This is the third and final part of Xiao Gongqin’s article on U.S. – China relations. The first two parts are:
- Xiao Gongqin on U.S.-China Relations I: Avoid a Vicious Cycle where you will also see a short biography of Professor Xiao Gongqin.
- Xiao Gongqin: How the U.S. Chooses its Enemies — U.S.-China Relations II
Here Professor Xiao Gongjin continues his critique of Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping’s policy. Xiao argues not for a liberal democracy with constitutionally-protected individual freedoms (China has a constitution but the first article prohibits questioning the leading role of the Chinese Communist Party or the socialist system thus vitiating most of the following articles in practice.) Xiao considers himself a New Authoritarian, essentially calling for a benevolent dictatorship willing to take advice but in the end making its own unchallengeable decisions. This Xiao argues is justified for a late-developing power for the sake of optimal resource allocation and economic growth and for preserving social stability.
Xiao Gongjin does not directly attack Xi Jinping; in fact he quotes and praises him. Indirect and between the lines is how criticism is done in China these days. Xi Jinping presents his thought as an update of Deng Xiaoping Theory for the new era; Xiao says no, let’s stay with Deng which includes the Four Cardinal Principles of one-party rule etc. Deng’s 24 character policy on China’s foreign relations include taoguang yanghui sometimes translated as “conceal your capacities and strengthen yourself in obscurity” but often “hide one’s capacities and bide one’s time” used often by Western scholars (as well as many dictionaries and some websites in the PRC) .
I’d guess that strengthen yourself in obscurity is a fair literal translation and “bide your time” is an interpolated meaning. In the past decade some Chinese scholars and a PLA general have disputed the “bide your time” translation of Deng’s phrase. One of the complexity of using catch phrases from the old literary language in Modern Chinese is that meanings can change but that the catch phrase is often tied to a particular event in one of the old dynasties.
Jianwei Wang and Dingding Chen‘s 2011 article “Lying Low No More? China’s New Thinking on the Tao Guang Yang Hui Strategy” goes into the taoguangyanghui translation controversy in some detail.
The PLA general may be right. Then again, could disputing a widely used translation twenty years after it was widely used in the West be itself a case of taoguangyanghui ?
Chinese Communist Party History and the Malleability of History
Historical ‘fact’ has been changeable for political purposes in the PRC ever since its founding. We have seen re-evaluations of US history in recent decades, particularly about the history of minorities, the U.S. Civil War and Reconstruction. In China unfortunately, the Communist Party has far more powerful tools to tamp down people with disagreeable views.
Party history and the interpretation of statements by leaders and former leaders is politically sensitive. In this year is the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party, perhaps a little more than usual. I was amused recently to see a comment on YouTube that in school the politics teacher handled history after 1840 while the history teacher taught Chinese history before 1840. 在学校时，党史是政治老师教的。鸦片战争前的历史才是学历史的人研究的 and “The closer history gets to the present, the hard it is to write! New leaders often malign previous leaders to strengthen their own base. Only if one can look at a period of history objectively is it possible to write a definitive history.” 越近的历史越不好写! 继任者往往对前任进行诋毁作为自己存在的基础。对那段历史客观了, 那段历史也就定论了。
To be fair, Chinese Communist Party history is much more of a ‘real’ academic field than it used to be. Before 1980, just propaganda material for political education. After the year 2000, according to a YouTube lecture 对中共历史的新认识 by Party historian Zhang Baijia 章百家, Party history has become much more like an academic field based on archives, memoirs and interviews with old leaders.
That trend towards somewhat more openness about Party history seems to have reversed under Xi Jinping. As Party historians are able to do better work, they run more risks too. The journal Yanhuang Chunqiu (Chinese: 炎黄春秋; pinyin: Yánhuáng Chūnqiū) which often published excellent articles on Chinese Communist Party and modern Chinese history was closed. Yang Jisheng was not forced out of that journal until 2015 even though he had already published two significant books on modern Chinese history Tombstone 墓碑 about the policy-caused famine that killed 40 million Chinese during 1959 – 1961 after the Great Leap Forward. In 2016 he published 天地翻覆 [The World Turned Upside Down] a history of the Cultural Revolution.
Xiao Gongqin Prefers Old Deng Over Xi Jinping’s Deng Xiaoping Theory Update
Xiao seems to be calling for China to take a step back and deal cautiously with its relations with the United States because the correlation of forces is not in China’s favor. Sounds to me much more like Old Deng than Xi Jinping who claims to have an updated version of Deng Xiaoping Theory.
Makes me think of the wonderful song “Deng Xiaoping” by Gramophonic!
Dealing with the New Pattern in the U.S. – China Game — U.S.-China Relations III
In the first part of this three part article “New Thinking on U.S.-China Relations,” I analyzed how the U.S. mistakenly sees China as a rising “Red Empire” giving rise to a vicious interaction between the U.S. and China.
In the second part , I pointed out that, based on the characteristics of U.S. strategic culture, the U.S. judges its strategic enemies based on two sometimes overlapping criteria: “profit-oriented” and “Christian moral idealism”. As long as the other party is large enough to fulfill the conditions of being both a challenge to the vital interests of the country and also to be judged “morally” as “evil”, in line with the Two Conditions Doctrine, that country will be considered a “strategic enemy” of the United States. Once the Americans strike a strategic enemy, they act indiscriminately.
The second article also points out that neither a direct U.S.-China war nor a long and flexible cold war between China and the United States is not a reasonable option for either side. China and the U.S. cannot gamble on national fortunes. We must respond rationally to the coming challenges. Let’s not fall into the Thucydides trap.
Based on the above historical examination and realistic analysis, this article argues that from the perspective of game theory, China should play to its comparative advantages and avoid China’s comparative disadvantages. In my view, the China must take into account five broad principles for dealing with U.S.-China relations. This article does not deal with specific strategic issues. I would like to present some personal views on these larger principles.
I. Take a rational approach to the objective situation of a strong U.S. and a weak China
In looking at the big pattern of the U.S.-China game, we must first establish its size. That is, we should look at the problem from the big picture of the contrast of power, this first stand its big, including two points, the first point is that the United States is strong and weak. The second point is that the United States is not a piece of iron.
We must admit that forty years ago, China was still a developing country with a per capita income of only $300, existing in almost total seclusion. China’s starting for a weak base. Four decades of reform and opening up and the historic progress that China has made and the closing of some of the gap in national power between China and the United States as the world’s hegemon. However, no matter whether one considers basic national power, high-tech power, cultural power (discourse power), resource mobilization capacity, military power, international coordination power and many other aspects, the U.S. is stronger and we are weaker.
Our analysis should reflect our understanding of the contrast between strength and weakness. Anyone with some common sense who is not dominated by exuberant romantic passions, but respects objective facts, should acknowledge this. This basic understanding should not be blurred by the shallow rhetoric of false nationalism and “great country”. This should be the basic point of our consideration.
The second point is that it should be seen that the United States is not impossibly strong. This leaves China with considerable room to play to its strengths as it reviews the situation.
From a high-level perspective, while the U.S. has super hawks who are extremely anti-China and are now in charge of some key sectors and have what appears to be a very strong voice and influence, the U.S. president, on the other hand, is not completely aligned with the extreme hardliners. Trump is still consciously keeping a distance from the ultra-conservatives in the military.
Just a short time ago (September 2020), Trump made public remarks in the White House that “And it’s one of the reasons the military — I’m not saying the military is in love with me — the soldiers are. The top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy.”
Trump said these words purposefully. Trump does not want to be kidnapped by the militant wing of the military, and he, as a pragmatic businessman-politician, is not exactly in line with the military, which is fixated on conservative ideology. Trump is more or less aware that extreme vicious interaction between China and the U.S. would hurt both sides and and would severely harm the U.S. economy. Trump just doesn’t want the other side to know this when he applies extreme pressure on them.
Second, although the anti-China faction in the United States does want to isolate and defeat China, the United States is a pluralistic society. The U.S. and China have had both reaped great complementary effects in economic cooperation over the past 40 years due to their different stages of economic development and their respective comparative advantages. The two sides have become closely bound to one another in a web of economic cooperation. For this reason, the U.S. has many rational moderates among the high-tech elites, the middle class and entrepreneurs.
China is the largest customer of the U.S. chip industry. If it should lose such a big customer as China, the chip industry which needs high levels of investment, will not earn high returns. The chip industry would have a tough time maintaining steady growth just because of the high interdependence between the U.S. high-tech industry and China.
On the other hand, the degree of integration of the U.S. and Chinese economies is also very high. Over the past four decades, U.S.-China trade has increased more than 250 times, supporting 2.6 million jobs in the U.S. More than 70,000 U.S. companies have invested in China, and the vast majority are making money. These economic interests and complementary business relationships make the U.S. and Chinese economies highly integrated. This is the basis for the benign relationship that U.S. moderates toward China hope will develop with China. These are the positive factors that underpin the positive development of U.S.-China relations.
Amidst the current anti-China atmosphere in the United States, these rational moderates don’t fee free to come forward and make objective and rational statements about China because they feel threatened by McCarthyism. Two years ago, when I attended a seminar attended by scholars from both China and the United States, an American friend told me that many prominent American experts on China had agreed to attend the conference, but later canceled their trip because they feared they would be perceived as pro-China “traitors” in the United States. This demonstrates the extent to which U.S.-China relations have deteriorated.
However, as long as China persists in maintaining a rational and restrained attitude, they will find the will to speak out as the situation changes. Once the atmosphere in Sino-U.S. Relations becomes calmer and after some positive interactions, they will be able to exert their influence and check the ultra-conservative anti-China faction.
The existence of a broad segment of U.S. and Chinese society that wants friendship between China and the United States works to China’s advantage. This can only work if China is not perceived as a “red empire” and if the two sides do not rattle sabers but instead remain calm.
Looking at it the other way, once the two sides get into vicious ideological battles, the pragmatic moderates within the United States will be suppressed by the extremists due to the the pressure of “political correctness” in the United States. If that happens, the counterbalancing force conducive to healthy relations between China and the United States will lose its influence.
Similarly, President Trump is a businessman-politician. With ideological politics out of the picture, he will follow the logic of a businessman, bargain on matters of mutual interest and negotiate with China to resolve their conflicts and differences. He did this a few years ago when he went beyond the “political correctness” of American ideology to praise China and its leaders. With the intensification of ideological conflict, however, he will take on a new role of American “hero” who opposes the “Red Empire,” as his UN General Assembly speech of two years ago demonstrated.
The right approach is to promote, encourage, and strengthen structural integration as a means of easing tensions in U.S.-China relations.
II. The soft overcomes the hard, the still subdues the active: Makes use of flexible wisdom of “water”.
Based on the judgment of the general situation of the U.S.-China game, the strengths, weaknesses and pluralism of the U.S., a reasonable response from the Chinese side can only be to overcome rigidity with flexibility, to subdue the active with stillness, maintain our rationality and reserve in order to avoid a hard all-out a tooth-for-a-tooth confrontation.
From the perspective of game theory, when the confrontation between the strong and the weak becomes a white-hot crisis, it is to the advantage of the weaker side to uses softness to overcome hardness. The goal of the weaker side is, while preserving its national interests, to avoid over stimulating the stronger side so as to avoid inducing the stronger side to make an overly strong, disproportionate response.
The reason is simple: once the stronger party makes a strong rebound, it can use its advantages in greater resources and greater ability to mobilize personnel. This works to the disadvantages of the weaker side. At its worst, the effect would be destroy the foundations of the weaker state; in its milder form would force the weaker state to pull back, making China fall into the trap of “decoupling” from the rest of the world.
In this situation, the weaker side — China, in this case, should a bloody gunfight, because this would give the anti-China faction a pretext for calling for a strong, disproportionate response.
Overcoming the strong with the soft does not mean giving up the struggle. It means sticking to our principles and firmly defending our national interests on the basis of rationality, moderation, and discipline. I will have more to say about this later in this article.
The so-called “using the stillness to subdue the active” means to bearing humiliation, knowing our strengths, guarding ourselves against our weaknesses, to be remain reserved and steady, to argue based on reason, and to make reactions proportionate to the made the provocations the other side makes.
If we were to make a proportionate response, we would fall into the trap of being forced by the other side to “decouple” China from the world. We should “stay alert in peacetime and remain determined to keep the peace” and wait until the time is right to turn the situation around.
Once Trump is re-elected, getting votes will no longer be a factor, and the political maneuvering to earn votes by creating tensions and stimulating “patriotism” within the United States will no longer be needed. However, cooperation with China to revitalize the U.S. economy will still be helpful during Trump’s second term. This would be an attractive option for Trump in a second term. There is still a chance for a turnaround in U.S.-China relations. The key condition, however, is that there be no major, irreversible bad events occur before then.
The period before a U.S. election is a very hazardous period in U.S.-China relations. It is imperative that we make full use of our rationality and wisdom with a broad and resolute mind, to prevent highly unpredictable events from occurring.
III. Downplay ideological confrontation, discuss affairs, and speak with common sense
As analyzed in the previous and middle parts of this article, the root cause of the vicious interactions between China and the United States is the misjudgment that “China’s is become a Red Empire” beginning in the late Obama era and continuing into the Trump’s time in office. This has affected the realism of the United States’ in pursuing the utilitarianism of its “America First” policy and results in a mutually re-enforcing interaction between the two interests first and formed a mutually reinforcing effect between these two motives.
Accordingly, one of the keys to resolving the conflict is that we Chinese, when dealing with the U.S., should not simply place U.S.-China differences on the higher plane of ideological confrontation – the conflict between “socialism” and “imperialism”. We should simply discuss matters on their merits — to “talk business in business”, to use our common sense when we speak, and to avoid using high-sounding ideological thinking to guide the resolution of complex and intricate specific conflicts. Do not let the other side use it to reinforce the stereotype that “China is a red empire” and do not use “revolutionary” ideology to confront “counter-revolutionary” ideology.
Second, if we adopt the traditional ideological theory of international class struggle to explain the China-U.S. conflict will logically lead some people to search for “agents of U.S. imperialism”,”fifth columnists” and “pro-American faction” within China.
The far-left populism of the Cultural Revolution era would rise again in society. Entrepreneurs, intellectuals, overseas Chinese, foreign students, and those with overseas relatives in the forty years of China’s reform and opening up will all become targets, become “pro-U.S. suspects”. The resulting path dependence and chain reaction will lead to a disorderly political ecology and a society out of control. The anti-reformist populist trend will take advantage of the situation to expand in a vicious manner. All this would make force China backwards into a Cultural Revolution-style situation.
If we were understand the U.S.-China game in the same old way “imperialism will never give up trying to destroy us”, the U.S. will think that China is mobilizing communist parties throughout the world to unite against “international imperialism”. That would ignite a vicious cycle between the two side that see each other as struggle between Good and Evil and so devolve into a “life and death struggle”. The U.S. conservative anti-China faction would take to this like a fish to water, using it to “prove” that China “has resurrected the Red Empire.”
If we use game theory to do a cost-benefit calculation, we find that the “cost-performance ratio” of doing so is really too low and not worth considering.
If both sides in handling China – U.S. relations respect pluralism and stress common sense, they will be able to rationally address their contradictions and conflicts. By applying their common sense, they will be able to achieve a common terms for discussing issues and find ways to arrive at mutually acceptable compromises. Acting in this manner to find win-win solutions is the best choice we can make.
Only by understanding the feelings of the other side and seeking to move on another through reason, can both sides strive to avoid using offensive language that hurt the feelings of the other side as we mutually confront our differences. Only by adhering to principle and arguing on the basis of reason can the Chinese side effect a reconciliation on the differences that divide us and gain the understanding and sympathy of the American people at large.
In addition, it is particularly important that China, the relatively vulnerable side in the U.S.-China game, be wary of instinctively falling into a “hedgehog-like retreat reflex” when under relatively heavy pressure.
The so-called “retreating reflex” is that under strong external pressure, the weaker party instinctively retreats from a tense situation, like a hedgehog, and goes into a closed state, in order to gain a sense of security.
More specifically, it would mean that under the pressure of a confrontation with the United States, China would decide to close itself off once again in all aspects of the economy, society, culture, and education and reinforces the leftist class struggle ideological propaganda as a means of self-defense.
The self-imposed isolation resulting from the “self-defense reflex” and the resulting full “decoupling” of China is exactly what U.S. anti-China conservatives want.
We should note that the Chinese leadership has a clear and sober understanding of this. Chinese policy makers have proposed that “a high level of openness should be used to promote a deep level of reform.” The Chinese leadership proposed that “a new development pattern for China largely drive by domestically with mutual reinforcement between the domestic and foreign cycles. This will create new advantages for China in it participation in international cooperation and competition.” This very correct and far-sighted move reflects farsightedness and wisdom. Only by setting out from a strategically advantageous position, remaining alert and thinking of consequences far down the road, will we be able to defeat the efforts of the anti-China faction to force China to decouple itself from the world.
IV. Deploy a new political discourse to dispel the mistaken “red empire theory” of the West and to show the world the face of China’s generosity and open-mindedness.
The key to the deterioration of U.S.-China relations is the U.S. ideological assumption that China is “becoming a red Empire.” To dispel the West’s misconception that China is a “red empire,” we should adopt a new political discourse that Westerners can understand.
This political discourse should, on the one hand, express that China is an integral part of world civilization. China is not an “alien” to the world civilization as some people in the West imagine. China pursues and shares with the rest of the world the positive values common to mankind all the while emphasize the importance of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the nation’s pursuit of modernization and people’s happiness.
It should be made clear that China is not the “Red Empire” the West mistakenly believes it to be. The so-called Red Empire, in the Western context, refers to a revolutionary system that achieves the goal of world communism by world revolution. The “Red Empire would impose the dictatorship of the proletariat and the planned state-run economy worldwide through violent revolution in order to establish world-wide revolutionary communism.
Moreover, the reform and opening up of China during the Deng Xiaoping era established socialism with Chinese characteristics, opened China up to the outside world as and actively participant in and embracing globalization as an active participant in the market economy. On the ideological front, during the Deng Xiaoping era China replaced outdated dogmatism with the theory that “practice is the only criterion for testing the truth”. In creating the future through win-win cooperation with other countries around the world, China was not at all the “Red Empire” of the Cold War era that some Westerners have in mind.
China is not the “red empire” as misunderstood by Westerners. We can see from the major theoretical statements made by the leaders of the Communist Party of China. At the “Bicentennial Congress of Marx’s Birth” in May 2018, the Chinese leader Xi Jinping systematically and comprehensively articulated the world view of China’s ruling party in a speech to a grand conference attended by all members of the Politburo.
This speech, full of the spirit of the new era and, throughout the speech, leaves behind the “theory of class struggle”, “theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat”, the “theory of violent revolution only” and the romantic”theory of world revolution”.
In his speech, Xi also stated that “the free development of each individual is the precondition for the free development of all people”, and that the general trend of integration between China and the world is inexorable. He said that “all things growing together without harming each other, and the their ways are running parallel without contradicting each other”. “The world-wide nature of human interaction, the interdependence of nations, is more frequent and closer than in any past era, and “This is the way of the integrated world. Whoever rejects that will be rejected by the world.”
What is a fresh new spirit of the times. These statement by the Chinese Communists fully express the determination and will of Chinese people to integrate themselves into the mainstream of world civilization.
In the spirit of that speech, we should address the relationships among ideology, diplomacy and international affairs, resolve the misunderstandings foreigners have and allay their concern that China is rising like a “red empire,” and guide the reshaping U.S.-China relations.
The biggest misconception in the West is that China’s one-party system is a “totalitarian regime.” This is a concept of one-party politics that puts Leninism, Stalinism, and Fascism into the same category. In the world political science field, this one-party leadership system with Marxist ideology is understood as a “totalitarian regime” in the intellectual spectrum of Western conservatives. This concept dominates Western political science and ideology. China needs a response to this.
How can Western misconceptions about the current Chinese system be resolved? It can be explained to the world that since Deng Xiaoping’s reform and opening up, China has changed from the old pre-reform system to a “developing type system”.
China is a developing country that needs a strong government authority to ensure political stability and economic progress in an era of transformation. With the resolution to the 1989 disturbances and with Deng Xiaoping’s Southern Speech, both the extreme leftists within the system the extreme rightists in Chinese society were marginalized in Chinese political life. This resolution ushered in wave upon wave of economic reforms.
The success of China is the success of this “developing county system,” which is in turn the product of the vigorous practice of Chinese reform and opening up. This kind of system has not yet been adequately studied by international political science. As China’s socio-economic development continues, China will find its own path of socialist democratic development, as it moves ahead, step-by-step, through its own experience.
China will, by learning from its own experience, explore its own democratic path. In the future, China will never become identical to the West. Its socialist democratic form will certainly have its own characteristics in a giant developing country with its own unique civilization. This will include the new cultural traits that it accumulated during the revolutionary era.
As to what form Chinese democracy will take in the future, this will be the result of the collective experience of the Chinese people in the process of exploration. This exploration continues. We cannot yet say what it will be. Certainly it will combine common human experience with our Chinese national experience.
More specifically, the current Chinese system since opening and reform began forty years ago is a “developmental system” based on common sense and rationality and one that respects the plurality of social, economic, and cultural thought. This arrangement has been worked out through the collective experience of Chinese people. (The Chinese public, and some Chinese scholars including the author, call this the “New Authoritarianism”.)
[There are many understandings of what the New Authoritarianism is: for one discussion see the 2014 Ignatieff et al “The New Authoritarianism – Authoritarian capitalism is now liberal democracy’s chief competitor, and if we are to meet its challenges, we have to understand its inner logic. See also the Wiki article about New Authoritarianism in its Chinese incarnation. End Note.]
There are several significant advantages to responding to the Western challenge and the U.S. – China relationship using the discourse of “developmental institutions” rather than the traditional discourse of revolutionary ideology.
–First, it emphasizes the need for the government to maintain strong centralized authority in a very large developing country for the sake of economic integration and stable social development. China does this for the sake of its organizational needs rather than for any aim at a romantic “world revolution. This is a kind of authoritarianism that aims to direct and integrate resources in the modernization process of a late-developing country.
This kind of discourse would be better understood by the general public in Western societies. A discourse that states that China is moving in the direction of democracy, even if it is not western-style democracy, can free them from the worldview that the anti-China view that western conservatives are pushing. A few years ago, when a Western journalist interviewed me by telephone. The author mentioned the advantages of the new authoritarianism, and the journalist said, “If you say this, we Americans can understand it.” This shows that this discourse is understandable and acceptable in Western society.
— Second, it maintains the sense that there is a democratizing trend in governance with national characteristics that do not depend on Western-style democracy. As things stand today, a simple one-person-one-vote Western-style democracy would leave the field open to populism. Chinese democracy means collective experience that emerge from the collection and reflection upon our experiences.
Presented this way, China is not a political anomaly but instead a brother among brothers in human civilization moving along the same path. The development of Chinese democracy also provides a reference point for the world’s people confronted by the dilemmas of Western democracy.
— Third, this kind of discourse downplays ideological confrontation. It will help dispel the Western myth of China as the “Red Empire.
This developmental system with Chinese characteristics emphasizes that the democratic spirit, freedom, rule of law, and fairness is a goal that China shares with all peoples of the world. At the same time it stresses the historical necessity of centralized leadership at a stage when it is working towards achieving the modernization goal of national wealth and power. This discourse gives political legitimacy to China’s “developmental system” even as it maintains China’s own political identity. This meets the expectations of the world about China’s future integration into the mainstream of world civilization as well. In this way, China will be better understood by the world.
China is not a political island entire onto itself. By deploying this discourse, China will be better understood by the world. This mutual understanding it creates will serve as a bridge to a new relationship between China and the United States.
China is the biggest beneficiary and most sincere defender of the current international order. That is a point that we should stress. There are no fundamental, insoluble conflicts between China and the United States. China and the United States should be friends, not enemies. In a frank and humble way, instead of cursing each other and confronting one another, we should engage in dialogue with the United States and the rest of the world. We should be reasonable, have the utmost sincerity, and working together with similarly-minded people, we will be able to resolve our differences and create a situation. This would reshape the relationship between China and the United States.
In retrospect, such a discourse does not mean that the conflict of interests between the two great powers of China and the United States will disappear. These conflicts, however, would not longer by superimposed upon ideological conflict that would inflame the situation. The intensity of these confrontations would be greatly reduced
V. Use softness to overcome strength while remaining determined
In dealing with the U.S.-China relationship, we should neither mouth bombast nor should we delude ourselves. First of all, China is no longer the old but weak country it was on the eve of the Japanese invasion of China in the 1930s. China has sufficient national strength and social cohesion to deal with foreign challenges. The significance China surpassing the United States in the number of companies listed in the Global 500 is not that China’s national strength is comparable to that of the United States, but that the trend of China’s continued steady growth continues unabated.
China’s comparative advantage will continue to play an increasing role as long as it does not interrupt its own trend of progress by war. Time is on China’s side.
According to World Bank forecasts, China is the only major economy in the world expected to grow this year. China has the world’s only full range of industrial sectors. China’s economic strength, China’s capacity to mobilize its population, and the government’s organizational and military strength, have all impressed the world in its response to the novel coronavirus pneumonia pandemic. These are all manifestations of China’s comprehensive national power.
Second, if China has already become an adversary, showing weakness to the U.S. by backing off would make the Americans smug and arrogant. The anti-China faction will have even less sense of proportion. That would not help matters.
Third, the United States itself has its own serious internal contradictions and dilemmas. It is also true that American democracy is caught in a crisis of serious value conflict between conservative populism and radical egalitarianism. American society is tearing itself apart in a way not seen for decades.
Second, America faces a constitutional crisis. Trump’s personal lawyer said that Trump will refuse to hand over power once he loses the election. Biden said that he would use the military to send Trump out of the White House if that happens. While it’s an open question what the odds of that happening are, America’s own crisis has made the country not as strong as it seems. The situation in the U.S. today is a far cry from the domestic unity the United States had when President Roosevelt dealt with Imperial Japan.
Fourth, the extreme anti-China faction in the United States is trying hard to decouple the U.S. from China, but in the overall pattern of integrated U.S. and Chinese interests, decoupling is a lose-lose proposition. As some scholars have pointed out, most of the industrial goods the United States needs come from China, and U.S. agricultural and high-tech products cannot be sold to China, nor can the the high investment in high technology be supported by high returns. These unfavorable factors are the fatal flaws in decoupling.
Based on the above analysis, China must must have enough confidence, calm response, softness, not to provoke the other side. When it does choose to make a response, it should display self-confidence and courage.
There is a Western saying that “even a bayonet will shrink when it touches a stone”. In the game between the two sides, the side that is weaker for the time being, should bear this in mind.
The wisdom of water is not in its softness, but in the continuous “time advantage” embodied in the drop of water on a stone.
To overcome the rigid with softness, to find the hardness in the softness, to combine softness and the hardness, how to unify the pair, what is needed is political wisdom.
Writing at this historic moment: Keep the faith and move ahead to a better future
Some friends asked me “What path should China take?” My answer was, summarizing the history of two thousand years of Chinese imperial civilization, two hundred years of modern Chinese and Western civilization colliding with one another, and forty years of reform and opening up, China should take a low-key, pragmatic and enlightened path of socialist democracy-oriented development with Chinese characteristics. More specifically, that is to respect social pluralism, respect common sense and rationality, get rid of the obstacles from time-worn ideologies, leave behind the old extreme leftist road of the Cultural Revolution-style, leave behind the the road of the Western-style extreme right, and leave behind the grand talk and the excitement and achievement craving false pride of nationalism. By sticking to the middle road of rationality, we will be taking the path towards Chinese wealth and strength.
Such a path, I believe would form the broadest social consensus in Chinese society and avoid the social divisions that would tear society apart based on ideological differences.
Respect common sense, respect pluralism, be rational and moderate, transcend extremes, and gradually integrating ourselves into the sea of world civilization all the while respecting the continuity of Chinese history.
“Don’t be big and reckless, don’t be rich and arrogant, don’t be a majority that tramples upon a minority.” That is the ancient Chinese wisdom that we should take to heart.
China, as a very large late-rising power, is still at the stage of learning how to handle its relationship with the world and how to integrate itself with the world in the wake of the explosive growth of the Chinese economy.
The Chinese love peace, are hard-working, reasonable and wise enough people to have the confidence to overcome difficulties and cooperate in the cooperative symbiosis of the world’s civilizations to reach win-win solutions. Relying upon the wisdom and courage of the Chinese people, we will move towards a better future.
如何应对中美博弈的新格局 —— 中美关系的新思考 下篇