In the age of globalization, foreign policy sways our daily life more than people could imagine. A trade war leads to soaring price of consumer goods, which means you have to pay more for groceries, and sanctions on solar panels could mean more greenhouse gas emission, which creates greater peril of climate change. Disturbingly, Washington’s current China policy, a policy that could mean the difference between war and peace, prosperity and destitution, is based on some seriously misleading claims. Since day one of the current administration, it is claimed that the U.S. will “confront China’s economic abuses; counter its aggressive, coercive action; to push back on China’s attack on human rights, intellectual property, and global governance.” These false premises have been used, knowingly, by Washington as justification to block international trade, increase military expenses, and witch-hunt scientists who have ties to China.
Stakeholders of Washington’s China policy should not only observe its manifestation, but also closely examine the foundation on which it is built. One can easily be surprised how much Washington has lied to its constituents and the world. Five outstanding lies have derailed the fundamentals of Washington’s China Policy.
I. China is not a democracy?
It is only natural that countries at different stages of development, and of different cultures and history, have differences in practicing democracy and prioritizing different elements of democracy. Washington used to acknowledge such difference, as this did not stop it from reopening to China 50 years ago. But now the U.S. seems to have backtracked from its previous position.
The truth is, democracy is an ideal that evolves with the times and China is also entitled to develop its own. In ancient Greek, “democracy” means every grown man raising hand during a town hall. In the U.S., it means elections, maybe more than that if you can afford lobbies. By looking at the violent ways some American people choose to express their grievances, it is fairly obvious that Washington is failing its people and its democracy has turned into a fake one.
Washington has been telling its audience that China is ruled by the will of the few. In fact, unlike some western parties who only represent particular interest groups, the Communist Party of China (CPC) has more than 95 million members from all walks of life, and more than 4.8 million grassroots organizations in villages, factories and communities. It represents all Chinese people, and they are definitely not “the few”. China’s legislative body National People’s Congress (NPC) is not only a true people’s congress by representation, but also directly responds to the will of the general public. It collects public opinion for each and every legislation. In 2021 alone, NPC solicited public opinion for 33 draft laws. In 2020, before China’s Civil Code was adopted, the NPC received more than 1 million suggestions and many were adopted and put into law. China’s idea is to develop a whole-process democracy that ensures representation, accountability, efficiency and fairness. In all these respects, China is a democracy, and a democracy that strives for true good governance. Calling China an authoritarian regime and alienating it in the name of democracy is in itself a dictatorial act.
II. Uyghur genocide and forced labor in Xinjiang?
Genocide is an act “committed with intent to destroy...a national, ethnic, racial or religious group” (UN Genocide Convention 1948). To constitute a genocide, there should be intention and harms done. For the former, we have heard no explanation from Washington why China wants to wipe out Uyghurs. For the latter, the Uyghur population in Xinjiang has been steadily growing (see census graph), and they are given affirmative policies in family planning, education and social development, as well as autonomy in culture and religion, just like the other 54 ethnic minority groups in China. It is pretty fair to say that the true story of Xinjiang is light years away from genocide.
China’s criminal code and labor law specifically prohibit forced labor. For one thing, taking such legal risks for inefficient manual labor simply does not make business sense. For another, common sense dictates that only when there is a shortage of labor would there be a need of forced labor, like in the American South before the Civil War. The Xinjiang cotton industry used to be a labor-intensive department, but now almost 70% of Xinjiang cotton is harvested and processed by machines. There is simply no need to force anyone to work. On contrary, many Uyghurs have found job opportunities in big cities across China. If anything, it is the pursuit of happiness that “forces” people to work. The whole “forced labor” hyperbole and the subsequent sanctions on products made in Xinjiang are nothing but deprivation of Uyghur people’s opportunities and right to a better life.
III. Diplomatic coercion?
According to Washington, China has been coercing other countries. The latest case by which Washington blamed China for “coercion” is the diplomatic friction between China and Lithuania. China has always upheld the principle of equality of nations in international relations, and the nature of this case is China defending its territorial integrity. It started with Lithuania granting the “Taiwanese Representative Office” to be opened in Vilnius. Lithuania is the one and only country in the world, while having diplomatic relations with China, that allowed such an office to be named under “Taiwan” instead of “Taipei” . The latter is an accepted practice but the former implies independence. Taiwan is part of China and Beijing is the only legitimate government representing the whole China. This is the bedrock of China’s diplomatic relations with any other country. For violating China’s sovereign right to territorial integrity and a legally binding international agreement, China has to react, and its reaction to Lithuania is most restraint, to be fair.
Washington knew it very well, but they still went with “coercion”, for this very word is powerful in propaganda to smear China. If anything, with 9421 U.S. sanctions in effect(by October 2021) targeting foreign countries, business entities and individuals, the U.S. is the biggest bully in the world. If anything, by dealing with China and other countries including allies and partners from “a position of strength”, it is Washington who is coercing China and the rest of the world.
IV. China threatens freedom of navigation?
This is a false accusation manufactured by Washington years ago to justify its military parade in the South China Sea, or to use Washington’s euphemism, “Freedom of Navigation Operations”. Yet Washington failed to tell its audience that for China, the South China Sea is more than a busy seaway but a life line. About 80% of China's oil imports, 50% of natural gas and 42.6% of goods go through these waters. Therefore, China has the biggest stake in the free and safe passage of commercial ships in the South China Sea. With this in mind, plus the fact that in 2021 alone, more than 20 large-scale military drills and about 2000 close-up reconnaissance operations targeting China were taken by Washington in these waters, it is pretty clear that those USS ships are not there to protect anyone, but to control the life line of China. If anything, it is the U.S. who threatens the safety of navigation and the security interest of China and other littoral countries.
V. China does not play by the rules?
When Washington lobbies the world for support to its hegemony, championing a rule-based order is often its selling point. Yet in the American way of business, such order is not based on rules, but on the interpretation that works for, and only for, Washington’s own convenience. For instance, when Washington believed that Chinese products were too competitive, it imposed punitive tariff without going through the WTO. But when China appealed to the WTO for such punitive tariff, Washington effectively paralyzed the organization by refusing to confirm judges to the Appellate Body, a core department that deals with trade frictions. In Washington’s play book, any action by China that does not serve the perceived interest of Washington would be called “inconsistent with the existing international order”, and any international arrangement that goes against Washington’s will should be revised or abandoned. If anything, China is a champion of the existing international order, and the U.S. the revisionist.
History has a long memory. People will always remember those who cheated, wiretapped and started a war on Iraq with detergent as evidence for WMD. Lying is the ultimate evil. Those who chose to work in Washington would not wish to go down in history as a liar. The current international order has in general ensured the security and prosperity for the past decades. But this order is slipping away. Lies, blatant lies, are eroding its foundation. A foreign policy built on lies may be convenient for immediate gains, but will ultimately tear down America the Great and invite disasters and sufferings to the entire world.