De­trac­tors drive US bit­ter­ness against China

Global Times US Edition - - FORUM - By Zhao Ming­hao

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s China ap­proach trig­gered a new round of de­bates within the US, with both sides of the aisle ex­press­ing their views through open let­ters to US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. Amid grow­ing bi­lat­eral ten­sions, the US nar­ra­tive on China is be­ing meta­mor­phosed.

On one side are well-known schol­ars and for­mer gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials who have long stud­ied China. They sug­gest that China is not an en­emy and the US ap­proach must be based on a re­al­is­tic ap­praisal of Chi­nese per­cep­tions, in­ter­ests, goals and be­hav­ior. They also be­lieve that many US moves are con­tribut­ing di­rectly to re­la­tions en­ter­ing a tail­spin. The open let­ter they signed is in­tended to show “there is no sin­gle Wash­ing­ton con­sen­sus en­dors­ing an over­all ad­ver­sar­ial stance to­ward China.”

On the other side are for­mer US mil­i­tary and in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials as well as hawk­ish China watch­ers. They have urged the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to stay the course on its path of coun­ter­ing China, em­pha­siz­ing that the strate­gic in­ter­ests of China and the US are “an­ti­thet­i­cal.” That open let­ter was writ­ten by James E. Fanell, for­mer di­rec­tor of in­tel­li­gence and in­for­ma­tion op­er­a­tions for the US Pa­cific Fleet, who has long ac­cused China of pre­par­ing for war. The sig­na­to­ries in­clude China de­trac­tors

such as Gordon Chang, who have been pre­dict­ing the com­ing collapse of China.

The de­bate indicates that there are vary­ing per­cep­tions on China within the US. Mil­i­tary and in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials are used to think­ing about the worst-case sce­nario. Lack­ing ad­e­quate knowl­edge, they tend to com­pare China to his­tor­i­cal ad­ver­saries of the US: Nazi Ger­many and the for­mer Soviet Union. This un­doubt­edly will lead to strate­gic blind­ness. Fanell wrote in the open let­ter: “In our po­lit­i­cal sys­tem, pol­i­tics is the norm, and war is the ex­cep­tion. It is ex­plic­itly the op­po­site in the PRC’S world­view.” Any­one who has some knowl­edge about the his­tory of Amer­i­can wars will find such a view ridicu­lous.

What riles Chi­nese an­a­lysts is Wash­ing­ton’s new ide­o­log­i­cal fusil­lade against China with the Com­mu­nist Party of China in the cross hairs. This will un­der­mine the foundation of bi­lat­eral re­la­tions. Although the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion de­fined China as a strate­gic com­peti­tor, it has in fact treated China like an en­emy. But ac­cord­ing to late Har­vard po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist Sa­muel P. Hunt­ing­ton, “The ideal en­emy for Amer­ica would be ide­o­log­i­cally hos­tile, racially and cul­tur­ally dif­fer­ent and mil­i­tar­ily strong enough to pose a cred­i­ble threat to Amer­i­can se­cu­rity.”

From 2008 when the US be­gan to hype up “state cap­i­tal­ism” to a de­bate about China’s so-called sharp power in 2017 and warn­ings against a “clash of civ­i­liza­tions” with China in 2019, the US per­cep­tion of the “China threat,” es­pe­cially in ide­ol­ogy, has reached new heights. Var­i­ous fac­tions which sup­port a tough ap­proach for China have closed ranks to up the pres­sure on Bei­jing. For in­stance, they re­cently ac­cused China of techno-au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is seek­ing to ra­tio­nal­ize its con­fronta­tional ap­proach by pur­posely re­shap­ing US so­ci­ety’s per­cep­tion of China. Unlike its pre­de­ces­sors, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion pays lit­tle at­ten­tion to opin­ions of think tank ex­perts in its pol­i­cy­mak­ing for China. White House in­sid­ers Peter Navarro and other an­tichina hawks are only willing to en­gage with schol­ars such as Michael Pills­bury, writer of The Hun­dred-year Marathon: China’s Se­cret Strat­egy to Re­place Amer­ica as the Global Su­per­power.

US Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo once served as the di­rec­tor of the Cen­tral In­tel­li­gence Agency, which is largely be­hind his deep-rooted hos­til­ity against China. Wor­ries about a clash of civ­i­liza­tions with China are dom­i­nat­ing dis­cus­sion on China within the US State Depart­ment. US na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser John Bolton has not yet vis­ited China since he as­sumed the po­si­tion. Of­fi­cials in charge of China af­fairs in the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, the State Depart­ment and the Pen­tagon are al­most all anti-china hawks.

There is no doubt that for quite a few US pol­icy elite mem­bers, China has sur­passed Rus­sia to be­come a thorny diplo­matic topic in the medium to long term. As US schol­ars Jonathan D. Pol­lack and Jef­frey A. Bader wrote in their ar­ti­cle “Look­ing be­fore we leap: Weigh­ing the risks of Us-china dis­en­gage­ment,” to many Amer­i­cans, “the defin­ing ques­tion is no longer how to man­age re­la­tions with China, but how to coun­ter­act and (if pos­si­ble) im­pede China’s ad­vance to ma­jor-power sta­tus.”

Bei­jing has clearly rec­og­nized this change. But con­fronta­tion is never a sen­si­ble solution. To avoid the two big pow­ers even­tu­ally falling out, more talks are needed now. Keep­ing de­bates open can in­ject more re­silience into pol­i­cy­mak­ing. How­ever, it’s wor­ry­ing that Wash­ing­ton now has been shrouded in a new red scare. The au­thor is a se­nior re­search fel­low at the Charhar In­sti­tute and an ad­junct fel­low at the Chongyang In­sti­tute for Fi­nan­cial Stud­ies at Ren­min Univer­sity of China. opin­[email protected]­al­times.com. cn

Il­lus­tra­tion: Liu RUI/GT

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