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Foreign Policy

Anti-China Alliances: Boon or Boondoggle?

Apr 28, 2021
  • Wu Zurong

    Research Fellow, China Foundation for Int'l Studies

The Biden administration has started to carry out its strategy of building alliances to counter China, breaking with the raw pugilism of the Trump administration.

On a multilateral level, Biden has further upgraded U.S. cooperation with the Quad — America, Japan, Australia and India. He has tried hard to strengthen the alliance with Japan and the Republic of Korea and worked to repair the transatlantic relationship with Europe, with emphasis on expanding the role of NATO in the Indo-Pacific region.

On the bilateral level, the U.S. has done its utmost when it comes to Japan, but also with Australia, the Philippines, the ROK, the United Kingdom and Canada. It is planning to set up a new alliance of democracies to deter China’s growing political, diplomatic and cultural influence in the world. New high-tech alliances, along with economic and trade elements have also been under review. As the sole superpower in the world, the U.S. has embarked on a dangerous road to divide the globe, and the effort will have far-reaching consequences.

First, the U.S. strategy of alliance building against China is based on two fatal strategic misjudgments. One is that the Biden administration believes that it can succeed in containing China’s rise by establishing an anti-China global alliance. It has failed to understand that China’s rise is determined by basic internal factors, such as 1.4 billion industrious, intelligent people, the wise and strong leadership of the Communist Party of China, great unity of the whole country and good governance in political, economic, cultural and legal fields. The external environment is certainly important, but it is secondary.

The Biden administration also dbelieves that the inevitable rise of China is a challenge or a threat to the U.S. and other parts of the world. In fact, the U.S. should regard it as natural for China to surpass it in economic development sooner or later, as it has a population four times as large as the U.S. The Cold War mentality and zero-sum game logic should be discarded when assessing the development trends of the two countries in this economically globalized earth village. 

Second, how vigorously the Biden administration implements its alliance strategy against China will indicate the speed at which it is moving to the wrong side of history. Although the U.S. alliance strategy is doomed to failure, the damage could be huge to the two countries and other parts of the world as Biden works to implement it.

The obstinately dramatic anti-China actions of the Trump administration caused turbulence in the Sino-U.S. relations and the world, but China stood firm and continued to develop. Likewise, the vigorous implementation of the alliance strategy will likely give rise to sharp confrontations between the two countries, with much-needed beneficial cooperation put on the back burner.

Moreover, the world would find it hard to make joint efforts to deal with common global challenges. It would most probably be divided into four main groups: supporters of China, supporters of the U.S., those who won’t join any alliance against China and those who remain neutral. The erroneous actions of the United States would certainly would find little support, and the country would be held accountable by history for the damage.

Third, the concept of allies has fundamentally changed in the multipolar world under economically globalized conditions. The traditional concept of allies of the U.S. is no exception, and America has to learn how to adapt to it. The most distinct feature is the pluralistic nature of the national interests of every sovereign state. Since the end of World War II, the world has entered an era of peace, although limited regional wars have never been ceased. There have been no global wars between major powers.

Almost all traditional alliances of the U.S. were made dozens of years ago. Today, those countries don’t find the same enemies as the U.S. does. They don’t face the same immediate military threat of war from any major power or group of major powers. Therefore, the U.S. and its military allies have limited common ground on which to fight a war. The alliances will decline when no major wars in the foreseeable future.

Fourth, by observing the actions of U.S.-led alliances, it seems clear that those alliances are mostly hostile to China. They are currently engaged in three kinds of activities: One is that they intend to provoke an ideological war against China with a focus on disputes about human rights. Under this pretext, the U.S. hopes to demonize China and stir up turmoil and divisions in China as a means to hold China down. The other is that it has repeatedly tried to make big stories about old differences between the two countries — for example, on issues related to Taiwan and the South China Sea.

Another is that it has used every possible means to sow discord between China and its neighbors by taking advantage of the territorial differences left over from history. The U.S. understands that it cannot count on any benefits from those old tricks, as China will never make any compromises in matters concerning its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

It is worth pondering why the U.S. has worked so hard to make as much trouble as possible in areas around China. Quite obviously, the U.S. intends to destabilize the region and take advantage of this destabilization by making money through increasing its regional sales of arms and by creating pretexts for increasing its military budget.

U.S. policymakers need to be cool-headed and stop repeating such futile and foolish actions. They need to cooperate with China in ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. 

Fifth, alliances in high-tech, trade and economy will not go as far as the U.S. hopes because of the fact that its presumed allies don’t share the same interests or goals as the U.S. in those areas. The U.S. does not have enough resources to compensate for the losses its allies suffer for helping maintain its sole leadership position in the world. The U.S. has already seen negative consequences, as U.S. automobile manufacturers now have to reduce production because of the Trump administration’s restrictions on sales of semiconductor chips worldwide. No one is sure what loses U.S. businesses will suffer as policymakers entrench themselves selfish approaches that can only result in harm to global supply and industry chains. The Biden administration should remember the globalized nature of the world economy.

For the sake of the shared interests of the human family, the U.S., as the sole superpower, needs to take on serious responsibilities together with China and all other countries for global governance and deal with urgent challenges, including the suppression of the COVID-19 pandemic and a reinvigoration of the world economy. U.S. efforts to establish global anti-China alliances can only bring disaster to the U.S. and the rest of mankind.

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