Wash­ing­ton real sabo­teur of multi­na­tional sys­tem

China Daily (USA) - - COMMENT -

Un­per­sua­sive as they were to both al­lies and non-al­lies alike, United States Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo’s China-re­lated re­marks in Brus­sels en­deav­ored to in­ject some co­her­ence into Wash­ing­ton’s er­ratic for­eign pol­icy. His re­marks in a speech at the Ger­man Mar­shall Fund on Tues­day of­fer valu­able in­sights into the White House’s out­look on the present-day world.

As a spokesman for China’s For­eign Min­istry pointed out, Pom­peo’s iden­ti­fy­ing China as a “bad ac­tor” sounded in­co­her­ent with the shared in­ter­est the Chi­nese and US lead­ers dis­played in iron­ing out di­ver­gences. Let alone the near im­pos­si­bil­ity of re­build­ing a world or­der ex­clud­ing China, Rus­sia and Iran, if not oth­ers.

Pom­peo’s ad­dress might sound laugh­able to some as Wash­ing­ton seem­ingly wants to iso­late Bei­jing while it is con­stantly es­trang­ing it­self from oth­er­wise close al­lies and part­ners. Even as he tried to re­as­sure US al­lies of Wash­ing­ton’s cred­i­bil­ity as a trust­wor­thy part­ner, Pom­peo again dis­par­aged mul­ti­lat­eral in­ter­na­tional in­sti­tu­tions, from the United Na­tions to the Euro­pean Union.

His ac­cu­sa­tions against China, from it al­legedly tak­ing ad­van­tage of loop­holes in the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion rules to “un­der­min­ing” the in­ter­na­tional or­der, have been heard be­fore and were made on the same shaky grounds. Bei­jing has come up with force­ful and valid re­torts, backed up with the ev­i­dence that it has faith­fully honored its WTO obli­ga­tions, and is an adamant de­fender of mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism as well as the post-war in­ter­na­tional or­der — both of which the Trump White House seems in­tent on sab­o­tag­ing.

What Wash­ing­ton has done and is do­ing to the in­ter­na­tional or­der, as well as to Bei­jing, is there for ev­ery­one to see.

But the words Pom­peo ut­tered in Brus­sels do mean some­thing. When it comes to Wash­ing­ton’s per­cep­tion of China, Pom­peo’s state­ments share the same thread run­ning through the US Na­tional Se­cu­rity Strat­egy and Na­tional De­fense Strat­egy re­ports and US Vice-Pres­i­dent Mike Pence’s ear­lier speech be­rat­ing China.

They do not ap­pear in of­fi­cial agree­ments. They may even con­tra­dict White House an­nounce­ments. Even the US pres­i­dent’s tweets. But they do mean things. They point to an un­spo­ken turn in US for­eign pol­icy think­ing fea­tur­ing un­prece­dented vig­i­lance against China. A shift that will have last­ing im­pacts on the US’ China pol­icy and China-US re­la­tions.

If Wash­ing­ton does man­age to por­tray Bei­jing as bending or rewrit­ing in­ter­na­tional rules against US and Western in­ter­ests, and hence at­tempt to “re­build” an in­ter­na­tional or­der that seeks to ex­clude China, a stand­off will be dif­fi­cult to avoid.

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