Jin Canrong: why is the United States the most powerful? Because its values are very fragile

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Jin Canrong: why is the United States the most powerful? Because its values are very fragile

2020-08-28

By Jin Canrong  Source: GangNe Published:2020-08-12


Recently, the U.S. government has frequently “stepped in” against China, and its efforts to suppress and stimulate China have become stronger and stronger. But at the same time, its internal problems are also emerging. On the current situation of the United States, observer net interviewed Jin Canrong, Professor of the school of international relations of Renmin University of China, and asked him to talk about his views on how to view the United States and how to deal with the future Sino US relations. The following is the content of the interview.


Observer: Hello, Professor Jin. Recently, Sino US relations have not been peaceful. First, the United States forced the closure of the Chinese Consulate General in Houston, and then exerted extreme pressure on tiktok to take advantage of it. What do you think we should do about the current US and Sino US relations after these events have brought psychological impact to the Chinese people?


Jin Canrong: a lot of things have happened recently. In this context, Chinese society is angry, how to deal with nature has become a research focus. However, as a scholar, when considering current events and countermeasures, there is also a task, that is, to broaden our horizons, jump out of the previous stereotypes, and further deepen the research on the United States and Sino US relations. One of the advantages of doing so is to help us to look further and improve the quality of diplomacy. Another advantage is that it may provide some new ideas for China US relations to get out of the historical predicament. In the long run, it is good for how to construct a new type of great power relationship and avoid Thucydides’ tragedy. I think that we may still have some problems in the past.


Many people, including many scholars, think that they know the United States well. However, it should be said that our understanding of the United States is not enough. Why? Because the United States that we Chinese people came into contact with was a relatively successful United States. At that time, China was at a historical low point, and its politics, economy, society and culture were severely damaged. As an emerging country, the United States started industrialization soon after its founding. In addition, the United States was different from Europe at that time. At that time, Europe was at its peak, creating colonialism and being aggressive in diplomacy. At that time, the global strategic focus of the United States was to engage in Monroe Doctrine and consolidate its control over the Americas, so it was more polite to China. Therefore, in the early exchanges between China and the United States, the impression of the United States on China was not particularly bad.


From the late Qing Dynasty to the Republic of China, China’s elite looked up to the United States. So call it “the United States” and Japan the United States, right? We call it “America”, which is “beautiful imperialism”. The leaders of new China have always attached importance to the United States. Since the reform and opening up, China’s elites have been more favorable to the United States. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the United States in 1979, economic and trade relations and social and people to people exchanges have also started in an all-round way. Because China’s elites were impacted during the cultural revolution, they questioned China’s system and culture, so the “river Cup” generation emerged, and there was cultural inferiority in its bones. In the 1980s and 1990s, the United States really reached the peak of its history. The scientific and technological revolution took the lead in the world. The cold war also won victory, and domestic conflicts were effectively controlled. It is precisely because the two close contacts and exchanges between China and the United States are at the peak, while China is relatively backward, which leads to our understanding of the United States may be limited.


So the recent changes in the United States have made some Chinese elites very uncomfortable. If we still understand the United States according to the historical impression of the United States, we can not draw a more correct conclusion.


Observer.com: in your opinion, what should the real United States look like, without the “filter” put on the Chinese elite by the huge development gap between China and the United States in history?


Jin Canrong: the difficulties of the United States have exposed a lot of its nature. The United States whose nature is exposed is the real America. From an academic point of view, it is an opportunity for us to understand the essence of the United States. The United States mainly inherited British culture, and British culture is actually a kind of “pirate culture” – it is very expansionary, aggressive, and bandit. When Europeans landed in America, it was clear that there were tens of millions of Indians there, but in the British legal system, it was called “ownerless land”, that is to say, they fell behind him in their laws Our aborigines are not human beings. This is a very cruel aspect of their culture.


In addition, I have said in many places that western social science is essentially a summary of the collective historical memory and experience of Westerners. Therefore, it serves the reality of the west, packaging the reasons for the rise of the modern West in the face of science, consciously diluting the illegal elements, and highlighting the scientific and reasonable aspects. Therefore, when we study western social science, we must have a sense that western social science is not a pure science, it has a strong political utility. Since the reform and opening up, we have basically studied western theories, especially American theories. Their theories are well packaged, but we should not forget that their theories also serve their reality. They are very closed. If you don’t realize that, you’ll be led by the nose.


Oo if we jump out of their superstition, we will find that in fact, the road they have taken in the past is very cruel. Social Darwinism is a thought that runs through the whole process. It is very expansionary and predatory and self-centered. They also have this “win-win” thinking in the East, but very few. They have always wanted to gain absolute advantage, even relative advantage is not accepted. If you realize this, you won’t be surprised by the recent events between China and the United States.


Observer.com: in the future, as the situation becomes more and more severe, the original packaging of the United States may peel off more and more, so the real side we see may become more and more cruel.


Jin Canrong: Yes. Generally speaking, the United States is still a young country. By July 4, this year, it has just turned 244. I always think that this age is a little bit too much. This algorithm takes 1776 as the starting point of the United States, that is, the year when the United States issued the declaration of independence. In fact, this declaration was only a wish expressed by 52 slave owners, which was not considered as the founding of the people’s Republic of China at that time. So I think the United States in today’s sense was actually founded in 1789, because that year there was the first effective central government, and the first president, George Washington, was elected. Therefore, the actual age of the United States this year is 231, which is equivalent to half a long Dynasty compared with Chinese history, such as the Han Dynasty.


Such a short history has brought about a problem, that is, America’s understanding of human nature and the complexity of human history is relatively shallow. But the United States is also a country of immigrants, the social composition is many yuan, its internal cohesion has problems. At present, the American national identity is relatively weak, mainly relying on economic opportunities to attract people. Many people go to the United States for economic opportunities. Some Chinese liberal intellectuals say that I only go to the United States because I worship democracy, freedom and human rights. But according to Western standards, 144 countries believe in these concepts, and some are developing countries in Africa, but they will not go there. So what they’re talking about is a gimmick. What they really admire is American success, power, and economic opportunity.


The weak cohesion and the difficulty of people’s unity bring challenges to the United States. We can see that although the United States is diverse, it will be hysterically opposed to ideas that threaten its basic values based on white Protestant Culture. Compared with European countries, the influence of movement and labor movement in American history is relatively small, but the United States is the most powerful in western countries, because of its weak cohesion, ideology is likely to shake that set of American basic values. This part is what we need to pay attention to.


Senator Joseph McCarthy was the “pioneer” of the United States after the end of World War II. This is a video capture of ABC’s YouTube


Today’s United States faces five major problems, which I can simply summarize as “up and down”, “left and right”, “black and white”, virtual and real economy, internationalism and nativism.


The “up and down” contradiction is a class contradiction, that is, the elite in the United States are selfish and do not care about the people or the future of the country. Therefore, the trust of the grassroots people in the upper class is no longer there. The concrete manifestation is that trump relies on the populists and is very disgusted with the establishment faction, which also openly despises the people.


The “left and right” contradiction means that the ideological opposition between the left and the right parties is very sharp. The manifestation is that the power holders in the democratic and Republican parties are extremists, not moderates, so it is difficult to make political compromise. Democracy needs compromise. It turns out that Americans and British people are very proud to say that we have “Anglo American compromise”, but now this kind of compromise is very difficult to reappear.


In addition, the United States is a capitalist country, and the real decision makers are capital groups. But now the U.S. capital groups are also divided into virtual economic groups and real economic groups. Their interests are in conflict. There are also contradictions between internationalists and nativists. Capital groups that are good at internationalization will emphasize embracing the world market and making money globally, while those with poor international competitiveness emphasize protectionism and local priority.


I think these contradictions are not as sharp as those in the 1930s and 1960s, but when taken together, the situation is far more complicated than that. In the 1930s, there was a contradiction between “up and down” and “left and right” in America, but at that time, the black people were so oppressed that they didn’t even have the consciousness of protest, so the racial contradiction was not prominent. At that time, there was no performance of virtual economy, so there was no contradiction with the real economy, and the contradiction between internationalism and nationalism was not prominent. By the 1960s, the “black-and-white” contradiction began to become obvious, but neither of the last two I mentioned.


Jin Canrong: part of the reason lies in the technical level. For example, the development of science and technology has brought about the arrival of the network era, and the division between the virtual economy and the real economy has emerged. This is a change caused by objective conditions. I would like to focus on two other reasons:


One is the popularity of liberalism. Liberalism can also be called “individualism” in philosophy, that is to see the relationship between people, between people and society and between people and government from the perspective of individuals. The economics developed by this kind of thinking will emphasize private enterprises and think that the market formed spontaneously is the most efficient. In politics, individualism believes that the government can solve problems, but it also brings problems, so it advocates small government and emphasizes the autonomy of society. At the cultural level, this philosophy advocates individual heroism and opposes collectivism. These formed a complete set of ideas.


However, human nature determines that human beings are social. After the completion of the industrial revolution in Britain, the productivity has been greatly improved, and the individual human beings have become safer than before relative to nature and others.


Dr. JIN Canrong is Professor and Associate Dean with the School of International Studies at Renmin University of China. He is also a visiting professor at the Gerald Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan, and the “Weilun” Chair Professor at Tsinghua University.