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Editorial: Law, rules needed to solve U.S.-China showdown

  • December 14, 2018
  • , Asahi , p. 14
  • JMH Translation

The U.S. and China are locking horns with each other. Their intensifying confrontation could divide the world into two groups. We hope that the U.S. and Chinese governments will stay calm to refrain from taking tit-for-tat measures that will only escalate tension.

 

The leaders of the two countries this month agreed to talk about trade friction by setting a deadline of spring next year. But immediately after that, it was found that a senior official of a major Chinese communications equipment maker was arrested in Canada at the U.S.’s request.

 

Following that incident, Canadian citizens were suddenly detained in China. Though the relationship between the arrest and the detention is unclear, it is hard to believe that the detention is not politically motivated at all. An argument between Washington and Beijing has developed into a “hostage-taking” war that involves a third country. Such a situation is strange and serious.

 

The U.S. and China are now in the midst of a competition for dominance in cutting-edge technology. They focus on cyberspace and are competing for superiority in collecting and analyzing information. It is not only a massive market but also a major battlefield for modern security.

 

The Snowden incident, which blew the whistle on a U.S. intelligence service’s monitoring, revealed the U.S.’s overwhelming power. As if to counter this, China has made rapid strides in technology.

 

In the U.S., the National Defense Authorization Act, enacted earlier this year, took pot shots at specific China-made equipment and prohibit government agencies and their contractors from using such products in the communications infrastructure field. The U.S. called on some countries to follow suit and Japan accepted the proposal along with the U.K. and Australia.

 

The U.S. could further keep its procurement of high-tech products and parts away from China.

 

It is unclear how China will act against this. Also, there is no knowing if it is possible to lock China out of a specific technological arena of the closely-interdependent international economy. Unlike in the Cold War era, “containment” is no longer possible.

 

The root cause of the problem is the inseparable relationship between Chinese companies and the communist-run government. U.S. national security adviser John Bolton recently said that negotiations with China “will certainly have a profound impact on China’s political structure.” But China may not agree with this.

 

A competition between the U.S. and China would inevitably last long. But a solution to such a problem should be sought according to international rules and within a multilateral framework. In the past, the winner of a power game used to form order. Today, however, the world should not be that way.

 

The international community needs to revamp its trade and investment norms and should create new information management standards for governments and companies which have digital data. We should take it for granted that the determination to build an international order based on laws and rules is a requirement in the days of U.S.-China confrontation.

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