Foreign Affairs article “America Is Back—but for How Long?” on June 14, 2021 worries that due to polarization in US politics if current Democratic President Joe Biden is succeeded by a Republican like Donald Trump, there will be an end to Biden’s “America Is Back”.
Therefore, the unity of the West in current G7 summit is but one in appearance. EU certainly has to keep on its great efforts to make preparations for a world where America is not back!
China seems to be making better preparations whether America is back or not. It’s Belt and Route initiative will enable it to move lots of its enterprises for export to the US away from China to Silk Road economic belt. In addition it has long been making great efforts and providing huge subsidies for development of its own advanced technology.
EU certainly knows if Trump comes beck or someone like him comes to power, it will be the next target of US trade and tech war.
If unfortunately America is not back and EU is not prepared while China has been prepared through its Belt and Road initiative, China will look on with a smile the trade and tech war between the US and EU.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Foreign Affairs’ article, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/world/2021-06-14/america-back-how-long?utm_medium=newsletters&utm_source=fatoday&utm_campaign=America%20Is%20Back—but%20for%20How%20Long?&utm_content=20210614&utm_term=FA%20Today%20-%20112017
Stephen Collinson and Caitlin Hu June 2, 2021
Joe Biden had a stark message in his Memorial Day address — a speech that presidents normally use largely to honor the sacrifice of America’s war dead.
“Democracy itself is in peril, here at home and around the world,” Biden said, standing close by the endless ranks of graves at Arlington National Cemetery. “What we do now — what we do now — how we honor the memory of the fallen, will determine whether or not democracy will long endure.”
As Biden himself often says, “This is not hyperbole, folks.” Events in recent days have underscored the once-unthinkable notion that democracy is in trouble in America: Republican senators blocked an independent, bipartisan investigation into a violent insurrection incited by a former President. In Texas over the weekend, Democrats walked out of the state House of Representatives as Republicans tried to pass a bill that would make voting harder, especially for Black Americans. State Republicans plan to ram the measure through anyway. Also over the weekend, ex-President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn — a former intelligence chief and retired lieutenant general — seemed to muse that what America really needs is a military coup like the one in Myanmar.
Changing demographics and a rising generation of diverse, socially liberal and secular Americans are challenging a White, conservative, religious bloc that saw a savior in Trump. Instead of adapting their appeal to those Americans, conservatives trying to keep political power out of their hands.
Democrats are trying to push bills through the US Senate that would expand early and mail-in voting, restore protections for Black voters, establish national standards for elections and make it easier to vote. But Republicans wield the power of the filibuster — which requires 60 votes in the 100-seat Senate to pass major legislation —and will almost certainly be able to block the legislation.
As Biden said on Sunday: What is ahead is “the struggle for the soul of America itself.”
Source: CNN “’Whether or not democracy will long endure’”
Note: This is CNN’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean whether I agree or disagree with the report’s views.
US-Japan-South Korea Iron Triangle
When former US President Obama began his pivot to Asia to contain the rise of China, he attempted to set up a US-Japan-South Korea iron triangle to contain China. Compared with his successors Trump and Biden’s Indo-Pacific Quad grouping, it is indeed a much stronger alliance. Both Japan and South Korea have strong economies and are US allies. However, South Korea and Japan were not on good terms due to the history of Japan’s colonization of Korea for five decades until Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Yasukuni Shrine that commemorate some war criminals in invading and ruling Korea seriously upset South Korea.
The triangle broke before it was really established.
The idea of Russia-China-India grouping (RIC) was first raised by Russia former President Yeltsin’s second foreign minister, Yevgeny Primakov in his visit to India in 1998. At that time Russia needed RIC to balance US Power and wanted RIC to be the political nucleus of BRICS. Due to historical enmity and conflicts of interest with China, Russia wanted India to balance China and as link to the US as India had been trying to improve its relations with the US.
However, India did not want to be Russia’s ally but adopted an equal-distance diplomacy in order to be benefited from both Russia and China, and the West especially the US. China knows it is impossible to really be close to India if its border disputes with India have not be resolved. It has tried hard for decades to resolve the issue and was able for a time to make the border troops of the two countries friendly.
When Putin came to power, he has tried hard to establish the Russia-China-India triangle through quite a few summits of the leaders of the three countries but still without success.
In June 2020, in order to please the US, India sent troops across the Line of Actual Control to fight Chinese troops and thus created tensions in the border between China and India. It even joined US-led Quad later in March 2021. By so doing, it has made the Russia-China-India triangle entirely impossible.
China-Russia-Iran Iron Triangle
US former President Obama tried to improve US-Iran relations without much success. Anyway it joined Russia and other nations to reach an agreement with Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons. If Obama’s successor had followed up US policies to improve relations with Iran, there might have been less hostility between the two countries.
The agreement improved stability in the region and lifted sanctions on Iran that crippled Iran’s economy. Obama’s successor Donald Trump, however, unilaterally withdrew from the agreement and imposed sanctions on Iran again. He banned Iran’s export of oil, the major source of Iran’s income and made things very difficult for Iran. Iran could not but turned to US major strategic competitors Russia and China for help. By late 2020 China had become Iran’s major source of financial, technological and military assistance.
The US has tried to use sanctions to block Iran’s export of oil and gas but China needs more than all Iran’s oil and gas so that it had greatly increased its purchase of Iran’s oil. In order to obtain more oil and gas from Iran, China has allocated about $400 billion for investment in upgrading Iran’s oil, gas, and petrochemical industries and improving Iran’s overland transportation.”
In fact, there is a pipeline connecting Iran with Pakistan, which is now being expanded to China’s west for safe low-cost overland transportation of oil and gas to China through pipelines. China has invested in Iran’s world largest natural gas field to help Iran extract natural gas and export it to China through pipelines. China needs lots of natural gas as clean fuel for its households in order to reduce air pollution.
Moreover, US sanctions have forced Iran to receive Chinese currency yuan for its exports of oil and gas to China. That helps internationalization of yuan and increases Iran’s imports from China. It will also increase Russia’s imports from China as Iran will use yuan it has earned from China to buy Russian goods, especially Russian weapons. Russia will certainly spend the yuan it earns from Iran to buy Chinese goods.
That has not only economical but also political significance. In his recent visit to China, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov suggested to China the use of non-US currency as a way to resist US sanctions.
Russia historically has much influence in the Middle East but the US has tried hard to drive Russia away. Russia has made great efforts to maintain its influence in Syria and Iran is helping Russia doing so. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has already been cooperating with Russian troops and auxiliaries in Syria.
While the US has deployed an aircraft carrier battle group near Iran to threaten it, Russia is offering its advanced weapons to Iran to help it strengthen its defense and China is helping Iran expand its Jask Port and Chabahar’s airport for control of the Strait of Hormuz and build a regional eavesdropping post to intercept signals within a range of around 3,000 miles.
Trump’s pressures on Iran facilitated the establishment and strengthening of the Russia-China-Iran iron triangle, a strong alliance against US influence in Asia.
Biden Unable to Break the Iron Triangle
Now, US new president Joe Biden wants to continue Obama’s efforts to improve relations with Iran but he is slow in doing so. He has sought to revive talks with Iran on the nuclear agreement abandoned in 2018 by his predecessor, Donald Trump in 2018. Tehran wants the sanctions that Trump imposed removed before any negotiations resumes.
China grabs the opportunity to conclude a 25-year cooperation agreement with Iran before revival of US-Iran talks on restoration of the agreement. Obviously, the 25-year term means a lot in contrast to US withdrawal from the agreement within 2 years.
Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said ahead of the televised signing ceremony meaningfully, “Our relations with Iran will not be affected by the current situation, but will be permanent and strategic… Iran decides independently on its relations with other countries and is not like some countries that change their position with one phone call.”
The timing of the conclusion of cooperation agreement is very good before improvement of US-Iran relations and to a great extent make the improvement not significant as the agreement will make almost all US sanctions ineffective.
China really knows to choose the best timing of its diplomacy. It established RCEP and concluded trade deal with EU precisely before US new president Joe Biden had time to provide better alternatives to interfere with the establishment and deal.
The Iron Triangle Contributes to Driving US Hegemony Away from Asia
When China has upgraded Iran’s gas and oil production, Iran may supply oil and gas to India through a pipeline in Pakistan. In building the pipelines, Iran and Pakistan planned to extend them to India to provide India with oil and gas but due to hostility between India and Pakistan, India would not use any pipelines through Pakistan but prefers a sea route to Iranian port of Chabahar that India has been upgrading since 2015. Due to India’s attempt to ally with Iran’s enemy the US, Iran canceled its cooperation with India in building railway from Chabahar port to Afghanistan and thus put an end to India’s dream for connection with Central Asia through Chabahar port it has been upgrading.
If Iran’s supply of oil and gas has greatly increased, Russia can divert part or all its supply of oil and gas for China to South Korea through North Korea if China has eased the tensions between North Korea and South Korea and Japan. As a result Japan will get Russian oil and gas from a port in South Korea. That will greatly reduce the shipping costs for getting oil and gas from the Middle East. Japan and South Korea may use Russia’s coast facilities for shipping shortcut to Europe through the Arctic. Such economic links will facilitate integration of Asia. As a result, US economic influence in Asia will be much reduced. The US will not remain a hegemon in Asia.
Article by Chan Kai Yee
However, we have not studied another possibility: Could US president Trump leverage Russia against China?
In fact, before Obama began his pivot to Asia to contain China, the US has been quite successful in containing Russia with Chinese assistance. China supported the UN Security Council resolutions initiated by the West to contain Russia in the Middle East. It even suffered great losses in supporting the US in conducting regime change unfavorable to Russia in Libya.
However, when China continued to rise in spite of all the doomsday predictions of Western China analysts, the United States began to fear that its world hegemony might be replaced by China. That might become a reality if China’s growth rate, though had slowed down, remain much higher than the US. As mentioned above former US Obama administration began its pivot to Asia to contain China. Militarily, it planed to increase its military deployment from 50% to 60% in Asia. Economically, Obama had made great efforts to set up the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). What upset China most was US commencement to interfere with China’s disputes with its neighbors over the South China Sea. China regards its rights and interests in the South China Sea as its core interests so that it responded strongly.
As described in my previous posts, China was not strong enough to resist US containment alone. It has to unite with Russia to resist the US. China greatly pleased Russia by joining Russia’s veto of UN resolution initiated by the US aimed at bringing about regime change in pro-Russia Syria.
China’s great efforts to ally with Russia were but its diplomacy to subdue the US. As the West led by the US had been containing Russia with great political and military pressure, Russia welcomed China’s efforts to ally with it. Due to the historical enmity and conflicts of interests between China and Russia described in my previous posts, their alliance could be regarded as a marriage of convenience.
People’s marriage is mostly broken due to the affair with a third party. An affair between the US and Russia would have been a wise strategy to subdue China with diplomacy.
US Strategy Illiteracy
I have mentioned times and again US strategy illiteracy. Henry Kissinger has the wisdom that the US has to have better relations with China and the Soviet Union (Russia now) than the relations between China and the Soviet Union. He succeeded in establishing relations with China to scare the Soviet Union and make the latter seek détente with the US.
On the contrary, as described above former US president Obama pushed China and Russia into each others’ arms by his efforts to contain both countries. As a result, when President Donald Trump succeeded Obama, through Russian President Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s joint efforts, Russia and China have overcome their historical enmity and conflicts of interests and become quite close allies.
However, not all American people are strategy illiterates. Trump seems to know the need to break Russia-China alliance by improving US relations with Russia. Perhaps, he knows the importance of leveraging Russia against rising China. In his election campaign, Trump often praised Russian President Putin while attacking China. It gave people the impression that Trump would improve US relations with Russia when he had won the election and become US president. But due to previous Cold War there has been inveterate hostility between the US and Russia; therefore, that idea is quite unpopular among lots of American people. For example Trump’s former defense secretary James Mattis regards Russia as the biggest threat.
Trump is certainly not so stupid as to regard Russia as a friend instead of an enemy. He only wanted to drive a wedge between Russia and China to isolate China. That will be the reverse of Henry Kissinger’s move in improving US relations with China to counter the Soviet Union. Now Trump wants to improve US relations with Russia to counter China.
It is perhaps a wise move to contain China, but is it possible for Trump to do so, given US domestic disgust of Russian President Putin? Can Trump overcome fierce opposition from US politicians and media, especially the opposition from his own Republican Party?
Given the traditional enmity between the two giant neighbors Russia and China, it would have been possible for the US to leverage Russia against China if Obama had not committed the mistake of containing them both simultaneously and thus turned them into allies instead of enemies. When Trump tried to improve US-Russian relations, Russia-China alliance seems to have been well-established.
However, there are the historical enmity and conflicts of interests between Russia and China Trump may exploit. In addition China’s Belt and Road initiative has given rise to new conflicts of interests between the two for Trump to exploit.
Article by Chan Kai Yee
Silk Road Economic Belt in Central Asia
As mentioned in my previous posts Central Asian countries were previously parts of the Soviet Union under Russia dominance. Now, Russia wants to establish the Eurasia Union to keep them as its satellite states or at least in Russia’s sphere of influence. China has convinced Russia that in building infrastructures in Central Asia it pursues only economic benefit with no geopolitical intention. However China’s Belt and Road initiative is regarded by various analysts as a political scheme for world leadership. If so, the Belt and Road initiative in Central Asia may very likely result in replacing Russia’ influence with China’s. It is, therefore, very difficult for China to convince Russia that the projects being parts of China’s Belt and Road initiative are but economic with no political effect. In fact, it is impossible to separate economics from politics.
Due to the conflict of interests, little progress has been made in finding a way to accommodate Belt and Road with Russia’s Eurasia Union though China and Russia has had an agreement on that.
US Quad Pushes Russia Further into China’s Embrace
Fortunately, the US comes to their assistance. Trump has replaced Obama’s pivot to Asia with Indo-Pacific Quad of the US, India, Japan and Australia with the obvious intention to contain China. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made that very clear in his speech at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies on October 18, 2017.
India though a key part of quad has long been Russia’s friend and major market of weapon export. To win over India and make it the major player in controlling the Indian Ocean to threaten China’s trade lifelines through the ocean, the US has promised India that it will help India develop aircraft carriers with better US technology and supply India with US carrier-based fighter jets.
However, before US restoration of Quad, Russia is India’s major weapon provider and has been helping India develop its aircraft carriers. It has developed and made 45 Mig-29K worth $2.2 billion specially for India’s new aircraft carrier. Russia will suffer serious losses if India refuse to buy the Mig-29Ks. Obviously, India’s participation in US Quad will cause Russia to lose its major weapon market to the US. As a result, the US has pushed Russia even closer to China and thus facilitated removal of the potential obstacles to Belt and Road in Central Asia.
Moreover, China’s major BRI project in India’s enemy Pakistan upsets India while BRI is not accepted by Vietnam too due to China’s disputes with Vietnam over the South China Sea. China is not able to spread its BRI in those two countries of Russian influence. After all Central Asia is not an important area in Asia and China’s BRI there has not caused much reduction in Russia’s influence there, but the rail and Arctic links between China and Europe will bring Russia much greater benefits. Therefore, BRI in Asia is not a problem for Russia.
BRI in Europe May Affect Russia’s Interests there
China, however, is extending BRI to central and eastern Europe, where there are previous members and satellite states of former Soviet Union. As mentioned in my previous posts, Russia has long been a European country so that those former members and satellites states are much more important to Russia. It is especially so as EU has been trying hard to win over them as EU members or areas of influence.
Russia has been striving to win back those countries. Its conflict with the West over Ukraine is a typical example. China’s BRI there may further complicate the situation, which the US may exploit to break the alliance between Russia and China.
Article by Chan Kai Yee
Russia-China Rider-horse Alliance Failed
In the 1950s, there was a treaty alliance between Russia’s predecessor and China. The treaty had a term of 30 years, but the alliance broke and the two nations became enemies within a decade.
Perhaps it was an alliance described by Stephen Blank, a senior fellow for Russia at the Americ
an Foreign Policy Council. Blank points out, “every alliance has a horse and a rider.” In the 1950s, the Soviet Union regarded itself as the rider as it was much richer and stronger than China. However, China did not want to remain Soviet Union’s horse when it had grown stronger. It wanted to be the rider too. It began to strive to grab from the Soviet Union the leadership of their socialist camp. The fight for leadership broke the alliance in spite of a long-term treaty of alliance between them.
Marriage of Convenience
Some analysts regard the current Russia-China alliance as a “marriage of convenience”, a marriage based on mutual needs instead of affection. The needs are obvious as both countries are under US threat. However, in a marriage the two parties are equal. China has a much larger economy and its military is growing stronger than Russia, but China treats Russia as an equal partner. China is wise to pay attention to refraining from regarding itself as rider and Russia as horse. Its president Xi Jinping even wants Russian President Putin to be leader of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) they have jointly set up though China is much richer and stronger than Russia. Putin rejects China’s proposal and wants China to be the leader. As a result SCO is led by Russia and China jointly. Such mutual respect enables a marriage of convenience to remain strong and difficult to break by external pressure.
In addition, a marriage of convenience, though not as sound as a marriage based on mutual affection, may have some firm basis for the marriage, which usually is mutual interests. If the couple are both good and their interests are compatible and even facilitate each other as they grow closer due to the alliance, mutual affection may develop gradually. That is the case of Russia-China alliance. Long-term enmity may be turned into friendship due to mutual respect and trust built up through the alliance..
The US Has No Allies to Counter Russia-China alliance
While China has won over another world military power Russia to form an alliance that will assist each other to resist the US militarily, the US only has the allies it has obligations to protect but no allies to assist it in attacking China or Russia.
US former President Obama tried to form an Asian iron triangle of US, Japan and South Korea but failed as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had upset South Korea with his visit to Yasukuni Shrine. In fact, South Korea could not help the US in US war with China but Japan will be able to if it has further developed its military.
Obama’s pivot to Asia is mainly an alliance with Japan to contain China. Japan may become an ally comparable to China’s ally Russia. Japan is willing to take an active part to join force with the US due to its history of invading China and inflicting Chinese people with great misery. Together Obama and Abe had formed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to contain China economically. Obama’s successor Trump, however, withdrew from TPP in spite of Abe’s strong opposition. Trump, in addition, plans to start a trade war with Japan. As a result, Japan has been active in improving relations with China. It has made great efforts to establish with China Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and ASEAN + 3 Free Trade Area.
Trump is pushing Japan to China’s arms and will thus lose its only possible ally. Its European allies rely on its military protect and are unwilling to increase their military spending for their own defense, let alone help the US fighting China.
The US has no one to complain as its alliance with others is rider-horse alliance. It certainly cannot hope that its horses will protect it.
Can the US Be a Third Party that Disrupts the “Marriage” with an “Affair”?
The United States regards China as its only rival for world hegemony. As China is rising while the US is declining, normally, the US has to form alliance with some other countries to counter Russia-China alliance or instead make efforts to break Russia-China alliance. US President Donald Trump had tried to improve relations with Russia and thus drive a wedge between Russia and China but has encountered strong opposition at home.
Will Trump and his successor succeed in leverage Russia against China?
They could have exploited the conflicts of interests between Russia and China over China’s BRI.
Article by Chan Kai Yee
China’s Arms Race Does Not Aim at Competition with US
Usually a race is a competition among a few runners who compete with one another. There must at least be two runners to compete with each other. China’s arms race with the US is unique. It is a game of China running to catch up the US while the US is running on its own alone without knowing that China has been running hard to catch up with and surpass it. It was until several years later in late 2017 that the US realized that and described China as its major competitor in its National Security Strategy.
Too Late US Realized China’s Arms Race with it
Now, China’s arms race with the US has become an arms competition between China The US regards China as its major competitor but do not know how to compete with China. First of all, for a longtime, the US does not know China has been conducting arms race with it.
As a result, in the period of US ignorance of China’s arms race, US military has been slow in developing advanced weapons and wasted lots of resources in developing Littoral Combat Ships without designed fire power and excessively expensive Zumwalt-class destroyers that use cannon ammunition that the US cannot afford. In the years of China’s arms race with the US, China has made great achievements in upgrading its J-10, J-11 families of fighter jets, developing J-20 stealth fighter jets, Y-20 large freight airplanes, supersonic missiles, advanced ICBMs, etc.. Its navy has developed its homegrown aircraft carriers, J-15 carrier-borne fighter jets, Type 75 helicopter landing dock, Type 055 destroyers, advanced nuclear submarines, etc. In addition, China has upgraded its Beidou Navigation System to expand the area of its services.
US Puzzled by China’s Speed of Military Modernization
When the US became awar of China’s rapid military modernization, it is puzzled and wonders China’s goal of arms race with it. The US always regards China’s military buildup as aiming at achieving A2/AD capabilities in spite of Chinese military experts’ denial and China’s statement in its national defense White Paper that its national defense strategy is active defense. A2/AD (anti access/area denial) is mainly passive defense while active defense stresses attack for defense and even regard attack as the best way of defense. Therefore, for active defense, China is developing weapons to attack the US and at best its homeland. That is why it is developing spaceplanes, long-range bombers, supersonic weapons, advanced nuclear submarines, etc. that are able to attack US mprove relations with Biden Administration and hoping Biden will reverse Trump’s anhomeland.
Now, China is so confident that it will win the arms race and sure that US trade and tech wars attacks are unable to hurt China in the long run so that it does not make big tests of US new Biden Administration as pointed out in Foreign Policy’s article “Stop Looking for Beijing’s Big Test of the Biden Administration” on February 5, 2021. Chinese diplomats have been making efforts to revert America’s anti-China policies but have not softened China’s firm attitudes against Biden’s succession to Trump’s policies.
China’s top diplomat regards such reverting as correction of Trump’s mistakes and told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to correct the mistakes in his recent phone call with him.
Article by Chan Kai Yee
Compete with the US? Not Interested!
The US regards China as its major competitor, but China is not interested in competing with the US.
Shall a rising country united under a competent leader with centralized authority be interested in competing with a declining split country not able to elect a competent leader? Yes, the latter is now number one in the world and regards itself as world leader, but it is heavily in debt and cannot make ends meet. In addition, almost no countries follow the so-called world leader’s leadership.
Obviously it is too cheep to set winning competition with the US as China’s goal!
China Does Not Pursue World Leadership
Western media have been flooded with reports, analyses and articles on China’s ambition to replace the United States as world leader.
US President Joe Biden accepts his predecessor’s legacy in regarding China as his country’s major competitor. Obviously he shares US politicians, journalists and common people’s hostility toward China. What is the reason for such hostility. They say that China will soon catch up and surpass the US and replace the US as world leader.
True, China’s economy has been growing much faster than the US. If such a trend is maintained, China will exceed the US and become world largest economy within a decade. Usually, a world leader must have one of world largest economies, but in human history, a country with the largest economy is not necessarily world leader. For example, China before Opium War and the US before World War II were world largest economy respectively, but they were not world leader then.
As China was backward, the largest economy of China at that time was regarded as a fat sheep, a piece of delicious meat to be shared by greedy wolves of world powers.
What about the US? It simply was not interested in world leadership and instead pursued isolationism.
On the other hand, the Soviet Union, though not the largest world economy, pursued world leadership. As there were two world powers that sought world leadership, they had to be satisfied with the leadership of half the world. The US was the leader of Free World while the Soviet Union, Socialist Camp.
China’s Mao tried hard to grab leadership of the Socialist Camp from the Soviet Union but failed. He had to be satisfied with the leadership of developing countries which he called the third world. Though China was very poor at that time, Mao almost used up China’s limited resources to attract third world countries to follow his leadership but soon found that he could not compete with the US and even the Soviet Union that had much greater resources to attract them.
Mao’s failure taught his successors not to seek world leadership as China gained nothing from the limited world leadership Mao obtained with great efforts.
Looking back, neither the Soviet Union nor the US gained anything from their world leadership. The dreams of world communist revolution of both the Soviet Union and Mao’s China were broken. Mao failed to have his communist revolution succeed in any countries in spite of his substantial support for communist revolutionaries in the world. Even the Soviet union failed to use its powerful military to maintain the communist rule even in Afghanistan, a very poor and weak country.
The US has not fared better. It found its world leadership in providing military protection for its allies a heavy burden; therefore, US voters elected Trump as US president to conduct “America first” policy. Trump began to ask US allies to pay for US protection, giving the impression that the US, like a mafia, wants others to pay it protection money.
Since world leadership will not benefit China, why shall China pursue that?
What is Chinese Leaders’ Ambition Then?
Chinese Leader Xi Jinping always mentions the China dream of the rejuvenation of China. That must be his ambition, but he has never set a definition of China’s rejuvenation. In his report to Chinese Communist Party’s 19th Congress, he set the goal of building China into a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful by the middle of the century. Does attaining that goal means the realization of his China dream? We do not know.
Global Times’ editorial “China has no time for complacency” in late January gives us some idea. It says that China has never regarded surpassing the US as its strategic goal in recent years. China must regard meeting its domestic needs as the basis of its development instead of competing with the US. “If we indulge in such comparison and competition, we may worry too much about our gains and losses of development. Our pride and anxiety may be divorced from people’s actual interests.”
Moreover, the editorial says that China’s population is much greater than the US. Even if China’s GDP has surpassed that of the US, China’s per capita wealth will still be much smaller than that of the US. For Chinese people the growth of per capita wealth instead of overall GDP, is more important. Being people-centered, the CCP should not only continuously improve the country’s international status, but also make people live a better life. The editorial advocates a high degree of unity between the two.
It is a fact that China has been competing with the US in military buildup. Why has China been doing so since as this blogger believe it does not pursue the status of world leader?
That is a long topic. I will elaborate in my next post.
Article by Chan Kai Yee
According to White House, US President Donald Trump called former US President Jimmy Carter in April 2019 in reply of Carter’s letter to him.
There has been no information about what Carter wrote to Trump about, but as revealed by White House Trump discussed with Carter on phone about his fear of China ‘getting way ahead’ of the US, it seems now that like lots of Americans, Trump has also fallen into Thucydides trap. Then Carter must have written to Trump about China’s rise. He perhaps tried to persuade Trump not to assault China with the trade war.
Carter knows that the trade war is not about trade deficit or the fabricated China’s theft or compulsory transfer of technology but China’s rise to surpass the US.
Carter said, “The main thing that he (Trump) emphasized to me was, the main purpose of his call, was to say very frankly to me on a private line that the Chinese were getting way ahead of the United States.”
Carter was not surprised by Trump’s words and gave the explanation that China focused on its own development without fighting any war since 1979 but in that period the US is always at war to impose its values on other countries.
Now, as the US is not able to attack China militarily, it attacks China with a trade war, which is aimed at stopping China’s rise instead of imposing US values on China.
Regarding China’s rise, Carter, a devout Christian, said in church on Sunday, “As you have heard to your concern perhaps, the Chinese are likely to be number one superpower economically within the next few years.”
He then asked what being a superpower meant? According to him, it’s “not just who has the most powerful military, but who is a champion of the finer things in life”, which should include peace, the environment, human rights and equality that all Christians should believe in.
With that view, Carter is certainly unhappy that Trump has broken peace in fighting a trade war with China and has withdrawn from the Paris Agreement on global warming.
He said China is investing its resources into infrastructure projects while the US has stayed at war. Obviously, he gave Trump the advice to withdraw from war and focus US resources on construction to make US economy grow. Will Trump, deep in Thucydides trap, listen to him?
Trump knows that he has not much ammunition to subdue China with his trade war. His threat of further tariff hikes reflects his weakness. As China does not want the trade war, there may be some agreement to end the trade war, but to win votes for his reelection, Trump has to maintain his hostility against China; therefore, Trump and other Americans are bound to create further trouble for China. Judging by what Trump did at the beginning of his administration, perhaps he really wants to be China’s friend in order to exploit China’s vast market, but he has to wait until being reelected. By that time there may be another honeymoon between him and President Xi Jinping Who knows!
Article by Chan Kai Yee
Plan for Long-term Victory
In the long run, China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI) will bring economic growth to developing countries and expand China’s market there. It will enable China to switch lots of its exports from the US to those countries. Moreover, BRI will enable China to move the industries that produce goods for export to the US to the industrial parks built by BRI in those countries to avoid US tariff hikes and reduce labor costs. China will thus establish its invincible position in its trade war with the US.
According to Sun Tzu, in a war one has to establish one’s invincible position and do not miss the opportunity to defeat one’s enemy (立於不敗之地而不失敵之敗也）。.
Regarding to trade war, China is an entirely different country. Its government has centralized power to ban the import of enemy’s goods without tariff hikes. Its reduction in purchase of US agricultural products can do much greater damages than US tariff hikes on Chinese exports.
Trump’s Ingenious Move without Surprise
Seeing that tariff hikes are unable to subdue China, US President Trump tries another way to attack China. He remembers well that China’s telecom giant ZTE would have been killed by US Congress if he had not interfered in its favor. He saw his opportunity to subdue China through attacking Huawei, another Chinese telecom giant.
Americans have already been jealous at Huawei’ leading position in 5G in the world. Trump took the lead in banning Huawei’s 5G in the US and has been telling other countries also to boycott Huawei’s 5G with the lie about Huawei’s espionage on behalf of the Chinese government. Failing to make all other countries ban Huawei’s 5G, Trump invents a much more evil way to kill Huawei by placing Huawei in US trade blacklist to cut US supplies of components and technology that Huawei needs for its survival.
Now tariff hikes are the frontal engagement in Trump’s trade war with China, but banning and placing Huawei in US trade blacklist are indeed an ingenious move that may do real harm to China..
US government’s large amount of tariff revenue from the hikes proves that the tariff hikes have failed to reduce Chinese exports to the US. It proves that the harm caused by tariff hikes to China is limited. Killing Huawei and threatening further killing of other major Chinese tech companies might have really made China suffer.
China has been prepared for Trump’s Ingenious Move
However, the Huawei move though Ingenious lacks surprise. At the very beginning of Trump’s trade war last year, Xi Jinping told Chinese firms to rely on themselves. He made Chinese firms realize the danger of dependence on US supplies of technology and components. Since then Chinese enterprises have been working hard to free from their dependence on US supplies.
It has especially been the case for Huawei. Trump’s banning and telling others to ban Huawei and US efforts to extradite Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou have caused Huawei to develop substitutes for US supplies since long ago. When Trump placed Huawei on the blacklist, Huawei had already developed substitutes for US supply of components and been developing its own operation systems so that Trump is unable to win with that ingenious move.
China’s Ingenious Surprise Move
Banning supply of rare earth materials for the US may be China’s ingenious move but it also lacks surprise. There has now been too much media report on that now to warn the US about that. China bought rare earth technology from the US so that I do not think it is difficult for the US to develop the technology to produce substitutes.
In his recent visit to Russia, Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart President Putin concluded an agreement to develop bilateral trade and cross-border payments using ruble and yuan in order to bypass US dollar. That is an ingenious surprise move that hits the US where it is most vulnerable.
US economy will soon be surpassed by China. Its military is being caught up by China and Russia. The financial dominance of US dollar is the only strong point that still maintains. If the US has lost that dominance, there will be no US hegemony at all.
The agreement between China and Russia may set an example for other countries so that trade balance settlement everywhere may gradually be conducted through other currencies not only Russian and Chinese currencies. As a result, US dollar will no longer be the major currencies for trade and financial reserve.
In fact, most countries in the world want to put an end to US dollar’s dominance now. EU has developed Euro for trade settlement in EU. Malaysian PM Mahathir has suggested the use of gold as substitute for US dollar.
The US is hard up now. It does not have enough revenue to make ends meet so that it has to borrow lots of funds from other countries. However, it has no financial problem as it can issue as much US dollars as it needs due to the financial dominance of US dollars.
If US dollar is no longer the dominant trade and reserve currency in the world, the US will not be able to borrow as much as it wants for its excessive military spending to maintain its military hegemony.
Article by Chan Kai Yee