US Vice Pres­i­dent Pence’s ‘new Cold War’ speech is a trou­bling sign

NewsChina - - EDITORIAL -

In a high- pro­file speech at the start of Oc­to­ber, US Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence launched a string of at­tacks against al­most ev­ery as­pect of China's poli­cies on trade, in­dus­try, the South China Sea, mil­i­tary ex­pen­di­ture, Tai­wan, hu­man rights, re­li­gion and cul­tural ex­changes.

Com­ing against the back­drop of es­ca­lat­ing trade fric­tion, Pence's speech, the strong­est made by a US Pres­i­dent or Vice Pres­i­dent since the nor­mal­iza­tion of Us-china re­la­tions in 1972, sparked con­cerns among diplo­mats and an­a­lysts. Some com­pared it to Win­ston Churchill's his­toric “Iron Cur­tain Speech” of 1946, which es­sen­tially be­gan the Cold War.

Given the com­plex­ity of the USChina re­la­tion­ship, dis­putes and dis­agree­ments be­tween the two na­tions are not new. But Pence's at­tack is un­prece­dented in tone.

Most no­table is that the speech re­it­er­ated ear­lier ac­cu­sa­tions, then took the at­tack fur­ther by ac­cus­ing China of med­dling in the US elec­tions with “a whole-of-gov­ern­ment ap­proach” to sway US pub­lic opin­ion. Just days be­fore, US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump had made sim­i­lar ac­cu­sa­tions, which China re­futed as “ground­less” and “slan­der.” In the US press, many de­scribed the al­le­ga­tions as far-fetched.

As ev­i­dence, Pence seized on an ad­ver­to­rial about the trade war pub­lished in a news­pa­per in Iowa and paid for by a Chi­nese me­dia out­let. But such prac­tices have long been con­sid­ered a form of “pub­lic di­plo­macy” in the US, and have been used by many na­tions. US al­lies in­clud­ing Is­rael, Saudi Ara­bia, Ja­pan and Euro­pean coun­tries have con­tracted lob­by­ists to in­flu­ence the US Congress in ways that go far fur­ther than any­thing China has al­legedly done.

Trump also hinted that China's re­tal­i­a­tion – in­creased tar­iffs on Amer­i­can agri­cul­tural prod­ucts, such as soy­beans, was an at­tempt to med­dle in the US elec­tions, as it is per­ceived to tar­get Trump's voter base. But if China's tar­iff on Amer­i­can soy­beans, an is­sue com­pletely un­der the re­mit of China, con­sti­tutes US elec­tion med­dling, what about the Euro­pean Union and Ja­pan's de­ci­sion to buy more soy­beans from the US, which ob­vi­ously pleases Trump but po­ten­tially harms Demo­cratic can­di­dates?

Pence's speech may serve a do­mes­tic agenda to pro­mote the Repub­li­can po­si­tion in the mid-term elec­tions, call­ing on vot­ers to rally be­hind Trump against a com­mon evil en­emy, China. Trump him­self has used ac­cu­sa­tions against China to dis­tract the me­dia's fo­cus away from al­le­ga­tions of Rus­sia's in­volve­ment in the US elec­tions.

The US should stop us­ing China as a scape­goat for its do­mes­tic prob­lems. Take the is­sue of trade. Main­stream econ­o­mists agree that the US trade deficit to other in­dus­trial pow­ers is not a re­sult of “un­fair deals,” but a by-prod­uct of the sta­tus of the US dol­lar be­ing a global re­serve cur­rency. This sta­tus has con­ferred on the US a range of eco­nomic and fi­nan­cial ad­van­tages such as low in­ter­est rates and high stock prices. The trade deficit is also the re­sult of the US'S lib­eral mone­tary pol­icy that spurs cap­i­tal-in­ten­sive in­dus­tries at the cost of la­bor-in­ten­sive ones, and in China's case, a ban on high-tech ex­ports to China, which dis­torts the com­ple­men­tary trade re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two coun­tries.

Un­for­tu­nately, rather than a ra­tio­nal de­bate, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has taken an in­creas­ingly fever­ish tone, re­sort­ing to emo­tion over rea­son. This tone has the po­ten­tial to trans­form into a danger­ous new form of Mc­carthy­ism. By sow­ing the seeds of Sino­pho­bia and en­cour­ag­ing the pub­lic to ques­tion any in­ter­ac­tion with China, there is a risk that Wash­ing­ton will lose its abil­ity to think ra­tio­nally about its China pol­icy. Re­ports about de­bates within the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion over whether to ban Chi­nese stu­dents al­ready hint at such a trend.

The US should think twice be­fore confronting China on ev­ery front. There is no doubt that a more con­fronta­tional ap­proach will harm China, but it would dam­age US in­ter­ests as well. Af­ter decades of glob­al­iza­tion, China has been a ma­jor player in the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity and staunch sup­porter of mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism. Treat­ing China as the num­ber one strate­gic en­emy of the US will force other coun­tries to take sides, which would have cat­a­strophic con­se­quences for global peace, sta­bil­ity and pros­per­ity.

By sow­ing the seeds of Sino­pho­bia and en­cour­ag­ing the pub­lic to ques­tion any in­ter­ac­tion with China, there is a risk that Wash­ing­ton will lose its abil­ity to think ra­tio­nally about its China pol­icy

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.