US hard-liners' trade war stance destined to backfire

Source:Global Times Published: 2019/9/13 9:51:25


Wall Street Journal (WSJ) Chief Economics Commentator Greg Ip recently wrote a piece titled "Has America's China backlash gone too far?" The piece, posted on the WSJ website, quoted Stephen Hadley, former US national security advisor that said, "The attitude among the American foreign-policy elite has changed dramatically over the last three or four years to a very much hardened attitude towards China." 

Indeed, the US China backlash has gone too far. So, how has the US gradually become tough on China?

First, they have overly exaggerated issues related to China. Since US President Donald Trump took office, he has hyped issues within China-US relations. On economy and trade, the US has accused China of taking advantage of its technology transfer, intellectual property, and open market. 

On the South China Sea issue, the US administration believed former US President Barack Obama was weak toward China. The US wants to dominate the South China Sea region. US policy hawks have also hyped China's so-called political infiltration while accusing Beijing of interfering in US domestic policies and politics. Washington has continued to hype China's domestic politics, especially after the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.

The second step has involved labeling China as a competitor, rival, and a so-called revisionist power. To some extent, the word "competitor" is neutral. However, "rival" possesses a stronger antagonistic connotation. By labeling China as a "revisionist power," the US has accused it of trying to change international order.

Their third step is launching a comprehensive strategic competition with China. Although referred to as a competition, it possesses a stronger sense of confrontation. As the US confronts China, it ignites public opinion and mobilizes internal political support. 

US administrative departments, Congress, and conservative think tanks have created an atmosphere of anti-China hysteria, in other words, a Red Scare. This will only lead to collective irrationality mind-set within US society, which tends to regard China as a serious threat. 

Meanwhile, the Trump administration's trade war against China continues to escalate, further aggravating anti-China sentiment in the US. Step by step, the extreme opinions and tough positioning have gained the upper hand in the US.

To some extent, being tough on China has become the consensus of both the Democratic and Republican parties. But both parties have not reached a complete consensus on how tough on China they should be. For example, although the trade war has its supporters, there are more who believe it's a bad idea. 

As the trade war's negative impacts manifest, like economic slowdown and stock market volatility, more people will stand against the trade war.

US society has also not formed a consistent stance on whether to treat China as an enemy. For example, in July, over 100 US experts signed an open letter to Trump and US Congress titled, "China is not an enemy." Likewise, Americans have not reached a consensus on the South China Sea issue and the Taiwan question. Thus, being tough on China is more like an emotional consensus, rather than a strategic one.

If China does not yield to the tough US stance, the trade war will cause more damages to the US economy and its consumers. To cope with the US hard-line stance, China should continue fighting. 

The Trump administration once believed the US could win this trade war quickly and easily. But more than one year later, it has become disillusioned. China has fought firmly when necessary. 

China should provide the US with correct guidance. The US has grown irrational, and China needs to talk some sense into the Western nation. For example, has China actually taken advantage of the US? Are China and the US rivals? Many Americans in fact understand this is not the case, and that undoubtedly, China and the US need to cooperate.

Last but not least, China should do its own things well. Reform and opening-up as well as development should be promoted according to the country's plan. China needs to expand openness and deepen reform, maintain medium- and high-speed economic growth and national stability. As such, US hawks will understand their hard-line policy will never alter or slow China's development. Gradually, such tough and extreme standpoints will become US disadvantages.

The article was compiled by Global Times reporter Li Qingqing based on an interview with Wu Xinbo, director of Fudan University's Center for American Studies.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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