Trump administration excessively critical of China, creates dangerous confrontation: former US ambassador to China

By Xie Wenting and Bai Yunyi Published: 2020/5/14 6:14:18

The Trump administration is excessively critical of China which is starting to create an extremely dangerous situation and may lead to a self-fulfilled prophecy of a very deep confrontation between the US and China, warned the former US ambassador to China.

Max Baucus, former US ambassador to China, told the Global Times in an exclusive interview that the situation in the US now reminded him a little of Germany in the 1930s and the McCarthy era in the US when there was red baiting and lots of people attacking others for being close to the Communist Party.

At this time of excessive rhetoric against China, if thoughtful people are too afraid to speak up in the US, like what happened in Germany in 1930s, the situation could become even more dangerous, Baucus said.

Baucus previously made international headlines when he pointed out directly during a CNN interview that the Trump administration's rhetoric is so strong against China that it's over the top. He said the US is entering "a kind of an era which is similar to Joe McCarthy" and "a little bit like Hitler in the 30s."

During the interview, he noted to the Global Times that the US and China really need each other. "We need each other economically. We need each other, basically, to coexist."

US-China war unlikely

Talking about the possibility of a war between the two largest economies, Baucus said the situation is different from Europe in the late 1930s and early 1940s when there was a mad man Hitler, whose sole goal was to conquer Europe.

The former US ambassador said even though there may be suggestions for China to prepare for an armed conflict, he did not think it will happen.

"Even if a Chinese ship and an American ship bump up in the South China Sea, there will be a lot of headlines and a lot of people will be upset. There will not be a bigger war [between the US and China]," he said.

Baucus said one of the reasons the Trump administration has adopted such strong rhetoric is when there's a rising power like China, whose GDP may at some point exceed that of established powers like the US, Americans will feel a bit anxious.

"We Americans are so used to being number one. We're so used to being the leader in the world. Now that might change. That's the first dynamic," he said.

He said another reason is because the cultures of the US and China are different. If the rising power is a Western country like France, it will be easier for Americans to accept because they are also part of Western culture.

According to the former ambassador, President Trump targeting China is partly to divert blame and partly because the US economy is not doing very well today.

Get elected

As the upcoming presidential election approaches, it's noticeable that both Republicans and Democrats are criticizing China and they are criticizing each other for being soft on China.

"The goal of Donald Trump, the goal of most current senators and the goal of former Vice President Joe Biden is to get elected. And in the climate to get elected, you have to say things that people like. Today, people kind of like to see China getting criticized, which is unfortunate, because I think basically American people like the Chinese people, just like Chinese people I think like American people," he said.

Baucus was US Ambassador to China from 2014-2017. He told the Global Times that during his tenure in China, it was clear to him that the Chinese people generally had a pretty good view of the US. He feels sorry that now many American people don't know about China and they don't travel to China very much.

In the current situation, the former ambassador said the Democrats won't be soft on China because if they start to embrace China, they'll be roundly criticized by Republicans as jeopardizing US national security.

"The big question is what happens after the election?" he said. "I very much hope that after the election, whether Trump or Biden becomes the president, there's a pause."

The US government should then take a deep breath and realize the past rhetoric has been excessive and is not helpful, he added.

"The main thing is we have to look for areas in which we can cooperate, and those where we can't. Let's put those others aside for a while and let's start out with where we can," he told the Global Times, adding that bilateral relations will not go back to where they were, but both sides can go forward in a more constructive, respectful way.

Posted in: DIPLOMACY

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