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Foreign Policy

Danger Lurks Behind Competition

Jun 07, 2021
  • Wu Zurong

    Research Fellow, China Foundation for Int'l Studies

Competition between the United States and China has become a hot topic since President Joe Biden took office. Unfortunately, competition in its true sense is not what’s going on. What the U.S. has done in the past four months is a disguise put up by the Biden administration to contain China’s rise. Signs of dangerous consequences have been emerging behind the so-called competition.

First, competition is a political and diplomatic slogan of the Biden administration to hold China down in a wide range of areas. According to Biden’s address to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy’s 2021 graduating class on May 19, the purpose of competition with China is so the U.S. can “game the system” or tip the rules in its favor.

But he accused others of doing this. Biden believes that the U.S. should “take an active role to set norms of conduct to shape them around democratic values, not those of autocrats” as a secure, unimpeded flow of global commerce is a vital interest in America’s foreign policy. Therefore, the U.S. is adamant that certain areas of the world, such as the South China Sea, the Arabian Gulf and, increasingly, the Arctic, serve as arteries of trade. The U.S., in its own interest, wants shipping to remain peaceful.

Biden’s vision helps people to understand why the U.S. continues to stir up trouble in the peaceful South China Sea. It is crystal clear that the U.S. insisting on setting the rules and the norms of conduct around its democratic values. As a result, competition has, in essence, become conflict over who should set the rules and norms of conduct, and of different explanations of rules and norms of conduct and of different values in the world.

What’s even more hegemonic is that the U.S. has cast aside the principles of the United Nations Charter and international laws and wants to impose on China and other parts of the world its own rules, norms of conduct and values by repeatedly showing military force in the South China Sea, the Taiwan Strait and the East China Sea.

Second, under the slogan of competition, the U.S. has failed to make minimum efforts and lacks enthusiasm to initiate specific programs of bilateral cooperation. Rather, it focuses on differences when dealing with overall Sino-American relations. Except for cooperation on the climate change issue, which is also lacking in specific projects involving green energy, there has been no remarkable U.S. initiative on programs of bilateral cooperation in vast areas where there exist common interests and responsibility for the world.

The U.S. has done a lot to exaggerate differences and repeat wrongs by sending warships to the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait. In addition, the illegal U.S. arms sales to Taiwan have been extended to the unbridled collaboration between the air forces of Washington and Taipei as four of Taiwan’s F-16 fighter planes flew directly to the U.S. mainland for training on May 25, with air-refueling provided by the U.S. military.

The recent pact between Taipei and Washington called for their respective coast guards to “be better positioned to respond to the shared threats in the region and to conduct coordinated humanitarian and environmental missions.”

It is strongly demanded that this pact be abrogated immediately and that no joint operations be conducted. so as to avoid further harm to China-U.S. relations, because coast guards are not civilians. They are uniformed soldiers. The first summit of the Quad —consisting of the U.S., Australia, Japan and India — is also a new development that was not helpful for peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific, or for Sino-U.S. relations. The excessive reactions and provocations of the United States, based on big lies and disinformation, against China’s positive human rights record in Xinjiang and Hong Kong have already done serious damage to the world economy, free trade and Sino-U.S. relations.

Third, the Biden administration has been going in the wrong direction in its handling of Sino-U.S. relations since its China policy review is still underway. Signs of dangerous consequences deserve serious attention. The world shows sign of division in light of U.S. malign competition with China. While the vast majority of countries refuse to take sides, there have been a few countries that have taken sides recently on specific issues.

U.S. political and diplomatic pressure has been exerted on as many countries as possible, including Japan, the Republic of Korea and India. Some NATO members, such as France, Britain and others, have joined the U.S. in showing their naval muscle in Asia. It can be expected that more U.S. military forces and those of its allies will be deployed in the surrounding areas of China in the days to come.

In addition, the global tech industry and its supply chains have been damaged as the Biden administration continues with the Trump administration’s blockade of tech equipment against China. World trade relations have also been undergoing deep changes, as the U.S. has frequently used trade and economic sanctions against China, and some other countries have maintained high tariffs on China’s export commodities to the U.S.. The Biden administration so far hasn’t made any significant effort to work with China or other members of the World Trade Organization in promoting free trade and reform.

Over the last 20 years or more, the U.S. has tried everything possible to contain China’s rise. But the reality is that China just kept on growing stronger. No matter how the Biden administration makes its China policy, it should learn a lesson and give up its strategy of containment. If the Biden administration could truly respect China’s right to development and truly understand that it is beneficial to the U.S. and the world if China can continue its peaceful development, that would be a blessing for the whole world.

It would be a wise and farsighted vision for the U.S. to make China a close partner and friend instead of an adversary. Fair, open and above-board competition is the key. As a first step, it is advisable for the Biden administration to put bilateral cooperation first and to control differences when handling Sino-U.S. relations.

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