What does US mean by ‘competition’?
Published: Jan 20, 2022 11:59 PM
China US Illustration: Liu Rui

China US Illustration: Liu Rui

Before US President Joe Biden's one-year anniversary in office, Laura Rosenberger, director for China at the White House National Security Council, delivered a specialized elaboration on US China policy on Wednesday local time. She said the US will strengthen deterrence against China in the Taiwan Straits and the Indo-Pacific region to ensure that the US will win in the competition against China. Meanwhile, the US will make efforts to manage its competition with China, maintain communication channels with the latter, and set up guardrails to restrain competition and control potential risks.

Over the past year, we have heard such rhetoric so many times. "Competition" is a key word repeatedly emphasized by the Biden administration when it comes to ties with China. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken once proposed the "3C" policy - "competition, confrontation, cooperation." A refined formulation is "responsible competition," "cooperation from a position of strength," and "building common sense guardrails to avoid conflicts." Among these "3Cs," "cooperation" has been increasingly marginalized, and "competition" has become more and more prominent, taking the central role. But what exactly does Washington mean by "competition?" We can only?see it by taking US practical actions into consideration.

Rosenberger noted that the US is about to launch a so-called Indo-Pacific Economic Framework with regional partners. This plan is aimed at China. The US hopes to create a small economic and trade circle that surrounds but excludes China, wishing to cut the ground from under China's feet in terms of China's economic and trade cooperation with other countries (including the US). Rosenberger specifically mentioned the Taiwan Straits, where the US has been playing increasing tricks. This is a provocation to China's core interests and continues to undermine the political foundation of China-US relations.

Rosenberger mentioned that the US is committed to working with its allies to shape a strategic environment around China. Before her words had faded away, China immediately saw their actions. On Thursday local time, Japan and France would hold 2+2 talks between foreign and defense ministers. On Friday, Biden will meet virtually with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Also on Friday, a 2+2 meeting between the UK and Australia will take place. The three events have a common theme - countering China's influence.

We want to ask Washington: Is that the so-called responsible competition? China has been listening to US words and watching its deeds for two years. It is not hard to come to this conclusion: Deep down in Washington's heart, confrontation and containment are the essence, cooperation is an expedient measure, and competition is a discourse trap. The master of the White House has changed, but its China policy has not. Biden said repeatedly that he does not want to mess up ties with China and he did not want a conflict between the two countries. But the actual deeds of the US are constantly crippling the foundation of China-US cooperation, creating and accumulating the risk of a China-US conflict.

US officials keep saying and showing off the concept of "competion with China" almost on every occasion. But they know what they really mean, which is also understood by others. Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating once described the US mentality in a nutshell. He said China's "great problem" is that "it is now a state as large as the US, and with the potential of being much larger - an unforgivable sin for American triumphalists."

In recent years, the US has abused the concept of national security to suppress Chinese enterprises for no reason, frequently used its unilateral long-arm jurisdiction, openly interfered in China's internal affairs on issues related to Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Taiwan, and tried its best to provoke China's relations with other countries. These are unethical and underhanded tactics. At the same time, Washington has deliberately created a discourse trap, using "competition," a neutral term in the Western context, to cover up its hegemonic arbitrariness in suppressing and containing China. 

It must be pointed out that the US is not knocking China down or weakening it despite all the unethical punches. On the contrary, China is steadily getting stronger and the Chinese cannot be intimidated. Historically, we were not afraid of anyone when we were poor and with only millet plus rifles, and now we have no reason to be scared of any "competition." More importantly, China has no intention of competing with the US, but rather pursuing a continuous transcendence and breakthrough; China has no strategy of hegemony, but one of development with the purpose of promoting people's livelihood and achieving their aspirations for a better life. This is something that no one can "contain!"

Rosenberger said that US officials "feel a sense of general urgency" to put the US in the best position to be able to compete. To be sure, if the "urgency" of the US pursuit of "winning" is equal to the "defeat" of China, then the US will never achieve its goal. Under the banner of "competition" to suppress the development of other countries and deprive them of their legitimate rights and interests, this is immoral competition without a way out. 

Washington should understand that for a great power, the decline of ideas is more dangerous than that of strength. In the era of multi-polarity and globalization in the 21st century, the US is still thinking about finding tools from the Cold War toolbox, thinking every day about how to contain other countries, pulling "small gangs" and engaging in group confrontation, which will only harm themselves and will eventually be abandoned by the times.