US ratchets up pressure on China ahead of Blinken visit in typical hegemonic approach
Published: Apr 22, 2024 07:48 PM Updated: Apr 22, 2024 11:00 PM
Antony Blinken Photo:AFP

Antony Blinken Photo:AFP

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will reportedly warn that Washington will take punitive steps against Beijing over its "weapon-related exports to Russia" during his visit scheduled this week. Observers said the rhetoric, in addition to the recent hype of "overcapacity" regarding exports of Chinese new energy product and numerous restrictions slapped on Chinese high-tech industries, shows that the US has been ratcheting up pressure on China in a wider range of military, economic and trade fields.

The recent bizarre narratives on China are all essentially disguises to justify the US weaponizing economic issues, in order to shift the blame away from the Biden administration's policy failures, analysts pointed out. While those moves are somewhat typical US tactics of aggression first and backing off later, analysts said the amassing of more Washington-instigated "negative factors" will create more discords in bilateral relations, which remain "extremely fragile" despite certain progress toward stabilization.  

If Washington, which has recently engaged in growing interactions with Beijing, is sincerely looking to ensure that bilateral relations stay the course, it should abandon its domineering approach and communicate with China on an equal footing, analysts warned, otherwise bilateral tensions are at the risk of escalating into a broader conflict.

Blinken does not plan to reveal what measures the US will take during his visit to China, which is scheduled from April 24 to 26, but several people familiar with the situation said it is considering sanctions on Chinese financial institutions and other entities, according to a Financial Times report.

Lü Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Monday that Blinken's threat is a typical hegemonic approach used by Washington toward China - gaining "the upper hand" by showing aggression before actually engaging in discussion, then easing up during the interaction process so that it appears to show goodwill.    

Blinken's visit also comes after the approval of a $61 billion aid package for Ukraine by the US House, as the Biden administration desperately attempts to cover up its inability to handle international issues ahead of the US presidential elections, while blaming China for alleged "military exports to Russia" is also an excuse in this regard.   

With the US' stepped-up smearing of normal trade ties between China and Russia as well as hype on a slew of issues that undermine China's sovereignty, security and industrial development, observers pointed out that the atmosphere shaping Blinken's China visit is growing more intense compared with Yellen's visit in early April. "Bilateral tensions are more palpable," Lü said.

Analysts said that it remains to be seen whether "negative factors" will be amplified and dominate relations between the world's two largest economies. "We need to be vigilant of Washington's provocations up until Election Day, as candidates are preparing to appear tough on China-related issues to curry favor from certain political groups," Lü noted.

Both sides are making greater efforts to stabilize relations, but the current situation is "extremely fragile," and once the negative factors culminate to a tipping point, bilateral tensions could escalate into conflicts across a range of field, although a full-scale confrontation is unlikely, observers warned. 

In recent months, US politicians and media outlets have also gone to great lengths to launch a new fear-mongering campaign against China, putting a newly coined "overcapacity" tag on advantageous Chinese industries such as new energy exports. 

Using the "overcapacity" excuse, US President Joe Biden reportedly pushed for tariffs to be tripled on Chinese steel and aluminum last week. The office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) also announced last week that it was launching a new Section 301 investigation into China's trade practices in the shipbuilding, maritime and logistics sectors.

Chinese Ambassador to the US Xie Feng hit back at the "overcapacity" claim over the weekend. During a speech delivered at the opening ceremony of the Harvard Kennedy School China Conference 2024, he pointed out that the problem now is not "overcapacity," but "over-anxiety." 

One of the malicious intentions behind the move is to blame Chinese exports for US new energy industries' lack of competitiveness, as well as the Biden administration's inability to create more jobs, Li Haidong, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Monday. 

With the "overcapacity" rhetoric seeking to suppress the rise of China's advantageous industries and hinder their global cooperation, it also appeared that the tag could create a pretext for the arbitrary imposition of punitive and protectionist policies, such as tariffs, against Chinese industries that the US perceives as a threat, Li noted. 

In addition to new energy, the US' crackdown on a variety of Chinese tech industries shows no sign of abating. US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo reportedly said she's "focused on preventing the Chinese government from obtaining US-designed advanced microchips," citing national security concerns.

"US officials' recent frequent China trips show that Washington wants to cooperate with China on major issues. If it is really looking for pragmatic cooperation, it needs to show more sincerity," Li said. He called on the US to conduct dialogue with China on an equal footing, and immediately stop overstretching the concept of national security and politicizing economic rules, which threaten the stability of the global supply chain.

Gao Lingyun, an expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that the US could work with China on a list of areas that are of mutual interest, such as anti-money laundering cooperation, tackling global climate change and jointly safeguarding global financial stability.

In mid-April, Mayor of San Francisco London Breed wrapped up her China visit, a fresh sign that exchanges at local level between China and the US are strengthening despite lingering uncertainties in high-level communication. 

"The regional level is more pragmatic and their exchanges with China are not characterized by ideological conflicts. There are immense economic benefits to be tapped into by building on the economic and trade ties with Chinese localities," Gao noted.