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China is a competitor to the U.S. — not an adversary, professor says

A man wearing a face mask as a preventive measure against the Covid-19 coronavirus walks along a pedestrian street in Shanghai on October 23, 2020.

Hector Retamal | AFP | Getty Images

SINGAPORE — Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is right in characterizing China as a competitor rather than an adversary, a professor told CNBC this week.

Anthony Arend of Georgetown University made these comments after both Biden and U.S. President Donald Trump’s gave separate interviews on 60 Minutes by CBS News.

Both men said they considered China a competitor, but Trump also said the Asian country is “a foe in many ways” and an “adversary,” according to CBS.

“I think Biden has it correct, it is much more of a competition rather than an adversarial relationship,” Arend told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Tuesday.

We can’t defeat China. We have to engage China. We have to criticize where necessary, but we have to try to cooperate where possible.

Anthony Arend

Georgetown University

The U.S. has to recognize that, whether they like it or not, China is a “great power,” he said. At the same time, China is violating human rights and making “ridiculous assertions of jurisdictional claims” in the South China Sea, he added.

“So you have to hold them to task for that, but respect the fact that they are a great power and that we can’t just ignore them or deal with them as if they were a minor actor in the international system,” said Arend.

He added that the term “adversary” is wrong because it conveys the idea that China can be defeated.

“We can’t defeat China. We have to engage China,” he said. “We have to criticize where necessary, but we have to try to cooperate where possible.”

The U.S. and China have been locked in a trade war with both countries slapping tariffs on the other country’s goods. Technology is also becoming a battleground for the two countries.

While China is not an adversary, it is the “greatest” threat to the U.S. where geopolitics is concerned, Arend said.

“I would say China presents the broadest geopolitical threat because of their power, their influence and their ability to extend globally,” he said.

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