By Zhao Minghao Source: CGTN Published: 2019-7-31
On Monday, China-U.S. trade talks resumed after a three-month suspension in Shanghai. The choice of Shanghai, China's financial hub, as the meeting venue demonstrates China's hope to handle the economic and trade frictions between the two countries in the spirit of "business is business." It's undeniable that there has been an increasingly widespread red scare in Washington over the past months. Some Americans are marching an ideological offensive against China, which will fundamentally undermine the two countries' previous efforts to end the trade war.
In the history of the United States, there was once red scare about the Soviet Union. In the 1950s, the notorious "McCarthyism" swept the United States. Many Americans were persecuted for being purported as communists or sympathizers of communists. In the 1970s, the "Committee on the Present Danger" was set up to gather forces against the Soviet Union.
In March 2019, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon helped revive the "Committee on the Present Danger: China." The organization reminds people of the Cold War buzz as it claims in its mission statement that "Communist China represents an existential and ideological threat to the United States." Bannon has always been endeavoring to hawk the idea that the China-U.S. conflict is a clash of civilizations. He regards the Belt and Road Initiative and "Made in China 2025" as part of China's ambition for global leadership. What worries people is that some Republicans tend to favor Bannon's thoughts in their view of China.
In light of the deterioration of the China-U.S. relationship, more and more people are worried about a new Cold War between the two giants. In order to reverse this situation and safeguard the long-term interests of the United States, many China experts in the United States recently signed an open letter to the Trump administration. The signees include top experts on China from universities such as Harvard and MIT, and think tanks such as the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Susan Thornton and other policymakers who have been dealing with China for a long time have also called on the Trump administration not to regard China as an adversary.
In particular, many U.S. experts oppose the "decoupling" between the two countries in economy and technology. Jonathan Pollack and Jeffrey Bader, senior members of the Brookings Institution, warned that China has been deeply integrated in supply chains involving U.S. allies and partners, and its products are competitively priced. "There is no meaningful support outside the United States to exclude China from an ever-larger role in global and regional economics."
Technical competition is the underlying cause of the trade war. In order to hold back China's technological progress, the Trump administration has banned American companies from selling to Chinese tech companies, limited China's direct investment in the United States and targeted China's tech giants such as Huawei. The United States also attempts to suppress the technical cooperation between China and Germany, Israel and other countries.
However, this practice has received more and more criticism. Susan Shirk, director of the 21st Century China Center at the University of California – San Diego, believes that the Trump administration's actions will eventually damage America's own innovation ecosystem and long-term competitiveness. In fact, U.S. companies such as Intel and Qualcomm have been lobbying the White House to lift the sales ban on Huawei and allow U.S. companies to continue supplying parts to Huawei.
Although efforts have been made to improve their ties, national security and ideology are the two aspects that prevent China and the U.S. from recovery in terms of economic and technological relations. On July 25, the new U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said bluntly that the trade war between the United States and China was a matter of national security. The U.S. Congress was taking actions to ban the use of federal funds to buy buses and trains made in China on the grounds of endangering national security.
Adam Posen, president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, aptly described the overreaction of U.S. politicians as a "red tech scare." He pointed out that Washington used alarmist talk to incite fear against China, and anyone who criticized this policy as stupid would be branded unpatriotic or dumb. He suggested that the U.S. needs to reach "economic detente" with China.
In fact, Chinese President Xi Jinping's recent meeting with President Trump in Osaka during the G20 summit made it clear that he harbors no hostility toward China and hopes for better relations between the two countries. However, if the U.S. becomes more aggressive with its ideological offensive and sees the CPC as its rival, the foundation of China-U.S. relations will be eroded.
In 1972, during President Nixon's visit to China, the two sides reached an agreement and issued the Shanghai Communique. The two countries have properly handled their differences on ideological issues and opened a new chapter in U.S.-China relations. When the two countries' trade teams make renewed efforts to resolve economic and trade frictions in Shanghai, Washington needs to try to quell the "red scare" at home. "We've made this mistake once before, during the Cold War," Shirk warned. "And I don't think we should make it again."
Zhao Minghao is a visiting fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.