By He Yafei Source: Global Times Published: 2018-2-15
The US recently published the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy for 2018, both of which listed China and Russia as "strategic competitors." Moreover, US President Donald Trump mentioned in his State of the Union address "rivals like China and Russia that challenge our interests, our economy and our values..." What do the newly released strategies mean for US policy on China and the rest of the world? How will it lead to fundamental changes in Sino-US relations?
Relations between big countries decide whether the international order can adjust itself for more stability and whether global governance can overcome disorder and fragmentation to continue providing public goods for the international community. Currently, Beijing-Washington ties are important enough to lead to a domino effect on the rest of the world.
In a deeply globalized world, a pattern of coexistence has taken shape between China and the US in economic, political and security spheres. But at the same time, they differ in ideology, strategic orientation, political system, domestic governance and development model.
China`s rapid development over the last few decades has offered a new development model, especially a design of economic reform different from Western economies featuring privatization, superiority of the market and liberalization — recognized as the core principles of the Washington Consensus. For the US, such a challenge is unprecedented, so it`s inevitable that it has developed a strategic anxiety. In a nutshell, the fundamentals of Sino-US relations, which are dominated by cooperation, will not change.
Now the problem is what strategic choices Washington should make in face of the rise of China and the entire developing world. Will it choose confrontation and conflict over fears of being jettisoned? It has yet to give an answer to this question. From a macro perspective, the US has not configured an architecture of complete confrontation against China in its foreign policy, but at least some people and special interest groups suffer from irrational "phobia." Such concern is eroding the US` China policy, one noticeable manifestation of which is that containing China, rather than cooperating with it, is gaining an upper hand.
For the US, its perennially hegemonic status in the world has consolidated its mindset of "Pax Americana" — its superiority complex as a beacon lit upon a hill, its absolute military advantage, its dominating currency system and its status as an economic and trading power. All its governments and the elite, both Republicans and Democrats allow no one to challenge these strengths.
Of course, there is an inextricable knot perplexing US scholars. "Liberalism," the core ideal of the country that guided its founding, has been at odds with its hegemonic behavior to build an "empire" through force, plunder and power over the past two centuries. Washington fails to justify itself, so it applies double standards to the international order and the global governance system.
It is such a mindset that has led to a row over China`s rise, though China has achieved faster development in the US-established international system and the consequent globalization process. People without prejudice and malevolence are aware that Beijing has no strategic intention to challenge or even replace Washington.
In the past, the US dealt with the Soviet Union, Japan and Germany through the Cold War, actual war, political isolation and economic repression. Now it`s playing all its cards to encircle Russia and squeeze its strategic space. Arrogant from its victory in the Cold War, the US thought its Western civilization, political system and development model have reached the peak — the so-called "American Moment." However, it failed to realize that was a fleeting moment because the development of history has its own objective rules.
It remains a hegemonic power, but globalization and multi-polarization are precipitating a trend favorable to the developing world. Confronted with this change, it becomes sensitive and more anxious about China and Russia. Now it`s time for the US to make a historical choice.
One is to maintain the existing global governing system and make appropriate adjustments via peaceful coexistence and competition. The other is to continue with its clichéd policies toward the rise of other major countries by means of repression and containment.
Washington pondered over ways of getting along with Beijing in the early 20th century, which was then eclipsed by the war on terror. Now the "China threat" theory, along with "Russia threat," has returned to the top of its national strategy agenda.
As a responsible country, China has clarified that cooperation is the only way ahead for relations with the US. Hopefully Washington can choose cooperation after in-depth discussion and serious contemplation. As long as it makes the right choice, prospects for cooperation and world peace and development are bright.
The author is director of the Global Governance Research Center at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China, and former vice minister of China`s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.