Think Tank (2/2021)
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US-China Rivalry: A “Decoupling” World?
04 Mar 2021
Quek Xin Wei

While the Joe Biden administration may dial back anti-China rhetoric, strong bipartisan support against China in the United States makes it unlikely that we will see a substantial policy reversal to the pre-Trump era.

This was the main point of convergence emerging out of a panel webinar hosted by the US Programme at RSIS on 4 March 2021. The webinar, titled “US-China Relations: A Decoupling World?”, was moderated by Dr Collin Koh Swee Lean, coordinator of the US Programme. The expert panel comprised Professor Yan Liang, Willamette University, USA; Ms Naomi Wilson of the US-based Information Technology Industry Council; and Assistant Professor Chin-Hao Huang, Yale-NUS College, Singapore.

As President Biden’s foreign policy begins to take shape, the key concern articulated by the panellists was whether the United States and China can strike a balance and achieve healthy competition in their pursuit of their respective national and economic security interests. Prof Liang offered the cautiously optimistic outlook that competitive recoupling would take place under the Biden administration. Her view was based on the assumption that President Biden’s foreign policy agenda in the areas of international peacekeeping and climate change required multilateral cooperation with China.

Diverging from Prof Liang’s position, Ms Wilson anticipated extensive decoupling in the technology sector, with the United States rebalancing its economy and making a policy shift away from merely combating market access restrictions. She saw the sweeping executive orders on China’s TikTok and WeChat under President Trump as emblematic of an emerging trend of data decoupling.

Ms Wilson’s outlook was shared by Prof Huang. He expected that decoupling — and, in particular, China’s reorientation from export-led economic growth to domestic-driven growth — would present the Southeast Asian countries with opportunities to engage in diversified partnerships.

Catch it here on the RSISVideoCast YouTube channel:

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