What’s at stake: A military accident or strategic miscalculation could quickly spark a conflagration.
- An accidental in-flight collision between a U.S. spy plane and a Chinese military jet in April 2001 set bilateral relations on edge, but the conflict was eventually resolved through painstaking diplomatic efforts on both sides.
- If such an accident happened right now, “the political crisis could escalate very quickly. Both sides would use such a crisis to rally their own people in support of their own position and to protect their own interests,” said Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
A senior U.S. administration official told Axios the U.S. wants “constructive, results-oriented engagement” with China, but said Beijing was deploying state propaganda and conspiracy theories to deflect blame.
- “The United States calls upon the Communist Party of China to opt for greater transparency and partner constructively in the global effort to fight a common threat,” said the official.
- “We call on the U.S. to stop finger pointing at China,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said on March 17. “The utmost priority is for the international community to cooperate on fighting the virus.”
What to watch: The Chinese government is now sending medical equipment and advisory teams to countries around the world. The U.S., on the other hand, has made few attempts to lead a global response. If the trend continues, it could mark a major victory in China’s bid to be seen as a global leader that can rival the United States.
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