Asia Global Institute
US-China Relations Under Stress: Strategic Competition in a Pandemic

US-China Relations Under Stress: Strategic Competition in a Pandemic

Friday, June 5, 2020

Zhiwu Chen, Alejandro T Reyes, Susan Shirk, David Arase

AGI Lectures

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US-China Relations Under Stress: Strategic Competition in a Pandemic

Watch the replay here

Key takeaways:

• Hong Kong is caught in the middle of the US-China rivalry. Consequently, Hong Kong’s autonomy and role in global trade are being compromised.

• Xi Jinping is driving nationalistic sentiment at home to secure his authority. With countries under stress due to Covid-19, Beijing reckons that it can be even more assertive in its foreign policy, but it may be over-reaching.

• The US has also been acting more assertively both with traditional allies as well as rivals. Washington’s defiance of the rules-based international order has given legitimacy to China’s leadership style and given Xi the opportunity to push China’s more robust strategic agenda.

• Heightened US-China tensions could be temporary as being tough on China, especially in the context of the coronavirus, plays well in the US election campaign. The pandemic is accelerating trends already in play including the decoupling efforts of both countries. Engagement between them is on hold. Their policies and behavior have diminished mutual trust and undermined their moral authority in the world.

• The US-China strategic competition is forcing countries in the region to make difficult choices. Long-term, China and the US must focus on returning to a more cooperative relationship.

About the Speakers

Chair Professor of Finance, the University of Hong Kong

Zhiwu Chen

Professor Zhiwu Chen is Chair Professor of Finance and Cheng Yu-Tung Professor in Development at the University of Hong Kong (HKU).

Scholar-In-Residence, Asia Society Hong Kong

Alejandro T Reyes

Research Professor and Chair, 21st Century China Center, School of Global Policy and Strategy, University of California San Diego

Susan Shirk

Susan Shirk is research professor and chair of the 21st Century China Center at the School of Global Policy and Strategy, University of California San Diego. 

Resident Professor of International Politics, Hopkins-Nanjing Center, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University

David Arase

David Arase is resident professor of International Politics at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.


The Covid-19 crisis has intensified the stresses on US-China relations, with Washington and Beijing challenging each other over a host of issues including the coronavirus, Hong Kong, trade, technological competition, and the activities of journalists. In this webinar, panelists will discuss the heightened tensions between the US and China, the outlook for the relationship in the run-up to the US presidential elections and beyond, and the global consequences of efforts to decouple the two economies.



Room 326-348, Main Building
The University of Hong Kong
Pokfulam, Hong Kong

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