Summers offers prescription to US woes, but hard for American elites to take it
Published: Nov 21, 2022 10:28 PM
Former US Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers. Photo: AFP

Former US Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers. Photo: AFP

Some elites in Washington make no attempt to improve themselves when facing competition with China and dealing with domestic woes, instead, they dedicate themselves to taking China down through committing sabotage. The US hopes to save itself by destroying others, rather than solving its own problems by managing and controlling crises. The US has created many crises in its relations with China. If they're not properly dealt with, not only China, but also the US itself will suffer, and the latter will suffer more.

Former US Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers warned US policymakers to focus on building the country's own economic strengths in its contest with China, rather than attacking its adversary. "If we change our focus from building ourselves up to tearing China down, I think we will be making a very risky and very unfortunate choice," he was quoted as saying, according to Bloomberg's report on Saturday.

The primary reason why Washington focuses on "tearing China down," rather than concentrate on its own innovation, infrastructure, education and challenges lies in the US political system's structural contradictions.

The US is now trapped in conundrums such as the loss of manufacturing capability, the hollowing out of local industries, and the asymmetric distribution of benefits from global trade among different groups in the country. For the US, the top capitalist country, the excessive expansion of financial capital will inevitably lead to the emergence of the abovementioned problems.

If the US wants to improve itself as Summers suggested, it must overcome the constraints of its system and carry out domestic reforms to curb the excessive expansion of financial capital, implement a fairer tax policy, and manage the wide income distribution gap between different groups. It also needs to plan and guide national innovation through policies so as to enhance the creativity and competitiveness of the country. However, unless the US becomes a socialist country, these are difficult to accomplish under its existing capitalist framework, Shen Yi, a professor at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs of Fudan University, told the Global Times.

In addition, reforms require short-term costs, but under the current US system with political parties facing pressure of winning more votes in the elections, any reforms demanding short-term costs cannot be implemented in the US unless the two parties reach a consensus," said Shen.

The simpler solution, for both parties, is to "hoax" the American public that the US has been running smoothly and that the main obstacle for US' development is because of a "bad" country. Both Republicans or their Democratic counterparts claim that they can help deal with the "bad" country if elected, so as to solve their current predicament. To win the election, the two parties have been intensifying their steps to contain China.

As a matter of fact, there is nothing complicated about what is the proper solution for the US, and many elites, including Summers, are fully aware of it. Shen noted that the US seems to stay in a "paralysis state," under which the brain is actually sober, but the body cannot operate according to people's thoughts.

This is how Washington's strategic anxiety in terms of China policy has been formulated. In this context, decision-makers have been given some absurd advice, with strong gambling and speculative mentality.

Furthermore, US' term of office and election determine that the government has very limited time to carry out practical policies, as much time is spent on election and buck-passing. Such a nature of US political games also determines that Washington has little time to make remarkable changes.

Only when the entire US reaches a new consensus, realizing that US' problems do not lie in China, but the US itself, can the US make fundamental changes on its China policy. Until that day comes, what Summers proposed will not take place.