The latest move from Washington is to launch a crack-down on China’s hi-tech defense sector. The US Commerce Department also included 16 entities and individuals from China and Pakistan to the blacklist for contributing to Pakistan’s nuclear activities or ballistic missile program. The US Commerce Department’s action against Chinese companies demonstrates double standards and political reasons for such blacklisting while special favors are afforded to her allies like India and Australia.
The move comes as the administration of US President Joe Biden has expressed public alarm over some of Beijing’s rapid military advancements, in particular, the surprise test of a nuclear-capable Chinese hypersonic missile said to be more dangerous than anything the US has yet developed. Jacob Stokes, a fellow at the Centre for a New American Security, a think tank in Washington, said the hypersonic missile test underscored “the massive stakes in the military-technological race between the two superpowers”. As part of that competition, US policymakers are trying to cut off the flow of critical technologies going in and coming out of China. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in a statement that the new listings will help prevent American technology from supporting the development of Chinese and Russian “military advancement and activities of non-proliferation concern like Pakistan’s unsafeguarded nuclear activities or ballistic missile program” US-China rivalry is at full swing because China overtakes US to become world’s richest nation as global wealth has tripled in last two decades, from $156 trillion in the year 2000 to $514 trillion in 2020.
In pursuit of her strategic interests in Indo-pacific region, the US has key strategic partnership with India to counterweight China and perceives Pakistan to be siding with China. On the contrary, Pakistan does not want any confrontation in the region and stands with China for a peaceful economic engagement. Pakistan and China consider each other as trustworthy and all weather friends. The two countries enjoy a history of defense cooperation but Pakistan pursues a policy which aims not to target someone or to become a part of any confrontation. United States has adopted Indo-pacific strategy with India and AUKUS with Australia and UK to counter growing influence of China from East Asia.
On May 24, 2021, the U.S. Senate advanced a sweeping package of legislation intended to boost the country’s ability to compete with Chinese technology, as Congress increasingly seeks to take a tough line against Beijing. By a vote of 68 to 32, the 2,400-page US Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 brought together a coalition of progressives, moderates and conservatives who, despite their intense disagreements on nearly every other consequential policy issue, have become united in their view the Chinese government under the rule of Xi Jinping has become a threat to global stability and American power. The bill includes a number of China-specific provisions, including the prohibition of the social media app TikTok from being downloaded on government devices.
The purchase of drones manufactured and sold by Chinese state enterprises would also be blocked under the legislation. Chinese organizations engaged in US cyber-attacks or theft of US intellectual property from US firms would face sanctions too. Reacting on the latest ban of Chinese companies, Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesperson, Shu Jueting revealed in a press conference that China has strongly opposed the listing and intends launching solemn representation with the US. Zhao Lijian, spokesman of Chinese Foreign Ministry has warned that China will take necessary steps to defend its companies and reserves its right to take countermeasures.
China’s embassy in Washington charged that the United States “uses the catch-all concept of national security and abuses state power to suppress and restrict Chinese enterprises in all possible means.” China is firmly opposed to that, embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu said. He said the United States should “follow the spirit” of a virtual meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping last week and “meet China halfway instead of going further down the wrong path”.
The 21st century is considered a landmark in the history of Indo-US strategic relationship; it indicates the major shift in foreign policy of the US as well as that of India. The US supported India for becoming strong power in the region by favoring India in obtaining waiver from non-proliferation regimes with special reference to strategic trade with US and world. The US modified her municipal laws for granting civil nuclear technology. US also assisted India for getting approval for unique “waiver” from International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) for civilian nuclear trade. USA has tried to help India in becoming a permanent member of NSG and if this happened it would be first non-signatory country of Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) member of NSG. Being a US strategic partner, India is modernizing and diversifying its nuclear forces against China and Pakistan. Parts of its efforts are focused on developing Multiple Independently-targetable Reentry Vehicles (MIRVs) for its nuclear-capable ballistic missiles and Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD). The development of MIRV technology will enhance the Indian nuclear threat to both China and Pakistan.
While the BMD development will give India a false sense of security, India is also developing the hypersonic technologies for military uses. It vividly highlights the double standards being followed by United States. On the one hand, it is supporting non-proliferation and on the other it is involved in proliferation of arms. The Indo-US civil nuclear agreement violates a very important article of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which prohibits members from assisting or inducing any non-nuclear weapon state to acquire nuclear weapons, a group of non-proliferation. US has adopted confrontation policy against China and giving access to India in NSG. US is undermining NSG and NPT regime by supporting India. The US biased approach may lead to instability and new arms race in South Asia.
Nuclear security is a state responsibility and it receives the highest level of attention in Pakistan in accordance with our domestic and international obligations. Pakistan has established a comprehensive and effective national nuclear security regime, which covers nuclear material and other radioactive materials, and associated facilities and activities throughout their lifecycle. In order to keep abreast of the emerging threats and challenges, national nuclear security regime is regularly reviewed and updated in the light of national obligations, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) guidance documents and international best practices. A robust nuclear security culture has evolved over a period of time that helps in strengthening and sustaining the national nuclear security regime. Just like India, Pakistan also faces short fall of energy. Peaceful use of nuclear technology to meet its energy requirement is right of the state and people of Pakistan. Like India, Pakistan also requires provision of safe nuclear energy. However, preferential treatment with India and setting aside Pakistani needs by the US speaks of the double standards with two countries having almost similar nuclear credentials. It has double standards on non-proliferation as it provides arms to its allied non-nuclear weapons states for their defense whereas it sanctions those states which have acquired weapons for their security. Pakistan has an indigenous nuclear program and has capacity to further develop its national resources. However, to meet its energy requirements, Pakistan also requires transfer of peaceful nuclear energy for which China is cooperating with Pakistan.
It goes beyond saying that India has hegemonic designs in the region and US is protecting India’s stance. Pakistan hasn’t ever compromised on its defense needs. For development of its nuclear arsenal, Pakistan is not dependent on any country and fully understands its legal responsibilities and dynamics as a responsible nuclear nation. However, China has become a large supplier of important defense systems to Pakistan. It appears that by blacklisting the Chinese firms, the US wants to slow down the development of various technologies needed for the defense of Pakistan.