Respecting Chinese People’s Right to Pursue a Better Life
It’s hoped that the new U.S. administration will respect the Chinese people’s rights to pursue a better life, and choose to move closer toward China for the interests of its own people. Win-win is surely better than lose-lose.
The Donald Trump administration’s recent announcement that it will impose visa restrictions on members of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and their relatives has caused China-U.S. relations to reach a new low, and it remains to be seen whether Joe Biden taking office next month will help reverse the current downward spiral.
As bilateral relations worsen, some U.S. politicians are taking the opportunity to recklessly demonize China and denigrate the CPC, using ideological differences as a weapon in a bid to derail China’s development.
The U.S. Government’s recent large-scale efforts to contain China began with the Trump administration in 2018, when it triggered a trade war by increasing tariffs on Chinese commodities.
The answer to why the United States is so eager to curb China’s development is simple: China’s burgeoning comprehensive national strength is reaching the ceiling of what the U.S. can bear to see other economies reach.
Although there is no concrete document that defines such a ceiling, when examining the previous trade wars the U.S. has used to target other economies since it rose to superpower status after World War II, it can be easily observed that when an economy’s gross domestic product (GDP) approaches 60 percent of the size of the U.S. GDP, the U.S. will initiate a trade war. This is true in the case of the Soviet Union, and also in the case of U.S. allies such as Japan and the European Union. This red line is no secret to the rest of the world.
Despite its rapid economic growth since the late 1970s, particularly after its accession to the World Trade Organization in 2001, China’s GDP was not large enough to rattle U.S. nerves. Even in 2010, when China’s GDP overtook that of Japan and China became the world’s second largest economy, its GDP was only around 40 percent of the U.S. Thus, the small bilateral frictions that did occur between the U.S. and China were regarded as normal hitches popping up in the two countries’ economic and trade interactions.
Once China’s GDP reached the 60-percent red line in 2013, containment policies followed swiftly from the Barack Obama administration. However, as China-U.S. trade is closely intertwined with the economies of both countries, in an effort to safeguard U.S. economic interests, the Obama administration refrained from bullying China economically, and instead chose to contain China both militarily and politically.
The Trump administration has inherited the China-containment policy adopted by the former administration. However, the measures it has taken have become more reckless and unscrupulous over the last four years. In addition to a trade war, which also hurts U.S. economic interests, the Trump administration spares no effort to discredit and denigrate China.
Citing the Thucydides’ trap theory, some Americans argue that a rising China will inevitably challenge the status of the U.S. in the world order. But the Thucydides’ trap does not exist between China and the U.S. and never will in the future because the core condition for such a trap is that China will challenge the status of the U.S. In reality, China is not doing so and will not do so.
The ultimate goal of China’s economic development is to ensure the Chinese people can live more decent and happier lives, and that the country will not again be trampled on by imperialists as it was a century ago. Chinese President Xi Jinping has said, “The people’s wish for a good life is our goal.”
It is natural for a country of 1.4 billion people to surpass the United States in terms of GDP. An economy as large as China’s is beneficial to the U.S., and if the U.S. can make good use of this massive market, its economy is expected to benefit greatly.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Government fails to realize these facts, or it chooses to turn a blind eye to them. Despite the U.S. containment impacting the Chinese economy and society, China is proving to be more resilient than other economies. The Chinese economy has continued to make great headway in the past two years since the U.S. ignited the trade war, and the gap between the GDP of the two countries continues to narrow.
The strong resilience of the Chinese economy, as well as China’s remarkable achievements in economic growth since the late 1970s, is hinged on the leadership of the CPC. Some U.S. politicians have therefore calculated that mounting assaults on the CPC is the key to crippling the Chinese economy and bringing China’s development to a halt. This explains their demonizing of China and their malicious discrediting of the CPC.
However, it’s self-evident that just as Americans are entitled to pursuing a happy life, so too are the Chinese. China has every reason to boost its economy and to provide its population with a better life. To deter China’s development by the means of attacking the CPC and its members is not a wise idea, given the Chinese people’s backlash against such practices. It’s hoped that the new U.S. administration will respect the Chinese people’s rights to pursue a better life, and choose to move closer toward China for the interests of its own people. Win-win is surely better than lose-lose.
The author is a commentator with Beijing Review magazine.