China is facing not just a trade war with the US but an assault on all fronts. Can it survive, and even thrive?


Andrew K.P. Leung says the US is confronting China in multiple arenas, ranging from technology to Taiwan to the South China Sea.

While the world anxiously watches the US-China trade talks unfold, there has been all-out resistance against the perceived “China threat”, albeit with uncertain results.

Following a series of national security and defence reviews, there is bipartisan consensus in the US on the need for an anti-China confrontation. China’s rise is regarded as being at America’s expense.

After joining the West-led liberal trading system, not only has China not become more like the West, but it is perceived to be not playing fair, while turning more authoritarian and assertive. Additionally, it now threatens to eat America’s lunch at the technological top table.

To what extent can China withstand this assault on all fronts?

First, amid the trade war, a Politburo meeting in late October underscored the need for “stabilisation” in six areas – employment, finance, investment, foreign capital, foreign trade and expectations.

By adding 3,200km (1,988 miles) to its high-speed rail network in 2019, China will have over 30,000km (18,641 miles) of express railway lines by 2020, accelerating the linking of urban regions. Other stimulus measures include a medium-term lending facility to help private businesses.

While growth is expected to slow from 6.6 per cent in 2018 to 6.3 per cent in 2019, the weakest in 29 years, the rate is still respectable.

Steps such as buying more American agricultural products and energy, reducing China’s tariffs, opening up markets in finance, insurance and foreign ownership, protecting intellectual property and reducing subsidies of state-owned enterprises coincide with what China needs to boost long-term productivity.

Thus, while Beijing will not abandon its development model and technological advances, a meaningful deal with the US remains probable.