Published: 22:55, April 22, 2024 | Updated: 09:17, April 23, 2024
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Disparaging, containing China will not make America great
By Ho Lok-sang

Americans are going to the vote in November this year to determine who is going to be the next president of the United States. Donald Trump, a past president, had in his last campaign used the slogan “Make America Great Again”. He failed to make America great again in his last tenure. He vows to come back and finish his job. Joe Biden, the current president, followed Trump’s path of promoting America’s interests by imposing tariffs and sanctions on various countries and companies. He also did not make America great. 

The US’ stature in the world has fallen to a new low, particularly after it vetoed the widely supported UN resolution to give Palestine recognition as a state and a member of the United Nations. US deputy ambassador Robert Wood disingenuously told the UN Security Council that the veto “does not reflect opposition to Palestinian statehood but instead is an acknowledgment that it will only come from direct negotiations between the parties”.

With such disingenuousness, how can America stand in the world as a great nation? What makes a nation great? In Confucianism, a strong nation based on military might is distinguished from a great nation that is based on moral integrity. The latter is called a nation based on “wangdao” (the way of a stately nation); the former is merely a nation based on “badao” (the way of a hegemon). Nations that practice wangdao win the admiration of other nations. Nations that practice badao are despised.

Israel is benefiting from the nonstatehood of Palestine so it can continue to occupy Palestinian land and subject Palestinians to exploitation. There is a clear conflict of interest in asking Israel and Palestine to come to an agreement. Israel is backed by the US and is armed to the teeth. Palestine is impoverished and weak militarily. The two are not on equal standing. How can a fair agreement come about?

In order for America to be great, it needs to keep its word, stand with the people of the world to stop and to prevent wars, and behave in a responsible way when managing its own finances. It must not say one thing and do another

The point of this article is not so much about Palestine’s statehood as about the relationship between moral integrity and a country’s greatness. A country that is just feared but not admired cannot be great. Living in the 21st century, we have so many urgent things that we need to address in order just to survive, but the US is ignoring these existential issues facing humanity. Drumming up false narratives to badmouth China and doing all it can to contain China so it can retain its hegemony over the world can never make America a great nation.

2023 has been confirmed as the warmest calendar year in global temperature data records going back to 1850. We most probably have no record earlier. 2023 had a global average temperature that was 0.17 degrees C higher than the previous highest annual reading in 2016. According to “Underfinanced.Underprepared.”, the new report from the United Nations Environment Programme, “progress on climate adaptation is slowing on all fronts, with the financing gap now at a staggering US$194-366 billion per year”.

China has invested heavily to fight climate change. China’s National Greening Commission reported that the country added 3.998 million hectares of forest in 2023, up from 3.83 million hectares of afforestation in 2022. As well, China restored 4.379 million hectares of degraded grassland and treated 1.905 million hectares of sandy and stony land. The country’s investment in its “new three” key products — electric vehicles (EVs), lithium-ion batteries and solar panels — has helped reduce their prices, making these key products for fighting climate change accessible to more consumers, especially those in developing countries. However, the decline in the prices of these products is eroding profits for many suppliers, leading to allegations that China has an “overcapacity problem”. Although some companies are going to go under, this is unavoidable. If we are transitioning to green energy, green energy and electric vehicles must be affordable. To say that prices of Chinese solar panels and electric cars are too low and threaten the survival of many producers is effectively to say that these products should continue to be so costly that they should remain unaffordable to many. If so, how can China reduce the carbon emissions to be compatible with its targets of peak carbon by 2030 and carbon-neutrality by 2060? How can the rest of the world achieve their respective targets so we can reverse the trend of global warming?

In order for America to be great, it needs to keep its word, stand with the people of the world to stop and to prevent wars, and behave in a responsible way when managing its own finances. It must not say one thing and do another. America has repeatedly declared it abides by the one-China principle — Taiwan is part of China — but is arming Taiwan and continues with its support for its separatist government. America used to be a defender of free markets and fair play. But politicians from both major US parties have introduced a new bill that would ban TikTok unless its parent company, ByteDance, agrees to sell the app to a non-Chinese company. They alleged without any evidence that the Chinese government could force ByteDance to hand over data on TikTok’s 170 million US users. This accusation is entirely groundless, as are the alleged “genocide” of the Uyghurs and “forced labor”, which independent auditing agencies have found to be untrue.

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

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.