Opinion: Threats from US Treasury Secretary against China arrogant, irresponsible
Published: Apr 14, 2022 11:49 PM
Janet Yellen.File photo:Xinhua
Janet Yellen.File photo:Xinhua

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen issued stern warnings against China on Wednesday over the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, suggesting that China could lose its global standing if it does not use its "special relationship with Russia" to help end this situation. In a speech at the Atlantic Council, a hawkish pro-NATO think tank in Washington, Yellen further threatened that there could be "economic consequences" for countries that seek to undermine Western sanctions on Russia.

US political leaders, including President Joe Biden and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, have issued similar warnings and threats. However, for the US Treasury Secretary, among the most senior economic officials in the US government, to make such statements is very serious. It could raise some serious questions. Is the US government ready to impose sanctions or take other measures to punish countries that refuse to join in its sanctions against Russia? What would that mean for already tense China-US economic and trade ties? Could tensions further escalate between the world's two biggest economies? How would that affect the global economy?

There have already been serious questions about how the Russian-Ukraine conflict and the US-led sanctions against Moscow would affect the global economy in the long run. The long-term implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for the future of economic globalization remains profoundly unclear and the world economy does not need more risks and uncertainty from rising China-US trade tensions. Damage to global supply chains from the multi-year trade war from the US against China continues to mount each day.

As a veteran economic policymaker, Yellen should know better that the global economy, which is still reeling from the pandemic and geopolitical tensions, needs China and the US to work together and not fight each other. Yellen also stressed the need for the US and its allies to work with China to avoid a bipolar economic order. This only makes her earlier warnings against China very arrogant and irresponsible. Is this the way the US seeks to "work with" China? How are warnings and threats helping?

China has been very clear about its relations with the US and its position on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Regarding the situation in Ukraine, China has supported dialogue among all parties to find a peaceful resolution. On the contrary, the US has only been fanning the flames and undermining, from the very start, efforts to avert or end the conflict. What gives the US the right to force others to subscribe to its toxic approach of war and devastation? US officials conveniently disguise their ill words and deeds in the Ukraine crisis to publically call for an end to the conflict, but the international community will not be fooled.

As the head of the US Treasury Department, which has been imposing numerous types of sanctions against other countries, including Russia, China and some of their allies, Yellen should know better that sanctions and long-arm jurisdictions do not work for the US, the sanctioned country or the global economy. In the case of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the US and its allies have imposed numerous sanctions on Russia and even moved forward with the "nuclear option" of excluding Russian banks from the SWIFT system. Have those moves helped to ease tensions or actually worsened the situation? It does not require a renowned economist and an official of such seniority like Yellen to understand that.

For Washington, the US economy is facing the risk of falling into a recession with inflation hovering around the highest levels in decades. Yellen should be pandering about how to tackle the profound economic challenges and maintain a strong US economy, not engage in geopolitical gambits. It would serve the interests of the US and the international community if Yellen sticks to her job to keep the world's biggest economy from failing.

By the same token, it would also benefit China and the US to address their considerable trade disputes and expand win-win cooperation if Yellen could refrain from making such irresponsible threats and actually try to work with China.

The author is an editor with the Global Times.