US’ China strategy shadowed by toxic political atmosphere amid approaching election
Published: Jun 10, 2024 09:19 PM
Illustration: Liu Xidan/ GT

Illustration: Liu Xidan/ GT

US President Biden recently stated in an interview that he believes the US economy can compete with its leading global rival, China. He expressed that due to an aging crisis and a culture of xenophobia leading to a shrinking workforce, China's economy is "on the brink."

It's worth noting that this is not the first time the US president has spread the rumor of China's economic collapse. In August of 2023, at a political fundraising event, Biden referred to China, the world's second-largest economy, as "a ticking time bomb." 

A high-ranking US politician is so obsessed with repeatedly "attacking" the Chinese economy, but is he not afraid that his assertions will be proven to be baseless in the future? 

We don't have the willingness to discuss the prospects of China's economy with Biden since his "assertions" have already become dramatic language detached from reality. So, what kind of political stage atmosphere would lead to such statements?

First, this is a common political tactic known as "othering" or "negative comparison," in which leaders and top politicians try to make their own country look good by criticizing or downplaying the achievements of another country. 

The "permanent campaign" refers to the US presidential election system where candidates have to engage in campaign activities day and night to attract the attention of voters. After being elected, they continue similar activities during their term to maintain support for the next term.

Under this mechanism, politicians often resort to sensational rhetoric, even distorting facts and fabricating rumors, while rational and pragmatic policy discussions are marginalized. Politicians make extravagant promises during their campaigns that are difficult to fulfill after being elected. This "flip-flopping" trick is common in US elections.

Second, recent shifts in the American political landscape are driving these leaders into the swamp of populism. They resort to forceful political rhetoric, yet their fervent words often reek of animosity, fueling heightened discord among the public.

Third, The US election has further intensified this irresponsible showmanship. As China is the US' main strategic rival, it naturally becomes a target for politicians' attacks.

We are still determining whether the US election system, the candidates or the political styles of both parties have changed. Our concern is that if such fierce attacks on China's economy make people believe that the US economy is doing well, can such a political system produce a leader capable of leading the world's No.1 economy?

President Biden's words remind us of another person - Gordon G. Chang, known as one of the "patriarchs of the 'China collapse' theory."

Those who follow China-US relations will be familiar with Mr. Chang. For many years, he has firmly believed that China's economy will collapse and has also been advocating for its collapse. However, as time passed, China's economy not only did not disintegrate, but it has grown stronger amid challenges, delivering impressive report cards year after year.

Chang's followers gradually dispersed, and his once eye-catching assertions were buried in the dust of history.

The presidential election should have been a solemn event determining the future of the US. However, it has degenerated into a spectacle of "selling snake oil." Candidates make grandiose promises and irresponsible claims, trying to deceive voters and gain their support.

As the election intensifies, President Biden will continue to say astonishing things about China, his country's main competitor. Biden's attacks on China's economy reveal a key issue in current China-US relations: US politicians lack a correct understanding of the relationship and the sincerity to solve existing problems between the two countries. They only care about votes, and all politics must serve this purpose.

We must question whether the US strategy toward China, cultivated in such a political environment, can be sustainable. If US top politicians cannot recognize China's development more authentically and comprehensively, and instead choose to make outrageous statements, turning the election into a dog and pony show, then this strategy may be as insubstantial as a shadow.