China will not be another Soviet Union, but forge its own path
Published: Jun 29, 2023 05:15 PM
Illustration: Liu Xidan/GT

Illustration: Liu Xidan/GT

The New York Times, citing a public opinion poll by the Roper Center, said Americans' views of China are starting to resemble their views of the Soviet Union decades ago. This has reinforced the hardline China policy adopted by the US government, and vice versa. The NYT article also cited experts who claimed that China and the US "are really in a serious competition," with escalation on one side leading to escalation on the other, and that they are in a cold war.

The US is moving toward a new cold war. As the article said, a series of policies toward China since the Trump era, including the "competition" mentioned by US President Joe Biden, have increased the American public's hostility toward China. However, I believe that China will never become another Soviet Union, participating in the "serious competition" led by the US, or a true Cold War. China will have the wisdom and the ability to increase the powerful variables into the historical trajectory and steer mankind toward a different future.

First, China indeed is not the Soviet Union. Fundamentally speaking, China is an open country, while the Soviet Union was closed. China's opening-up was a result of its own will, as well as the general environment. China operates as a market economy, with a prominent export-oriented nature, and there is a high degree of freedom in personnel and cultural exchanges with the outside world. In contrast, during the Soviet Union era, ordinary people of the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries were unable to travel to the West. These countries operated under a planned economy, where people earned the same no matter whether they worked hard or not. Additionally, there was no Internet or channel for the public to express their demands, and information was highly restricted. 

Today's Chinese society is completely different. Chinese people's views on the US are becoming more and more negative, and the "hostility" toward the US is increasing. However, this "hostility" is primarily directed at the US policy toward China and its hegemonism, rather than being "incompatible" with the US. Most Chinese people support, or do not oppose the idea of easing relations with the US. 

As China is not the Soviet Union, the US will certainly miscalculate if it treats China as the Soviet Union. It will mess itself up, and its China policy will yield minimal results. For example, the idea of "decoupling" will not hinder China's economic development, but will promote China's independent technological innovation and damage the interests of leading American technology companies. While the US attempts to strategically encircle China, many of these efforts are merely superficial. Despite spending significant resources, the US will not be able to effectively contain China's rise.

China needs to maintain strategic composure. This composure, first and foremost, means that we are firmly aware that we are not the Soviet Union. At the same time, we are determined not to follow the Soviet Union's path, but to forge our own unique strategic path. China will not engage in global military competition with the US; instead, we will pave the way globally through economic cooperation. In doing so, the win-win mechanism of China's economic exchanges with other countries will mobilize more global forces to stand with China and dismantle the US strategy of containing China. The presence of US military bases and alliance systems around the world will become ineffective and will not be of much help to the US.

China's military power is primarily used for strategic deterrence against the US, making it so that although the US has military advantages, it dares not resort to military blackmail against China. In addition, our military power is used to defend core interests, especially when it comes to the resolution of the Taiwan question, we must have the final say. We adopt a defensive military strategy, but in the Taiwan Straits region, we have gradually formed a local absolute military advantage. We will not engage in military confrontation with the US in regions far away from China's core interests. However, if the US military comes to China's nearby waters, especially if it intervenes militarily in the Taiwan Straits and assists the "Taiwanese military" in a possible future Taiwan Straits war, the People's Liberation Army will not hesitate to "beat the crap out of" those US troops. We will always make our determination clear to the US.

China's public opinion will inevitably form an opposition to that of the US. The more rampant the US side is, the more determined we become. At the same time, as a whole, the Chinese people cannot be restrained by the political and opinion elites of the US. We must prevent ourselves from unconsciously approaching the role of the Soviet Union just because they treat China as such. This should be a long-term vigilance for us. How the US describes and treats us is one thing, while it's another crucial matter for us to adhere to China's comprehensive self-development and maintain a big picture and pace. China's development must be prioritized over struggle against the US. Self-development and self-strengthening must always be the focus of China. In this way, the US' containment strategy against China will ultimately end in shameful failure. 

Therefore, I also believe that the most important thing is not how to label the current tension between China and the US, but rather, we need to have a different mindset and approach from the Cold War era. We must fully mobilize and utilize the enormous resources and advantages that the Soviet Union did not have, and draw a beautiful strategic curve for the Chinese people in the 21st century to break through the US containment.

The author is a Global Times commentator. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn