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Foreign Policy

Clash of Two Visions

Apr 18, 2021
  • Su Jingxiang

    Fellow, China Institutes for Contemporary International Relations

The White House released its interim national security strategic guidance in early March, explicitly listing China as a target on America’s geostrategic agenda. It makes China-U.S. strategic competition a more open and clear reality.

Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. has sought to establish a “unipolar world,” a so-called new world order dominated by itself. Its defense planning guidance, a programmatic document for post-Cold War U.S. global strategy that was issued by the U.S. Department of Defense in 1992 states that, “America’s political and military mission in the post-Cold War era will be to ensure that no rival superpower is allowed to emerge in Western Europe, Asia or the territories of the former Soviet Union.” It also says U.S. leaders “must maintain the mechanisms” to deter competitors from challenging U.S. hegemony, and identifies China and Russia as the major threats to the United States, with Russia defined as “the only power in the world with the capacity of destroying the United States.”

In 1997, former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski published his famous book “The Grand Chessboard,” which outlined U.S. geostrategy. He emphasized that “how America ‘manages’ Eurasia is critical”; that the world’s three most advanced and economically productive regions are in Eurasia; that “control over Eurasia would almost automatically entail African subordination”; and that “it is imperative that no Eurasian challenger emerges, capable of dominating Eurasia and thus of also challenging America.”

In 2000, the U.S. Defense Department published the policy report Joint Vision 2020, which introduced the concept of “full spectrum dominance” and emphasized the development of a global information grid to provide an environment for decision-making superiority for U.S. policy dominance and to address full spectrum issues in the range of conflicts from nuclear war to major theater wars and smaller-scale contingencies. The U.S. military should ensure that it has the ability to defeat any adversary and control any situation.

According to U.S. strategists, “full-spectrum dominance” has become the cornerstone of U.S. global strategy, and the United States will gradually achieve control of everything from the galaxy to the mind; from outer space to inner space; from the high seas, land and air spaces to cyberspace — all backed by military power. No empire in history has ever presented such an ambitious and grand plan.

The U.S. National Security Strategy document released by the Bush administration in September 2002 states that the U.S. will not allow any other country to equal or surpass its military strength, and that it will use its military power to dissuade any potential aspirant. The document identifies China as the potential power that could threaten U.S. hegemony in the region.

The U.S. Defense Department then issued a report stating that U.S. foreign policy objectives should be adjusted to ensure full-spectrum dominance based on a clear consensus among various factions of the U.S. power establishment.

In October 2002, the department released a policy study, The India-US Military Relationship: Expectations and Perceptions, which concluded that the Indian military could be used “for low-end operations in Asia” and that “[w]e want a friend in 2020 that will be capable of assisting the U.S. military to deal with a Chinese threat.”

In November, China held a summit with more than 40 African leaders to discuss an economic cooperation agenda. The U.S. responded by arguing that it had lost control of Africa, allowing China to obtain oil, metals and other raw materials from Africa to sustain its high economic growth.

In June 2007, the U.S. government approved the establishment of AFRICOM, headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, which is responsible for U.S. military relations and combat operations with more than 50 African countries.

The U.S. containment strategy against China is coherent and progressive. The U.S. follows the geostrategy of ancient empires, which, in Brzezinski’s words, has three grand imperatives: to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected and to keep the barbarians from coming together.

In U.S. strategic terms, “democracy” is really just a weapon for “unconventional warfare,” “color revolutions” and “regime subversion.” The democracies, such as Japan, Australia and Western Europe are “vassals” and “tributaries” of the United States, while China and countries that are not “tame” are “barbarians.”

The national security strategy report issued by the Trump administration in December 2017 refers to China and Russia as “revisionist powers and accuses accusing them of “wanting to shape a world antithetical to U.S. values and interests.”

The U.S. strategy seeks to keep other countries permanently subordinate and backward, while many other countries, including China and Russia, aspire to a multipolar, equitable and just world order with peaceful development, which is undoubtedly opposed to the interests of the U.S. power establishment and therefore legitimate and promising.

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