Pence’s remarks on China represent minority US opinions

By Shen Dingli Source:Global Times Published: 2018/10/15 20:48:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

In his speech at the Hudson Institute on October 4, US Vice President Mike Pence gave a comprehensive overview of China-US relations and elaborated on US kindness and assistance in helping China become better. He accused China of failing to fulfill US expectations and instead challenging Washington with an arsenal of unfair policies. Hence the US has taken decisive action to respond to China, said Pence.

Observers have varied views on why Pence made such a speech. The truth probably is that the US intends to press China to give priority to US interests in the future.

Pence cited some facts such as American missionaries "founded some of China's first and finest universities" and the two countries stood together as allies in the fight against Japan during World War II. But he ignored one thing - cooperation is always a two-way process, so is friendship.

China will never forget US assistance in its fight against Japanese aggression, but this fight that cost tens of millions of Chinese lives meanwhile held back Japanese troops that would have been designated to attack the US. The US did found some of China's finest universities with the Boxer indemnity funds, but it shouldn't forget what destruction it inflicted on Chinese civilization in obtaining the funds. Pence must be clearly aware how the remarkable progress in China's trade and economic cooperation with the US over the last four decades has enhanced US geopolitical strategy and interests.

Pence overwhelmingly showed off US contribution to bilateral relations and repeatedly accused China of being ungrateful, which however is not true. In fact, China opened its market to the US first and contributed considerably to holding back Japanese troops in WWII. China has not fired a single bullet in the past 30 years while the US launched a war on Iraq with no solid evidence or UN authorization, causing widespread destruction in the country.

Pence's China-bashing speech deviated from the overall reality of Sino-US cooperation and reasonable Americans will not like it. The proposed 25-percent US tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods were opposed widely during public hearings. The US business community that embraces a fair trade between the two countries and expects more access to the Chinese market doesn't want competitors to be crushed by a trade war.

It's understandable and also agreed by countries like the US that China needs to take some protective measures in the initial stage of development given its weak foundation.

After becoming the world's second largest economy, China is supposed to share with others its development dividends and contribute to countries that have supported Chinese development and to other developing countries.

But it takes time for China to enhance its own capacity before giving aid to other countries. China wants to push forward reforms steadily and has come up with detailed plans. This internal aspiration for development is consistent with other countries' expectation to share the development achievements.

China has recently taken significant measures to deepen its reform and opening-up and seek common development with the rest of the world. It cut its auto import tariff to 15 percent from 25 percent in July and may further reduce it. China's overall tariff rate is adjusted to be at 7.5 percent, down from 9.8 percent last year. Tesla will build its first plant outside the US in China. In June China shortened the negative list for foreign investment with the items down to 48 from 63. Shanghai will hold the China International Import Expo in November. All this demonstrates China's sincerity in continuing to open up and sharing development dividends.

But these are absent in Pence's speech. The vice president should have made an objective assessment of Sino-US relations rather than putting all the blame on China since that will only flare up conflict and put the US in an awkward situation.

Fortunately there are rational minds in the US other than Trump and Pence. After the 2016 presidential election that divided the US, the Trump administration's moves to abandon long-advocated multilateralism have backfired domestically.

Pence's derogatory remarks about China represent only the radical ideas of some US politicians rather than the rational voices of establishment Americans and the public. But still this needs attention from China. In addition to refuting his words, China needs to show Pence is wrong in this regard through its own development and contribution to the world.

The author is a professor with Fudan University.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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