In an interview with Caixin (May 18) Yan Xuetong, Dean of the Institute of International Relations at Tsinghua University and general secretary of the Beijing-based World Peace Forum, anticipated that that the U.S. and China will compete over the coronavirus vaccine and digital technology, including advanced telecommunications networks. He said "The fiercer China-U.S. tech competition gets, the less likely it is that they will resort to proxy wars for dominance on natural and geographic terms. It's not because they don't want to use the proxy war strategy, but because it's not a feasible way to compete in a digital era." Yan Xuetong believed that the world's two largest economies won't go to war over issues such as the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, despite high tensions. "It's less likely that there will be a military mishap in those areas. Even if it happens, the relevant parties will be able to swiftly contain it and avoid letting it escalate into a war." He said now "the three parties including the U.S., Chinese mainland and Taiwan region have all had their military activities under strict control." None of the parties would intentionally engage in a conflict in either the South China Sea or Taiwan Strait. Yan Xuetong said that the Covid-19 pandemic, which has infected over 4.3 million people and killed over 300,000 globally, will drive the two countries to focus on technological dominance. He argued that the country that develops a working Covid-19 vaccine first will have a psychological advantage, but the vaccine race will only last three years at most while competition in digital technology will rumble on for 20 years at least. As China is already leading in 5G technology, the U.S. will choose to focus its competition on the next generation of network technology, 6G. "But the U.S. wants to stall our 5G advancement by creating obstacles." Yan Xuetong suggested that China should shift its overseas competition strategy from a focus on traditional infrastructure expansion to digital network construction. He said cross-border infrastructure including roads and railways should not be prioritised in an era dominated by digital technology.

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