Published: 00:39, March 19, 2024 | Updated: 09:33, March 19, 2024
Politics serves different goals in West, China
By Ho Lok-sang

Politics is probably one of the most complicated subjects to comprehend. First, politics is everybody’s business because it has to do with everybody’s interests. Politicians have to pursue the interests of their constituents. Their constituents would like their representatives to serve their best interests.

This year is an election year in the United States. China-bashing is in vogue. But is China-bashing in the interests of Americans? Then-US president Donald Trump launched a trade war using tariffs during his term of office. Even though analysts have shown that the tariffs have driven up prices in the US and that they were mainly shouldered by the American people, and even though the US’ trade deficit did not shrink as he had hoped, Trump said he would hit cars made in Mexico by Chinese-owned factories with a 100-percent tariff.

When asked about possible retaliation by Beijing, his answer was: “You screw us and we’ll screw you.” But is tit-for-tat the way to a good life for the American people? Never mind. China-bashing can win votes. That’s what counts.

In China, politics is all about serving the people. It is not about winning votes or personal gain. Interestingly, however, the Chinese Dream is no different from the American Dream. After all, peace, prosperity, a good life, sustainable development and fair play are universal values. To further these goals, China has proposed the Belt and Road Initiative, the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative, and the Global Civilization Initiative. What has the US done?

The 2011 white paper “China’s Peaceful Development” states that the international community should find new perspectives from the angle of the community of common destiny to seek shared interests and values of humankind. This white paper is the precursor to the various initiatives mentioned above.

The US is the world’s top superpower and is in a better position than China to pursue peaceful development for the world. Many American politicians, including Trump and US President Joe Biden, unfortunately see economic development as a zero-sum game. Yet we all know that rivalry and turning one another into an enemy is a lose-lose game. On the other hand, taking “shared human destiny” seriously is a win-win game.

Many American politicians, including Trump and US President Joe Biden, unfortunately see economic development as a zero-sum game. Yet we all know that rivalry and turning one another into an enemy is a lose-lose game. On the other hand, taking “shared human destiny” seriously is a win-win game

These days, many American people have shown their support for peace in Gaza and demanded a cease-fire. As president, Biden has leverage over Israel because the US can stop supplying Israel with arms and money. The fact is that no country can be secure unless all countries feel secure. This is the rationale for the Global Security Initiative. Ukraine wanted security, and to achieve security it wants to join NATO, but security becomes an illusion as the threat of continued NATO expansion made Russia feel insecure. We have to put ourselves in other people’s shoes. The tragedy of continued conflict in the Middle East is because many people refuse to put themselves in other people’s shoes. Putting oneself in the shoes of others is what “civilized” means.

This shows the need for the Global Civilization Initiative. We are living in the 21st century. When we put ourselves in other people’s shoes, we would want reason to prevail. We would accept that we can be wrong. We would develop a habit of self-reflection and consistency and a readiness to free ourselves from ideology-driven biases. We may have different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, but being civilized means the same to all of us. The Global Civilization Initiative and the Global Security Initiative are preconditions to sustainable development. Although these initiatives were first proposed by President Xi Jinping, the US can take a more proactive role and contribute to humanity’s well-being, and by example lead these initiatives alongside China.

Politics is complicated, especially in liberal democracies. Although the term liberal democracy is attractive in tone, players in the electioneering game may not have much liberty at all. Behaving in a civilized way and taking a long-term view from the perspective of the country and humanity may not help at all in winning votes. A politician intent on serving the country and humankind has no liberty to speak his mind.

David Autor and his co-authors in a recent National Bureau of Economic Research working paper showed that while import tariffs on foreign goods neither raised nor lowered US employment in newly protected sectors, retaliatory tariffs had clear negative employment impacts, primarily in agriculture, notwithstanding US agricultural subsidies. Overall, the trade war has not provided economic help to the US heartland. Still, the authors found that the trade war had boosted support for Trump and the Republican Party. This explains Trump’s hard line on cars manufactured by Chinese-owned factories in Mexico.

Politics is however not at all complicated in China. According to China’s Constitution, the Communist Party of China (CPC) is and will continue to be the ruling Party, which represents the development trend of China’s advanced productive forces, the orientation of China’s advanced culture, and the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the Chinese people. No government official can deviate from these overarching ideals, implying that the CPC can only serve the country. Because power abuse has to a large extent been effectively contained by governance mechanisms, we can fairly say that there are checks against government power.

The author is director of the Pan Sutong Shanghai-Hong Kong Economic Policy Research Institute, Lingnan University.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.