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Thursday, February 22, 2024

China US relations, The strange marriage is over


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China thinks it owns Russia, and sees it as a warehouse of raw materials for China’s industrial machine, and a fount of state-of-the-art military technologies

The mess in Afghanistan is the new joker in the pack, and both China and Russia want the other fellow to handle it

After having warned some Senators in February 2021 that China would eat America’s lunch unless it got its infrastructure act together, now Joe Biden says that China thinks it will own America in 15 years

China had been the world’s ultimate rogue state in the 1950s and 1960s — far more radical than its Communist ally, the Soviet Union

Chairman Mao Zedong’s policies led to the deaths of tens of millions of his own people in the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution

Beijing fought two undeclared wars against the U.S., in Korea and Vietnam; it promoted insurgency and revolution in the developing world

So why did America hop into bed with it?

What is the truth?

How much of America does China actually own and where did it get the money?

The cash came from America that in its blind quest for profit kept accepting Chinese money, keeping its consumers happy while killing its manufacturing

Chinese savings paid for American profligacy, American consumers got dollars to buy cheap Chinese goods

China owns about $1.1 trillion in U.S. debt (down from about US$ 1.5 trillion some years ago), or a bit less than the amount Japan owns

Whether you’re an American retiree or a Chinese bank, American debt is considered a sound investment

What did China do with this money?

The United States is home to many iconic American brands that dominate the global market

However, while these brands may seem All-American, they have important Chinese stakeholders

Some examples are the world’s largest cinema company, AMC, General Motors, America’s largest automobile manufacturer, Spotify (originally a Swedish company), Snapchat that once snubbed rival Facebook, Hilton and General Electric

When these acquisitions were first reported earlier this year by Made in America.com, one comment said it all:

“I don’t want to buy ANYTHING that has any connections to communist China, period…I do buy some things made elsewhere, just not China”

Hollywood too seems to have sold its soul to China

US film companies want to avoid losing access to China’s lucrative box office market where they earned USD 3 bn in 2020, so casting, content, dialogue and plotlines are increasingly being tailored to appease censors in Beijing

So, Hollywood films show a very benign view of China

Two totally incompatible systems, ideologies, visions and preferences were in bed for several decades

I am surprised that they did not divorce earlier

In the last week of May 2021, the top US official dealing with Asia said that the over thirty-year era of engagement with China had ended, and that henceforth competition would be the dominant paradigm, as the US worked under a new set of strategic parameters

He said that Xi PingPong was largely responsible for the shift in US policy, cutting the border clashes with India, the economic campaign against Australia and China’s vituperation of everybody as examples of its belligerence

His comments reflect the broad bipartisan consensus on dealing with China

In 2011, there was talk of a G-2: the two largest economies, members of UN Security Council, the most prominent rising power and the strongest “status-quo” power should work together to address international challenges

“Pressing global challenges” included global macroeconomic imbalances as China saved too much and the United States consumed too much, so China recycled its export earnings, usually by purchasing American debt

An indulgent USA got what it wanted from the relationship, the demise of the evil USSR, huge profits through cheap labour in China, and a vast market

And the fond hope that engagement with China would make it a more responsible player committed to international peace

The significant concessions made by the fellow who went around kissing her (her being China) and his boss Richard Nixon, was prompted by their search for a spectacular foreign policy success to help Nixon win the 7 November 1972 presidential elections (the China visit had taken place 9 months earlier)

It had become clear that the Vietnam war was unwinnable and anti-war demonstrations on campuses were gaining traction

The leaked Pentagon Papers (June 1971) added to the urgency to resolve things in Vietnam

While finding its feet internationally, China played to the western gallery. It was very cautious in its behavior, working in international institutions, accepting global norms in a number of areas, and reassuring other powers that its rise would be peaceful

The disastrous consequences of China’s rise with US support as an economic and military behemoth under a totalitarian one party political system are evident

The normalisation of relations with the PRC was an overdue diplomatic move for stability in US-China relations, but the American duo stupidly allowed Mao to extract huge concessions, including supply of sophisticated technologies which Kissinger asked the western allies to sell that China’s aircraft industry and boosted its flagging missile programme

The stupid K fellow encouraged Britain and France to sell prohibited nuclear reactor technology  to China

Although bound to Taiwan by a mutual defence treaty, Nixon accepted China’s position and cut Taiwan loose, and gave China’s seat in the UN to Beijing straightaway

These flawed China policies continued to be followed by successive US Administrations, because of their rabid anti-Soviet strategy and the greed of corporate America

Blindsided by this approach, a whole generation of panda lovers who advocated a ‘no holds barred engagement with China, are today disillusioned to discover that their pet project had gone badly awry

They now moan that Beijing’s long  term strategy is  to replace America as the “Global Superpower”

Leading China specialist Micheal Pillsbury has recorded his deep regret for his misplaced enthusiasm in his own book in 2015

The Washington Post reported in November 2018 that a special report commissioned by the Hoover Institution and the Asia echoed themes in Vice-President Mark Pence’s speech at the Hudson Institute a month earlier sharply attacking “Beijing’s whole of government approach to use political, economic, military tools and propaganda to advance its influence and benefit its interests in the US”

But for the much-maligned Donald Trump, we may not have seen such a fundamental bipartisan shift in America’s China policy

A sly China filched, reverse engineered, acquired cutting edge technology and felt emboldened to challenge its benefactor and his buddies

Since the mid-2010s, the “peaceful rise” mantra has been abandoned. China thinks it has risen

As my brilliant colleague Ambassador Saurabh Kumar points out, the larger question is how to deal with China, a State captured by a ruthless Communist Party that uses narrow nationalism (chauvinism) to legitimize its stranglehold on power

Regrettably, the intelligentsia of the “free world” rationalized China’s ruthlessness as unavoidable in any interaction between liberal, open, and pluralistic polities and totalitarian ones

The heady atmosphere of the unipolar era led the U.S. to triple down on engagement with China, in hopes that the forces of globalization and liberalization would eventually transform a brutal, tenacious regime that had no interest in being transformed

And the inertia of that policy, plus the fact that the U.S. got hooked on trade with China, caused it to persist for at least a decade after its flaws were clear

George Orwell wrote a novel called “1984” that deals with the consequences of totalitarianism, mass surveillance, and repressive regimentation of persons and behaviours within society. And how truth and facts within politics are manipulated

In 1984 (mark the year) President Ronald Reagan went to China

For many years he had sharply attacked ”Red China” as an implacable foe of the United States, but in 1984 dramatically shifted his language by asserting that the United States could get along ”with this so-called Communist China” since it was not an expansionist power and since it wanted American investment

China laughed all the way to the bank!

In December 1978, Deng Xiaoping announced China’s open-door policy, inviting in foreign businesses and encouraging party members to “emancipate their minds”

Two weeks later, the first bottles of coke arrived, and Coca-Cola invested in a bottling plant to bring modern technology and foreign exchange to China

A salivating developed world (selling one handkerchief to each Chinese would mean a billion handkerchiefs!) rushed in with capital and technology. Slowly, imperceptibly, China turned the tables and instead of becoming the marketplace of the world, became the factory of the world

The world was lulled into a sense of complacency regarding Beijing’s long-term goals for China was never transparent about them

Just because China pretended to accommodate the international system did not mean that it would not adopt more ambitious objectives and take on more risk once it was stronger

By 2008, after the success of the Beijing Olympics, China felt emboldened to proclaim that its communist system was better than any other

The evidence of China’s malice and hopes of world domination have been staring us in the face for years, the evidence hiding in plain sight, but the China-enamoured world could not or did not want to see the threat

The United States gave China a seat at table of world leadership expecting China to defend and promote the interests of the international system (this is what the Bush administration meant by “responsible stakeholder”)

Then China decided that like the Arab’s camel, it needed the world to itself, and slowly wormed its way in, until the Arab (the world) boots it out

US friends and allies in Asia are confident that Joe Biden will not repeat the strategic failures of the Obama administration, namely, allowing the rise of China on American capital and technology in the foolhardy belief that a rich and powerful China would be a factor for peace and stability

China cannot be treated as a normal state given its gaming, and milking, of the framework of international relations and multilateral organisations to its own immense advantage

The world now wants to understand the origin of the virus, to prevent its recurrence

China seethes when this is raised

Its Man Friday, the WHO, used to nod so vigorously in agreement that its head might fall off! It has since changed its tune

There are growing demands for China to come clean. An Australian newspaper reported a 2015 Chinese military document suggesting development of virus-based bioweapons

Other reports, quoting intelligence sources, suggest that staff at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where the virus was being manipulated, fell ill with a mysterious pneumonia-like ailment in fall 2019, long before China acknowledged a virus problem

China’s western-trained “bat woman” has been playing around with guano from the bat-infested Yunnan caves for years

Her records have been sealed

Whistleblowers were silenced, as the Party and police took over the management of the virus, sidelining doctors

Communist China will never acknowledge its culpability – the Communist God can do no wrong

China’s leadership has consistently betrayed and insulted those who sought to befriend it – Jawaharlal Nehru (of bhai-bhai fame), Soviet leaders who shared nuclear secrets with China, Barack Obama (of US-China partnership will define 21st century fantasy), Rodrigo Duterte (of I love Xi Jinping effusiveness)

The only way to understand this behavior is through a Chinese lens

On the one hand, the Communist Party has crafted a domestic narrative of China as a victim of foreign predation whose time has come to stand tall once again on the world stage (under the firm guidance of the party)

On the other hand, China’s growing economic clout has convinced Beijing policy makers that they possess the power to assert their will over the universe

Barack Obama who grandly proclaimed that his nation’s relationship with China would be the “defining partnership” of the 21st Century was badly shaken up when in 2015 the Chinese military called for a relationship of equals with the US military, so he reminded the world that the USA was the most powerful nation on earth. Period

China had internal problems (corruption, poverty, wealth and income inequality, an ageing population, a weak social safety net, and environmental degradation), and China’s leaders spent most of their time worrying about how to cope with them

By 2020 they felt that the internal challenges would not go away any time soon, so it was time to divert attention, arouse purple nationalism, and assert its “manifest destiny” externally

Galwan and the South China Sea confrontation followed

The message from Beijing is simple: America is not just declining, it is broken

“America’s Main Opponent is Itself,” proclaimed the headline in a recent edition of the People’s Daily. The author argued that the United States has arrived at its current situation because the design and operation of its political and economic system has gone awry, the inevitable result of the short-sighted pursuit of profit

It would be easy – and comforting – to dismiss this as mere propaganda, for we don’t know just how deep the declinist consensus is in China, owing to the tight constraints on open discourse

However, the USA-China tango has reached a tipping point

An open question is whether Beijing is locking itself into chronic hubris that will further bolster the “wolf warrior” attitude on display for the past year (even though PingPong has just asked his chaps to give it up), as well as lead it to underestimate the many sources of resiliency and reform within America’s political system

Much as Xi Jinping focuses on big tech aspirations, he faces mounting demographic and human capital challenges

The Communist Party has a monopoly over violence. A turning point in the party’s history was Mao Zedong’s decision to establish party cells in the Red Army in 1927 as he believed that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun

But now the party (pun intended) has ended

Joe Biden wants a definitive repot from his intelligence people on the origin of the Wuhan virus

Aware that it cannot afford to be the sole Rambo of the world, the US is re-engaging with friends and allies

The USA wants to normalize relations with Russia to contain China

Russia says OK, provided our vital interests are protected

Such co-existence is not possible with Communist China that wants a totally Sino-centric world

No one else wants it

The honeymoon is long gone


China US relations, The strange marriage is over -


Deepak Vohra

Ambassador Dr. Deepak Vohra, Made in India,
Special Advisor to Prime Minister, Lesotho, South Sudan and Guinea-Bissau,
Special Advisor to Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Councils, Leh and Kargil, Gauri Sadan, 5 Hailey Road, New Delhi 110001.


I am not Indian because I live in India, I am Indian because India lives in me!

They said: Hide from the storm; I replied: I am the storm  


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