Country Reports

As 2020 began, Chinese authors were busy not only summing up the far-reaching results of 2019 but also putting them in broad analytical perspective. China’s other bilateral relations had slipped as a focus, secondary to the telling impact of the transformative core of the international order—the Sino-US nexus. Sino-Russian relations paled in significance. Relations with both Japan and South Korea were mostly derivative, subject to adjustment if the core nexus shifted. Yet the big question remained to be answered: Given the challenges from Trump’s policies as well as defiance from Taiwan and Hong Kong, would Xi opt for a hardline response or seek to calm tensions in 2020? As the pandemic raged in the first part of 2020, would Xi feel chastened about China’s role or see an opening to be more aggressive to drown out criticism at home and take advantage of US self-isolation and weakness while others remained preoccupied?

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