Published: 22:25, May 21, 2024
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Animosity toward China will hasten US’ decline
By Lau Siu-kai

The vast majority of US politicians, media and scholars adhere to an outdated Cold War mentality, regard China as an existential threat, and use all means possible to harm it. The purpose of discrediting, isolating and containing China is to maintain the US’ global hegemony. However, the US’ hostile policy toward China will eventually bring the US down. The US political elites are still not aware of this catastrophic endgame, refuse to admit it, or are aware of it but are reluctant to publicly talk about it for fear of losing support for their anti-China policy.

First, the policy of treating China as an enemy will inevitably elicit a fierce response from China, and the US will have to pay a heavy price for it. Today, China has no illusions about the US. The Belt and Road Initiative, the ever-expanding BRICS alliance, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the ever-increasing strategic cooperation between China and Russia, the ferocious courting of the Global South, yuan internationalization, the strategy of “domestic circulation as the mainstay, and mutually reinforcing domestic and international dual circulations”, expanding military power, and the strenuous search for scientific and technological autonomy are all essential strategic moves to counter US efforts at containment.

In an environment where the US is hostile to China, it is difficult for American companies and investors to obtain the same business opportunities as those of other countries in the growing Chinese economy. The various import and export tariffs and restrictions imposed by the US on China, especially the export controls on high-end technology, have caused significant losses to many US companies. An increasing number of US policies use “national security” as an excuse to force Chinese companies to actively or passively reduce investment and operations in the US. To counter the US offensives, China continues to cut down on its purchases of US Treasury bonds and assets to reduce its dependence on the US dollar. China’s investment in and aid to developing countries have made many countries more immune to US sanctions and caprice. China has successfully won the support of many developing countries to defeat the provocations and offenses against China by the US at the United Nations and other international arenas. It is conceivable that China’s counterattacks against the US will cost the latter dearly. The hostile US policy toward China has significantly damaged American companies’ interests and the American people’s well-being.

Second, making China an enemy of the US leads to misallocating resources. Although the US is still the world’s leading power, its relative comprehensive national strength is no longer what it used to be. It is heavily in debt and deeply divided politically, so it won’t be easy to regain its former clout, swagger and influence. The US’ industrial production capacity has shrunk significantly, and it has to increasingly bank on the “virtual” and financial industries that persistently wreak economic havoc. The US must devote more resources to defense, security, intelligence and other endeavors to contain China. The already severely insufficient and strained resources that can be allocated to infrastructure, education, scientific research, health, environment, industrial development and welfare will have to be cut further, jeopardizing the country’s stability and future. To win over allies and other countries to join the US-led anti-China ranks, Washington must shower more resources on them and make security commitments that it is increasingly incapable of fulfilling. The US’ misguided investment and allocation of public resources has made many Americans increasingly disgruntled with the powerholders and will further undermine their trust and confidence in American democracy. Internal strife will accelerate the sapping of US national power.

Third, maintaining the US dollar hegemony amid hostility to China is increasingly difficult. Almost all American political elites and strategic scholars have emphasized that as the US’ diplomatic and military strength continues to decline, the dollar hegemony has become the pivotal pillar for the US to dominate the world. However, under the weight of tens of trillions of dollars of US debts, coupled with the wanton and daring use of the US dollar as a weapon against other countries and its irresponsible policies of indiscriminate issuance of the US dollar, the international credibility of the US dollar has weakened regarding its value as a reserve currency, and its functions in investment and trade. The “extreme” financial sanctions imposed by the US on Russia after the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine war further undermined international confidence in the dollar. China and many other countries are increasingly unwilling to rely too much on the international payment system dominated by the US. They are worried about the US’ ability to repay its debts. They are even more afraid that their assets stored in the US and the West will be frozen or confiscated in case of a conflict with the US. More and more countries believe it is necessary to reduce their dependence on the US dollar and the US dollar-centered financial system and to develop some alternative payment instruments. All these will eventually erode the international status and functions of the US dollar. Therefore, the financial industry and “virtual” economy based on the hegemony of the US dollar, as the linchpin of US global hegemony, have become unsustainable. To contain China, the US has to invest more resources and significantly expand its military. It will tend to issue large amounts of US dollars indiscriminately in the future. As a result, the credibility of the US dollar as an international currency will crumble. US hegemony without the dollar hegemony will also break down. The greater the US’ efforts to contain China, the faster the internationalization of the yuan and the opening up of China’s financial market will be, and the quicker the demise of the US dollar as an international currency.

In all, from any rational point of view, turning the Chinese people at home and abroad, who account for almost one-fifth of the world’s population, into powerful and unbeatable enemies cannot be in the fundamental and long-term interests of the US. Only the arrogant and foolhardy American political elites would insist on this incredibly wrongheaded policy toward China. The tragedy of the US is that it feels that it has to overstretch and overreach fatally to maintain its global hegemony. And in the end, this idiotic policy will only accelerate the demise of the US’ global hegemony

Fourth, containing China is detrimental to the economic development of the US. The US persevering in being an enemy of China will make it difficult for American companies to “maximize” the benefits of China’s rapidly growing economy. Whether it is launching a trade war, tariff war, or technology war against China, preventing Chinese companies from financing in the US, preventing or prohibiting US companies from doing business with China, restricting US investors from purchasing Chinese stocks and assets, encouraging US companies and funds to withdraw from the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong, forcing allies and partners to cut economic, technological and trade ties with China, severing supply and industrial chains around the world, and other measures that harm others are harmful to the US economy. Many countries have resisted the pressure from the US and are increasingly unwilling to fully align with its strategy of containing China. US relations with its allies have suffered as a result.

Fifth, to contain China, the US is gradually violating or abandoning, intentionally or unintentionally, the free-market-based economic model that it has always trumpeted as its “core value”, which it requires other countries to adopt. Instead, it practices “geoeconomics”, “industrial policy”, and trade and technological protectionism. “Geoeconomics” advocates that the US government uses various economic means to achieve geopolitical goals, one of which is to weaken and isolate China economically.

Today, to engage in fierce industrial competition with China, the US has enacted many laws and regulations, such as the US Innovation and Competition Act, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act. It has devoted many resources to some strategic industries selected by the government, especially high-end chips and green technology, to maintain the US’ leading position in cutting-edge technology. In other words, the US government accuses the Chinese government of adopting preferential policies to support some strategic industries, while it implements a set of “industrial policies” that have been criticized as deviant and in favor of some sectors. In other words, the “free market” maxim that the US is proud of and has constantly peddled worldwide can no longer serve as a means to contain China. Alexander Cooley and Daniel Nexon, authors of the book Exit from Hegemony: The Unraveling of the American Global Order, even pessimistically asserted that the future of economic liberalism in the US is not optimistic. Whether US industrial policy can rebuild the US industrial system is still unknown. The incompatibility of these policies with American values has led to severe divisions and conflicts within American society and between political parties.

Seventh, to contain China and deal with the “China threat”, the US expands the concept of national security infinitely, creating a tense and chilling atmosphere in the US that is detrimental to stability. The US constantly accuses China of doing things in the US that are alleged to be “endangering” US national security. To prevent China from doing those things, the US has strengthened surveillance over its people, especially Chinese Americans and Chinese people studying or working in the US. As a result, the human rights and freedoms of American people, especially Chinese Americans, have been reduced. This will inevitably lead to setbacks in the democratic system and human rights protection in the US. In the US today, a Manichean “friend or foe” mentality, fear, xenophobia, and extremist thoughts prevail. Ironically, in the name of defending American human rights and freedoms against the “threat” from China, the US has, in effect, eroded them.

Eighth, treating China as an enemy has sown and intensified social divisions and conflicts in the US. It is indisputable that the US today is filled with many deep-seated contradictions that are difficult to resolve, causing many knowledgeable people in the US to worry. At the same time, many Americans are increasingly losing confidence in their country’s prospects, domestic conditions, Western values, the American democratic system, the capitalist system, and the prospects of individuals and future generations. In this situation, where domestic crises are rife and deepening, many political elites and public opinion leaders maliciously blame China for American problems to evade responsibility. They deliberately provoke febrile anti-China madness, which will inevitably set off increasingly severe and violent xenophobia and racial conflicts in the US. Although Chinese Americans are the first to bear the brunt, other Asians will inevitably suffer the same consequences. The occurrence of this situation will worsen the already increasingly severe problems of racial conflicts, political unrest, social polarization, and governance failure in the US.

Ninth, to contain and isolate China, the US defines the dispute between China and the US as a battle between “authoritarianism” and “democracy” to claim the moral high ground and win friends. However, since most countries in the world have not practiced the “Western democracy” advocated by the US, to expand the “democratic” camp, the US has to include some “authoritarian” countries in it, making the US a laughingstock in the world and further damaging its moral authority and voice.

Finally, the US policy of treating China is detrimental to its relations with its allies and partners. Many US allies and partners have closer and more indispensable economic and trade ties with China than with the US. Despite some territorial and maritime disputes between a few US allies and partners with China; none, however, feels that China poses a threat to their sovereignty and territorial integrity. Therefore, they have no incentive but fear to join the US in a devastating war against China. Furthermore, more and more US allies, especially Japan and South Korea, are unwilling to believe in the security commitments the US has given them. They are unsure that the US can defeat China (no matter how “victory” is defined). Instead, they are worried about being betrayed by the US under adverse circumstances. The more the US forces its allies to become enemies of China, the more it will encounter resistance from them, causing increasingly strained relations with its allies and weakening the alliance.

In all, from any rational point of view, turning the Chinese people at home and abroad, who account for almost one-fifth of the world’s population, into powerful and unbeatable enemies cannot be in the fundamental and long-term interests of the US. Only the arrogant and foolhardy American political elites would insist on this incredibly wrongheaded policy toward China. The tragedy of the US is that it feels that it has to overstretch and overreach fatally to maintain its global hegemony. And in the end, this idiotic policy will only accelerate the demise of the US’ global hegemony.

The author is a professor emeritus of sociology, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and a consultant for the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.