Zhao Minghao: China's multi-layered countermeasures against US

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Zhao Minghao: China's multi-layered countermeasures against US

2020-08-17

By Zhao Minghao    Source: Global Times   Published: 2020-08-16


In the face of rounds of full-scale offensives launched by Washington against Beijing, some voices think China's countermeasures are not robust enough. But the fact is that when Beijing takes countermeasures, these measures must be proper responses.


Tense issues relating to Taiwan, Hong Kong, the South China Sea and TikTok have recently been worsened by Washington. These are a combination of re-election tactics and profound changes in US policy toward China. Obviously, when Beijing responds to Washington, Beijing needs comprehensive considerations that blend its short-term and long-term interests.


Although US President Donald Trump himself may not be interested in a new cold war, those around him such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and trade advisor Peter Navarro are hungry for it. Beijing is well aware that the China hawks in the US are trying to use the current pre-election chaos to advance their anti-China agenda.


Beijing's response to Washington's offensives has been multi-layered. First, avoiding a "hot war" is a priority. Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd and Harvard University professor Ezra Vogel have clearly warned the possibility of armed conflicts between the US and China in the South China Sea or in the Taiwan Straits in the coming months. Fortunately, the US military is not necessarily willing to be manipulated by the crazy ideas of the current US administration.


The leaders of the Chinese and US militaries held a phone talk on August 6 which, to some extent, defused tensions between the two countries. Both sides agreed to manage the crisis and prevent misjudgments. However, it is still necessary to be vigilant against any emergencies that may lead to an accidental conflict. Beijing has been conducting military exercises to send out necessary deterrence signals in the face of US military operations, such as close-in reconnaissance near Guangdong Province, and provocations from the US over Taiwan.


Second, Beijing is committed to ensuring the stability of China-US economic and trade relations. This includes the implementation of the phase one bilateral trade deal. China's purchase of US products has been delayed due to the pandemic, but the country is highly efficient at implementing agreements. For instance, China has done all of 50 items the country committed to do in the first four months for the implementation of the trade deal with the US. What's more, China still continues to buy American commodities, such as agricultural products. Although the Trump administration has taken bullying tactics on TikTok, Beijing is providing greater convenience for American companies, especially financial companies, to enter the Chinese market.


A research by Nicholas R. Lardy and his colleague from the Peterson Institute for International Economics in July shows that, "US-China financial decoupling is not happening." In July, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng cited a survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in China which showed that 84 percent of US enterprises are unwilling to withdraw from China, and 38 percent of them will maintain or increase their investment in China. Meanwhile, Chinese are very eager to increase their investments in the US.


Third, Beijing is actively seeking a framework and a way to control the strategic competition between China and the US. Recently senior Chinese officials such as State Councilor Yang Jiechi, Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Vice Foreign Minister Le have spoken continuously on the issue of China-US relations, proposing that the relations between the two countries should not be dominated by hawks. For them, any issue can be taken to the negotiating table, and China and the US can work together to draw up three lists respectively on cooperation, dialogue and issues that need proper management.


Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, wrote in a New York Times column in February, "While we are competing with the Chinese, we should also work with them." China and the US should conduct serious and in-depth discussion on such concepts. Resources and energy shouldn't be wasted on diplomatic attacks. There is little time left to prevent a head-on collision between China and the US.


Zhao Minghao is a visiting fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.