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Sino-US rivalry must not become a self-fulfilling prophecy [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2020-5-28 18:09:16 |Display all floors

On May 20, the US Department of Defense issued a report, "United States Strategic Approach to the People's Republic of China", which signifies the US engagement policy with China has failed. The report says that, instead of reciprocating the benefits it has received, China has persistently posed a challenge to the US in economic, values and security fields in the past 20 years. The report also lists various measures the US administration has taken to counter China.

As this report was posted on the White House website, the US seems to view the present China-US relations as a "new Cold War", in which China is the US' arch rival. The US Defense Department, however, has argued that Washington is still interested in working with Beijing, but through a "clear-eyed""principled realism" based on four pillars-protecting the American people, homeland and way of life; promoting US prosperity; preserving peace through strength; and advancing US influence.

China-US relations are deteriorating by the day, and many observers in the US believe China is igniting a "new Cold War". In the US, for instance, many agree with the Defense Department report.

So what is the Chinese narrative?

Economically, the US is neglecting the principle of multilateralism and liberalism by violating the rules and procedures of the World Trade Organization. With the US breaching WTO rules and trying to sabotage its operations, China, the European Union and other members of the WTO have to figure out an alternative arbitration system to ensure the WTO can operate to its full capacity. The US does have the right to lodge complaints against other WTO members including China, but by blocking the WTO's normal operations, it is posing a threat to the world economy.

On values, China, the US and all the other economies have their own merits and features, as well as similarities and differences. Thanks to reform and opening-up, China has for long supported a plural and multilateral international community, and opposed countries trying to impose their values on others. China's present national narrative is one of building a community with a shared future for mankind, and although its discourse may not be accepted by all countries yet, its policy to not force other countries to follow its ideology or political system is in contrast to that of the US, and has been recognized by the rest of the world.

Washington should not feel disappointed because China has not become a US-style "democracy", and should not try to play the role of a missionary and take upon itself the onus of spreading the "gospel" and convert others to its "faith". That said, it doesn't mean China is opposed to democracy. Over time, China has established its own political structure that suits its real conditions. China's efforts, like those of many other countries, have twists, and it is willing to learn from other countries' advanced governance to improve its own, but the US has no right to preach it what is right and what is wrong.

In the field of security, Beijing faces many challenges, especially the challenge of Washington meddling in Taiwan.

Although the US has recognized, since 1979, the People's Republic of China as the sole and only legitimate representative of China, Taiwan included, it has grossly violated the international law by passing laws to defend the island, and lately addressed the island leader as the "president". And while the Pentagon report accuses Beijing of "weapons proliferation", the fact is, the US is the world's top arms exporter. The report even brags about selling $10 billion of US advanced weapons to the island in 2019 to counter the Chinese mainland. Which makes it clear which country is undercutting the other country's security.

While the US administration has many concerns vis-à-vis China's "unfair" approach toward it, China has no fewer complaints against the US. Therefore, the two sides would do good to try and find ways to overcome their differences. In this regard, the Pentagon report's appeal for result-orientated interaction between the two sides to prevent the mutual perception as rivals from becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy deserves greater attention.

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Post time 2020-5-28 21:17:21 |Display all floors

If US were try to defy natural process of improvement, then US ought to take a serious hard look at those around it.
It is not US that is advancing quickly, but the others around US are improving fast and catching up to the point that they form a circle around US.
US is still the single most advanced and richest nation on Earth but its competitors are keener than before especially with US companies flocking overseas to help make others compete with those in US.
US must not complain but engage in the process that will propel itself and shoot to the next higher plateau so that it will always be out of reach and lead the rest of the pack than kicking those who are processing too fast!
Only idiots like US President Donald John Trump that thinks he is The Greatest will fall with disgrace and shame!

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Post time 2020-5-29 22:24:51 |Display all floors
Already Fulfilled. Stop wasting the next 500 years tying to solve the unsolvable.The Russians have tried to find acceptancein the west for 300 years+ without success. Learn from history.

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Post time 2020-6-18 18:32:52 |Display all floors


Westerners talk about China being "more assertive in challenging western interests" without telling us what these interests are. All important international institutions like the World Bank, IMF and WTO are run by westerners since WW2, eight decades ago. The Asians have risen and they want to claim their rightful place in the sun. Is this also part of challenging western interest?

China is particular has no interest in being the global leader unlike the US. It has no interest in exporting its system of government. It doesn't moralise to the world about the superiority of its social system or ideology. It merely wants to trade.

But look at how the western world is treating Huawei. As to Hong Kong, it is about time the British come off its high horse. Hong Kong was seized from China in 1842 because the Chinese refuse to allow the Brits to import opium to poison the Chinese.  And for 155 years, until 1997, the UK never granted the Hong Kong people the right to choose their governor.  But after they had left they preach democracy to Hong Kong people.


The US has within its sole discretion the choice to be a well-remunerated leader of prosperous international cooperation or to continue down the path to a Sparta-like militarized state.

The problem is not China but rather a problem of America's own making, the great American Empire Inc of the foreign policy establishment and the Pentagon-led military industrial complex.

The US has in recent decades underwritten huge opportunity losses by spending trillions trying to sustain a completely cash-draining American Empire Inc across the 1.8 billion person Muslim world, the net result of which has been to build up vast reservoirs of enmity against America.

Unfortunately, American foreign policy and military elites, and powerful and wealthy forces behind them, see a militarized rivalry with China as necessary to sustain their power over the vast funds being appropriated in Washington DC or the vast tax breaks that enrich the top 1 percent who support the current power configuration in Washington.

The corrupt islands of power are in Washington DC, not the South China Sea.

It's a very rigged game. One wonders whether the vast democratic power of American voters can overcome it.  American political parties as well as their people are so divided that they need a common enemy to unite. And China is their easy target.


The US's self-created its myth of "Exceptionalism" in order to exclude itself from judgment by any international forum, be it the International Criminal Court, the ICJ, or the WTO Appellate Body.  Such an order has a built-in instability - one law for me and another for the rest! Never works.

Not to be left out is the giant Ponzi scheme the US set up and continues to indulge by abusing its "exorbitant privilege" of the US dollar, blocking all possibilities of alternatives.  

The US lost a priceless opportunity to construct along with others a just and equitable international order when the Berlin Wall fell.  Instead, it declared "the end of history" (whatever that nonsense implied) and a "unipolar" world.  And then it set its killing machines to work on the poor helpless of the Middle East in an effort to grab resources.

Well the Chinese have learnt their lesson from all this. And Mr Putin has indeed learnt his amply too.  The US has sown the wind, and now there is the harvest of the whirlwind that approaches.


For the past 150 years since the Treaty of Nanking, China has been rightly or wrongly at the mercy of the West and later to an industrialised Japan culminating to a century of self-doubt;  at one point some intellectuals suggested that the Chinese script be scrapped altogether, culminating in the Cultural Revolution of ultimate self destruction.

Yet, if one would pay a visit to China today, you would still find a nation of mostly optimistic, pragmatic, empathetic and above all, one of the liveliest peoples considering the tectonic societal, economic and cultural changes affecting everyone within a single generation.

Like it or not, many of the best and the brightest and some of the younger generation who are Western-educated passed, filtered and rose to the current government.

It is not really about ideology per se, nor about surpassing the West, least of all about defeating the West, but it is about not repeating another century of turmoil that saw their parents and grandparents’ generations suffer from internal factionalism whilst at the mercy of others.


It's like Allison's thesis on how a status-quo power like the US sees all sorts of ghosts under its own bed when it sees over its own shoulders a fast emerging power like the current China.

And that usually ends in disaster. However, the Chinese are not planning to play the role which the west had allotted for any emerging power throughout history. And for the following reasons:

1- China has no desire to be hegemonic over anyone.  In fact, defensive alliance systems of the kind the West has had ever since 1945 such as NATO are not what China has ever minded to build although she could easily afford to do so;

2- China has a historical conception of her place in the world which will be not to be under any "international" state order in which she didn't participate in or didn't co-write.

The US-led post WWII order has thus been viewed as such. But China will trade and deal with the rest of the world on the basis of a "mutual reciprocity" sort of global dealing but not on the basis of what international order others have already designed.   

From China's perspective, the current Western-led order that facilitated the current version of globalization is essentially a "contingent of time" or a "confluence of circumstances" which had allowed the West in particular the US to create this current system to suit their inherent interests, norms, and values.      

3- Wars and hegemonic acts are for losers since no nation can subdue another nation, least of all the US which had bled for many decades hand-over-fist in its empire business in Afghanistan and much of the Middle East.

This presages that China is not about to unilaterally embark on such futile stuff to try and "replicate" the US' military example yet some of the west's strategy thinkers still think otherwise.

4- What China is building is a world-wide commercial and manufacturing arrangement with the largest foot-print in the world and that will be a resilient system even in the midst of de-coupling by the US.

This means that as the rate of China's export to the West, and the US in particular, decreases because of de-coupling of the supply-chain, what will increase will be the foot-print of China's trades with the Southern Hemisphere and the Developing Countries.

And that will increase (on a year-by-year basis) and will gradually take the place where the developed world globalized trade of goods with China used to be at the present-time.  This transition has been happening for some time now. The pandemic and the US withdrawal from its globalized trading arrangement with China will only accelerate it further.

The transactional diktat of the US with others will only hollow out the US influence like a doughnut so that it will become more inward as time progresses. Meanwhile, the rest of the world will move on to a new version of globalization that is more multi-geometric rather than US-centric with regards goods, services, capital flows, currencies, internet, mobility and geospecific issues. The rubric of the planet will then become more diversified, more cooperative, less angst-antsy and freer from the geopolitical machinations of the west's North Atlantic regional block.

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Post time 2020-6-18 19:10:00 |Display all floors


A two-player rivalry is a less useful mental model for current world problems, as there are many more state players who can engage each other and have an effect on the modern world.  Even the "great powers" model of a number of competing major states may be less applicable to the modern period than many people think.

Simple measures of the flow of international capital or amount of trade may make the modern period seem similar to that pre-WW1.  But the nature of these flows was very different. In Keynes 'Economic Consequences Of The Peace' (written post-WWI) you will see that Germany's imports were still largely raw materials (eg cotton) and exports were simple industrial and chemicals.  Contrast this with modern vehicles, consumer electronics, or pharmaceuticals, which may involve thousands of manufacturing steps, with hundreds of intermediate parts sourced worldwide.

It is much easier to fight a war where cutting edge technology is simple firearms, which can be produced without reliance on international supply chains.  It is much harder to fight a war where cutting edge weaponry is stealth bombers and cutting edge medicine costs billions and takes years to develop - and both are dependent on people and parts sourced elsewhere.

So while there are more states playing on the international arena, there are also fewer states which can effectively deploy a modern military for any length of time.  Given the increasing reliance of the US on China for many parts, it may be that there are currently none.


China has enjoyed catch-up growth, which allows countries to enjoy a higher rate of growth than those already at the "technological frontier".

Kissinger argues that the best way to overcome both fears is for the US and China to describe their relationship as a co-evolution, i.e. a gradual growth of new world roles on a cooperative basis.

When Biden knocks, China’s door will be open.  Until then, Trump’s war of words against China will continue, but that is for his US base, and should be ignored.


The three signs of a superpower’s death rattle:

1. Trade wars and protectionism
2. Physical wars and de-globalization
3. Excessive spending and cheap credit

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Post time 2020-6-25 19:06:47 |Display all floors


China has a different political system but it did not seek to convert others to its ideology unlike US.

Its troubles with neighbouring regions all have historical roots, not that it's becoming more expansionist.  Take for example the South China Sea, its claim dates back way before the 80s but nobody took it seriously.

Does China go around the world invade other countries like US?

It's hard to argue or support the myth that China seeks to dominate the world when one compares the Chinese and American state actions.

Can you blame China for military upgrading when it's surrounded by American military bases in Asia, American spy planes flying over its coastline constantly, all while American military spending tops the next 5-10 countries combined?

Likewise, Western narrative likes to attribute Chinese economic development to theft of intellectual property and cheap labor, with no mention of sound government policies, hardwork of the Chinese people and now, yes, real innovation of its scientists and engineers.

Why is there no other 3rd world country that's able to achieve China's prosperity, even though they have cheaper labor and allegedly lax IP protection?

There's so much prejudice against China. Maybe it's racism that's at work when so many in US like to view ascending China as adversary. The US just can't stand NOT being able to "dominate" other countries.


The pathway that the US took was one of capital markets focused on immediate profits, no matter what.  China took the path of a 50-year plan to rise without much regard to immediate profits.

In other words, China has built a massive infrastructure, largely financed by the government, which they have leveraged to set upon their path of re-emergence.  The US, on the other hand, has cannibalized its own infrastructure through massive tax cuts and lack on investment in physical things that have tangible value.  Instead, they built a massive financial machine that produces no physical goods but produces gigantic profits for those who just move money from one pile to the other.


China did not overreach, they just outperformed whilst the US underperformed and does not like it.

It is painful to accept the fact the after having been for so long number 1 in business, science ,culture and power to see another rising as peer.

China which was run by intellectuals already 3000 years ago when the US forefathers were still cavemen has woken up and probably will continue to outperform. Will the US mourn or unlike the British trigger a war of civilizations where everybody loses?

The US may be better off if it works on a realistic arrangement which avoids confrontations and is of mutual benefit

America can become great again if it abandons its plantation-style economy and create an equitable, egalitarian, and just Society where its workers are treated with dignity and paid living wages and provided with a real social safety net.

The US should never forget there are plenty of other developed countries who still engage in sufficient manufacturing, and manage to pay their workers fairly and yet make a reasonable profit, including Germany, Japan, Sth Korea, etc...  There is no reason why the U.S. or other nations can't return to that over the next few decades.


History is filled with presumptive superpowers who seemed invincible and then fizzed out. Some examples - Spain, Portugal, England, France, Holland, Germany, Japan..

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Post time 2020-6-27 15:27:52 |Display all floors
markwu Post time: 2020-6-25 19:06


Thank you for this excellent article.

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