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Issue Brief January 19, 2021

How the rest of the world responds to the US-China split

By Hung Tran

 This paper is a sequel to the Issue Brief One World, Two Systems Take Shape During the Pandemic (September 8, 2020)—but can be read on its own

 The election of Joe Biden as the forty-sixth US president is not expected to change the list of substantive issues dividing the United States and China, such as trade, investment, technology, geopolitical competition, national security, and human rights—except that the priority among them may change, with human rights concerns moving more to the forefront. 

 However, the tone and modality of the unfolding of the US-China competition will change from Donald Trump’s unilateralism to Biden’s efforts to build alliances with “likeminded” countries in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere to deal with the challenges China has posed. In a way, Biden’s alliance-building approach may intensify pressure on the rest of the world to take sides. How countries respond to this challenge, unwelcome by most, depends on whether they see themselves as competitors to China, or as “price takers” in the international economic system. 

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