Published: 18:55, March 28, 2024 | Updated: 14:11, April 8, 2024
The two faces of Uncle Sam in Sino-US relations
By Andrew Fung Wai-kwong

In November, during his speech to the US business community, President Xi Jinping stated, “The future of Sino-US relations lies in the people, relies on civil society, looks toward the youth, and thrives at the local level. We welcome more US governors and legislators to visit China, and we welcome individuals from all walks of life in the United States to come to China.” He added, “To foster exchanges between the peoples of China and the United States, especially the younger generation, China will invite 50,000 American youth to visit China for exchange and learning over the next five years.”

China has lived up to its words. On March 16, 24 US high school students embarked on a trip to China, starting from San Francisco, California. These 24 students are part of the 50,000 youth who will visit China. They have visited Beijing, Shiyan in Hubei province, Guangzhou, and arrived in Shenzhen on March 24, where they visited a high-tech park.

On the same day, Beijing hosted the China Development Forum, attended by over 85 business leaders, including Apple CEO Tim Cook, Micron CEO Sanjay Mehrotra, and AMD CEO Lisa Su. Among the attendees were 34 high-level executives from US multinational companies, outnumbering the 23 who attended in 2023. The US business delegation was also the largest at the forum. Both US students and business community representatives are visiting China; their visits will help enhance mutual understanding between the two countries’ people. This reflects a US that is willing to engage in exchange and peaceful coexistence with China.

As President Xi said, “The future of Sino-US relations is created by the people. The more difficult the situation, the more important it is to strengthen the bond among the people and enhance mutual understanding. We need more people to stand up and support Sino-US relations. We should build more bridges and roads for people-to-people exchanges, rather than erecting barriers and creating a ‘chilling effect’.” 

In contrast, another face of the US emerged in March, one that is definitely creating a “chilling effect”. The US House of Representatives passed the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act on March 13 with a vote of 352 to 65. The bill seeks to force TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, to sell TikTok’s US operation within six months.

Failure to comply will result in TikTok — which has 170 million users in the US — being banned throughout the country. If US mobile and internet companies do not remove TikTok from their platforms after the ban, they will face fines of $5,000 per user. Given TikTok’s massive user base, this could result in fines up to $850 billion. The bill now needs to be passed by the Senate before being signed by President Joe Biden to become law. Ironically, Biden himself has used TikTok as a platform for his reelection campaign.

The US political community should listen to the voices of their constituents, American students and the business community, change direction, and seek mutual prosperity and coexistence with China

Mike Johnson, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, stated, “Apps like TikTok allow the Chinese Communist Party to push harmful content to our youth and engage in malign activities, such as harvesting the location, purchasing habits, contacts, and sensitive data of Americans. Today’s bipartisan vote demonstrates Congress’ opposition to Communist China’s attempts to spy on and manipulate Americans, and signals our resolve to deter our enemies.”

The Speaker of the US House of Representatives, a prominent political figure in the country, openly called the ruling party of China an enemy and tried to unjustifiably suppress an internet platform with 170 million users in the US. The move to ban TikTok completely contradicts the freedom of speech enshrined in the US Constitution and disregards the fair competition principle that Washington has long advocated.

The US Congress is not only targeting TikTok but also escalating its suppression of Hong Kong by introducing the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office Certification Act and the Hong Kong Sanctions Act.

Furthermore, US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo recently stated that she would consider banning the operations of certain Chinese firms in the US if Congress passes legislation allowing her to do so.

Here, we see another face of the US: One that unjustifiably suppresses China and stands in contrast to the one that seeks peaceful coexistence with China. It is no wonder President Xi said, “The foundation of Sino-US relations lies in the people.”

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently commented on the US, saying, “If the United States always says one thing and does another, where is the credibility of a major power? If the United States becomes nervous and anxious at the mention of China, where is the confidence of a major power? If the United States only pursues its own prosperity and does not allow other countries to develop legitimately, where is international justice? If the United States insists on monopolizing the high-end of the value chain and only allows China to stay at the low end, where is fair competition?”

In fact, the US political community does not need to be so anxious. The world is big enough for China and the US to coexist as major powers. Moreover, China’s foreign policy is not expansionist, and China’s modernization does not rely on plunder. As President Xi stated in the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in October 2022, China’s modernization is the modernization of peaceful development. In pursuing modernization, China will not tread the old path of war, colonization, and plunder taken by some countries. That brutal and blood-stained path of enrichment at the expense of others caused great suffering for the people of developing countries. China will stand firmly on the right side of history and on the side of human progress. Dedicated to peace, development, cooperation, and mutual benefit, China will strive to safeguard world peace and development as we pursue our own development, and we will make greater contributions to world peace and development through our own development.

China is committed to building a community with a shared future for mankind. An ancient Chinese philosopher noted that “all living things may grow side by side without harming one another, and different roads may run in parallel without interfering with one another.” Only when all countries pursue the cause of common good, live in harmony, and engage in cooperation for mutual benefit will there be sustained prosperity and guaranteed security. It is in this spirit that China has put forward the Global Development Initiative and the Global Security Initiative, and it stands ready to work with the international community to put these initiatives into action.

The CPC clearly stated in its 20th National Congress in October 2022 that China’s modernization is characterized by peaceful development, a foreign policy based on mutual benefit, and the recognition of other countries as members of a community with a shared future for humanity. The Chinese people are friendly and welcoming to US students visiting China. China has a vast market and welcomes US entrepreneurs to invest, especially in high-tech sectors that can promote China’s modernization. The US political community should listen to the voices of their constituents, American students and the business community, change direction, and seek mutual prosperity and coexistence with China. As the saying goes, good Sino-US relations benefit both sides, but both will be damaged if they deteriorate.

The author is a former information coordinator of the HKSAR government and a member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.