2022: Wang Jisi: Has the U.S. Really Declined? Chinese Need to Have a Clear Understanding About This

Has the U.S. Really Declined? Chinese Need to Have a Clear Understanding About This

May 14, 2022 | Source: Culture Vertical | Reads: 644

王缉思: 美国到底有没有衰落? 中国人应有清醒认识

Keywords: Belt and Road Global Governance Country Studies Geopolitics

[Introduction] In recent years, the U.S. has had a lot of domestic socio-political problems and erratic international performance, which has aroused global concern. Many people in the East and West lament that the United States is declining, and many oppose singing the praises of the United States. What exactly do you think about this issue?

In this interview, Wang Jisi, Director of the Institute for International Strategic Studies at Peking University, points out that the international status of the United States has indeed been declining relative to China in the last decade, but not significantly compared with countries other than China. Compared with previous hegemonic powers, the U.S. has various existing advantages that prevent it from going into a rapid decline. The current soft power of the United States is much less than it once was, and its political decline is rare in history, but it has not yet severely constrained its economic and technological development. The increase in immigration to the United States has exacerbated racial conflict, but immigration also gives the United States momentum for development. Changes in U.S. domestic politics, while not immediately leading to the shaking of its hegemonic position, can affect the logic of its foreign policy.  Responding to domestic political polarization, the Biden administration’s diplomatic path is actually not too different from that of the Trump administration, and the populist overtones of U.S. diplomacy will persist, as will a more assertive foreign policy.

He also pointed out that China is the primary “competition” identified by the U.S., but many Americans do not believe that Sino-U.S. competition will lead to a “new Cold War” because the conflict between the U.S. and China is different from the conflict between the U.S. and the Soviet Union back then. The Biden administration’s China policy emphasizes strengthening itself and uniting with allies to counterbalance China, while waiting for and even stimulating China to “make a mistake. Because the U.S. believes that future competition is mainly a contest of national governance capabilities, whoever can avoid obvious mistakes can indirectly win through the mistakes of their opponents. Regarding the recent concerns about the Taiwan Strait issue, Wang Jisi believes that the bottom line of the United States has not changed, and that the extent of its involvement in the Taiwan Strait conflict depends mainly on the manner and scale of cross-strait interaction. In the context of a long-term Sino-US standoff, it is necessary to maintain a clear and objective perception of the United States.

This article was originally published in Contemporary American Review 当代美国评论, No. 1, 2022, and was originally titled “The Performance and Motivation of the Evolution of U.S. Domestic and Foreign Affairs – An Interview with Professor Wang Jisi“.

The Expressions and Motivations of the Evolution of U.S. Domestic and Foreign Affairs

–Interview with Prof. Wang Jisi

The International Status of the United States: Relative Decline, Overall Stability

Q: In 1999, you published a book entitled “On High: U.S. Global Strategy and World Status after the Cold War”. Do you think the U.S. is still on “high” in the world compared to more than 20 years ago or the beginning of the Cold War?

A: To judge the change of the U.S. international status, we need to base on facts. If we look at the indicators of the U.S. economy, especially the value of GDP, there is no obvious decline in the U.S. GDP accounted for 25.3% of world GDP in 1980, rose to 28.82% in 1995, and reached 30.4% in 2000 at the end of the Clinton administration. By 2007, that figure had fallen back to 24.9 percent. In 2011, following the international financial crisis, the U.S. share fell further to a low of 21.1%, before returning to 24.9% in 2020. This means that in the decade from 2011 to 2020, the U.S. GDP share of the total world economy shows a trend of growth rather than decline.

So, is the U.S. economy in decline, or rather, which country is it in decline compared to? The answer is China, and the only when compared with China does it show a decline. In 1980, China’s GDP accounted for only 1.7% of the world economy; by 2007, it had risen to 6.1%, and in 2011, when the U.S. economy was in the doldrums, China’s global share of GDP rose steadily to 10.3%; it grew further to 17.4% in 2020. This also means that the decline in the U.S. share of the world economy quite literally stems from China’s rise. But if you compare the US to other countries (and regions) such as Japan, Russia, the UK, the EU, Brazil, etc., the rising share of the US total economy shows a very clear positive momentum.

▲ China’s GDP share of the world total has continued to rise over the past 20 years. Source: Brookings

This alone makes me skeptical of the assertion that the U.S. economy is in decline. Although the U.S. economy has declined relatively over the years as a share of the world economy, it has remained largely stable in the 25% to 30% range, and even if it occasionally slips out, it will return to that range in the short term. The reason why people feel that the U.S. economy is weak is simply because China is used as a comparator. In addition to aggregate economic indicators, the U.S. performance in hard indicators such as science and technology and defense spending has not declined significantly, but has remained high.

Nevertheless, it is a fact that the entire Western world is in economic decline. We can compare the top 10 developed countries in terms of GDP with the top 10 developing countries, which accounted for 64% of the world economy in 2001, while the top 10 developing countries accounted for only 12%; by 2020, the former’s share has dropped to 47.3%, while the latter’s share has increased to 26.7%. This clearly shows that the overall economic strength of developing countries is increasing, while the developed countries are decreasing. This performance also confirms the general assertion that “the East is rising and the West is falling”.

When it comes to the so-called soft power, that is, the attractiveness of the U.S. value system, political system and values, which other countries would now consider the U.S. to have the power of “role model”? How can such a country lead as a “beacon of light to the world”? If the United States has indeed declined in some areas, I think it is mainly in the area of soft power.

Q: At present, there are clearly different views on the international status of the U.S. in domestic and international academic circles, what indicators do you think are needed to judge whether the U.S. is in decline?

A: Most of the discussions on “whether the United States is in decline” are from a political perspective. I have also explored this issue in my article The Thin Horse in the West Wind, or the Eagle in the North Sky?《西风瘦马,还是北天雄鹰?》 This proposition was first put forward by Mao Zedong in 1946, and the original words were “all reactionaries are paper tigers”, “but the American reactionaries will also prove to be as powerless as all historical reactionaries. In America, there is another category of people who have real power, and that is the American people. Chairman Mao emphasized in 1957 that “the east wind overcomes the west wind”. At that time, China’s view was “the enemy is declining day by day, and we are getting better day by day”. Now we say “the East is rising and the West is falling”, which is the same lineage. Some of America’s opponents in the world, such as the Soviet Union (and now Russia) and North Korea, believe that the United States is always in decline, and that “American decline” is a constant quantity. The American scholar Immanuel Wallerstein argues that the U.S. is always in decline if compared to the state it was in in 1945. Others, from another perspective, argue that the U.S. is not doing what it should be doing well and that a general downward trend is inevitable, and they do so with a sense of resentment. The opposite judgment is that “the U.S. has never declined,” and Joseph Nye, an American scholar, is representative of this view. I think objectively speaking, the comprehensive national power of the United States has remained stable, but this does not seem to be the mainstream view at home and abroad, after all, from different positions, different conclusions will be drawn. Therefore, “whether the U.S. is in decline” is more of a political judgment than an academic question.

Q: What advantages does the United States have compared to those hegemonic countries that have declined in the past?

A: The United States has obvious advantages in terms of natural endowments, demographic changes, and geographic location that former hegemonic powers such as Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom do not possess. These elements are both prerequisites for the U.S. to become a world power and the roots of its continued vitality. It is therefore illogical to think that the United States will decline in the near future.

Source: Reuters

U.S. Politics: Decline Continues, Resilience Remains

Q: Since his inauguration, President Biden has put forward an ambitious agenda and is moving forward with a bold policy agenda, but his domestic approval rating has been declining. What do you think is the reason for this result?

A: The decline in Biden’s approval rating is not surprising. Almost all governments in electoral systems have high approval ratings in the early years of their administration and then gradually decline. For Biden, this decline is due to a number of factors, one of which is the hasty withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and the subsequent reoccupation of Kabul by the Taliban. No matter how much the Biden administration defends itself, it cannot change the reality that the United States has lost face before the world. At the same time, the Biden administration’s performance in the economic field is not so positive,  the pace of advancing various political agendas at home is slow, and it has failed to fulfill the promise made during the election campaign to “quickly overcome the impact of the novel coronavirus epidemic”.

The prerequisite for Biden to maintain his approval rating is that his administration can meet the interests of the majority of American voters. Therefore, to improve the quality of life and employment rate of the people rather than simply improve economic indicators is his basic priority, but this is something thathe can not do over the short term. In fact, the gap between the rich and the poor within the U.S. is widening even further, though this is not only a U.S. problem, but also a worldwide problem. I have been following the changes in the Gini coefficient around the world.  This indicator is rising in nearly all countries.  The U.S. is no exception, and it is probably rising even more in the U.S. Although I don’t have specific data, most Americans admit that the wealth gap in their country is becoming larger and larger. Statistically speaking, the poorest groups in the U.S. are still concentrated among Latinos and African-Americans, and the overall poverty rate of minority groups is significantly higher than that of whites, thus arousing their strong resentments. At the same time, the gap between the rich and the poor within the white population is also increasing, and the quality of life of some whites is obviously not as good as it was before. In reality, although the U.S. economy is picking up, it is still the richest minority that is getting the major dividends, and both minorities and poor whites are dissatisfied with this, feeling that the quality of life is not as good as it used to be and that the economic growth indicators are no longer meaningful to them. Under such circumstances, how can Biden’s approval rating improve?

Q: In recent years, both the left and the right in the U.S. have become more extreme, and irrational behavior is increasing. Is there a similar situation in U.S. history? Does this current performance have American characteristics?

A: In my impression, although the U.S. has had many problems in the past, the current political polarization and confrontation is rare in its history. Specifically, I visited the United States for longer periods of time in the 1980s, 1990s, and early 21st century, respectively. And when I go back now, I can see firsthand that the quality of services in the U.S. is declining, the conflicts between ethnic groups are increasing, the gap between rich and poor is widening, and there is growing discrimination against Asians.

This is not how I felt when I first came to America. My friends in the U.S., as well as the older generation of Chinese Americans, had similar feelings. In their view, the United States in the 1940s and 1950s was a “good America,” where people had a much more positive attitude toward life, family, and coping with problems than they do now, even though there was also racial discrimination and inequality between rich and poor.

After I examined many other countries, I found that many phenomena are not unique to the U.S. The problems in the U.S. are actually a microcosm of the entire world. The gap between rich and poor is widening in almost all countries, the ecological environment is being destroyed, corruption is worse than in the past, social morals and people’s morality are declining, divisions between ethnic groups are more common, and public discontent with government is on the rise. These problems facing the United States are common to many countries and are worldwide problems. By comparison, China is unique in that public opinion polls show a high level of public satisfaction with the central government, which is unimaginable in the West.

Q: How much do you think these problems in U.S. politics will constrain its future development?

A: Objectively speaking, there is little direct connection between the creativity within the United States and its current political process. The political decline in the U.S. is not just a year or two old, but the existence of people like Elon  Musk and the growing development of his personal career already speaks volumes. Also, Francis Fukuyama, who is particularly concerned about the decline of the United States, is also a foreign immigrant [Translator’s Note: This is incorrect. Francis Fukuyama was born in Chicago.] , but he has managed to become an influential figure in the United States as well. The fact that many other foreigners and foreign businesses are also active in the United States, including some non-white dominated businesses, indicates that the impact of political problems in the United States is relatively limited, or at least not obvious for economic development. However, the impact of political decay on U.S. society is clear, and domestic cohesion is not what it used to be. This will not have an immediate effect, but it will manifest itself in subtle ways through a variety of issues. Historically, various trends and forces in the U.S. have always maintained a basic balance, and those that are too extreme are not sustainable, so there is no need to be too pessimistic. Although polarization and confrontation are now the trend, the U.S. is still very vigilant about it, and voters will not let one side win all, while the whole society is quietly returning to the center.

Q: In a longer historical period, do you think the racial conflicts in the U.S. are easing or intensifying? Do you think the racial problems in the United States can be solved?

A: The increasing conflict between races, between old and new immigrants, exists in the United States as well as in Europe and other parts of the world, so it is also a worldwide problem. When the “Pandora’s box” of free movement of human beings is opened, such conflicts are inevitable. The United States is a microcosm of many of the problems that exist in countries around the world.

At the same time, the United States has its own particularities. In the process of studying world politics, I found a phenomenon: where there are many immigrants, ethnic conflicts are bound to increase. One important reason for the rapid rise of ethnic conflicts in the United States is the rapid rate at which it absorbs foreign immigrants. In contrast, Europe absorbs immigrants at a slightly lower rate, and Japan largely does not absorb immigrants, thus circumventing the problem. Within the United States, the reluctance of people of different ethnic groups to integrate with each other naturally creates a living space that is isolated from each other, and conflicts of interest are bound to increase. Even though the United States emphasizes affirmative action and calls for taking care of minority rights, it is bound to face various kinds of resistance in the process of concrete implementation. From this perspective, the racial conflicts in the United States will only gradually intensify, but are unlikely to be resolved.

Nevertheless, this traditional practice of absorbing large numbers of immigrants is still a “double-edged sword” for the U.S. Although immigrants deepen domestic conflicts, it is a great advantage that the U.S. can attract scientists, technicians and intellectuals from all over the world to study and settle there. If this advantage can be maintained, then the United States in the fields of science and technology, education and the economy will not decline significantly. After Trump’s election, many Americans have expressed a desire to immigrate to Canada. While it is true that immigration from the U.S. to Canada is increasing, the number of immigrants to other countries does not seem to have increased significantly, and they seem to be willing to continue living in the U.S. This is another reflection of the attractiveness of the U.S. Simply put, the real decline of the United States will come when the lines in front of U.S. consulates are no longer crowded with people waiting for visas.

Q: What is the difference between the Biden administration’s “middle-class diplomacy” and the Trump administration’s “America First” policy?

A: Americans are very dissatisfied with America’s own performance, but they are more critical of other countries. They think that Mexicans have taken their “rice bowls”, the Chinese have “taken away” the U.S. manufacturing industry, and they even think that the whole world has “taken advantage of the U.S.”. The rise of nationalist consciousness and populist sentiment is unstoppable. So the United States began to smear the countries they do not like, and to be more selfish and assertive abroad, the current U.S. foreign policy is formed under this tone.

When it comes to the “middle-class diplomacy” proposed by the Biden administration, it is actually not very different from the Trump administration’s policy, which is still to raise the banner of nationalism and give priority to protecting American interests. In essence, it is still “America First” and “America First”, only that the Biden administration does not make a big deal of it, but focuses on action. In general, while still focused on meeting internal needs, the Biden administration will embrace more U.S.-centric multilateralism internationally.

Q: The current political polarization within the U.S. is very serious, along with a clear split within both parties, how will this situation affect its foreign policy?

A: The above-mentioned changes within the U.S. will inevitably lead to some diplomatic adjustments. Americans have become more suspicious and antipathetic to the outside world, and the government has a greater need to please the domestic public in terms of foreign policy, hence a more nationalistic tone and a tougher foreign stance. The United States needs to show a tough attitude toward some countries, especially the so-called “totalitarian countries” and countries that “take advantage of the United States” in its discourse system, so that the interests and psychological needs of some domestic people can be satisfied. For example, before Nicholas Burns came to China as ambassador, he made a series of tough statements against China during the congressional hearings. If he had not made this statement, it would have been difficult to get congressional approval for his nomination, and his words were mainly for domestic audiences, as dictated by the political realities of the United States. The Biden administration has to please domestic voters, and its foreign policy can only be what it is now.

U.S.-China Relations: Deep Confrontation, But Hardly a “Cold War”

Q: What do you think are the characteristics of the Biden administration’s strategy toward China since it took office, compared to the Trump administration?

A: The Biden administration’s strategy toward China has three characteristics. First, the starting point is to strengthen America’s own power. The Biden administration has always emphasized dialogue with China “from a position of strength,” because if its own strength declines, the United States will lose its competitiveness. So their first step is to strengthen the U.S. own strength, enhance domestic economic and technological strength, accelerate infrastructure construction, and “get back” the real economy.

Second, the U.S. wants to unite with some other countries in the world to jointly restrain China, and to establish a multilateral camp against China. Since the Biden administration, the U.S. has held the “Summit of Democracies” and established the U.S.-Japan-India-Australia “Quadrilateral Security Dialogue Mechanism” and the U.S.-UK-Australia “Trilateral Security Partnership,” always emphasizing that the U.S. cannot “fight alone. It has always emphasized that the United States cannot “go it alone”. This is a markedly different approach from that of the Trump administration, and is closely related to the first point. Here, I have to mention a very important area of research on standards and rules, including technology economics, technology standards, digital economy, digital standards, network standards, and so on. The United States and other Western countries see China as an “alien” and hope to exclude China by developing various new targeted standards. We hope that young people will make more efforts and pay more attention to the standards and rules related to the development of next-generation technologies, so that the Western camp will not exclude China completely.

If there is a third point, it is that the U.S. believes that future competition is primarily a contest of national governance capabilities, and that whoever is able to avoid obvious policy mistakes will win indirectly through the mistakes of their opponents. Recognizing that there is nothing it can do to “change China,” the Democratic administration can only look to exploit possible Chinese “policy mistakes” to weaken China. This is why the U.S. sometimes deliberately provokes China into making “reckless” missteps, a move that is clearly purposeful and not as overt as the first two, but is an important consideration for the U.S. side.

Q: At present, being tough on China has become “political correctness” in the United States. Is the main cause of this the proximity of the two countries’ strength or the significant change in the U.S. perception of China in the interaction between China and the U.S.?

A: I don’t think it’s an either/or relationship between the two. The contrast in power between the U.S. and China has clearly changed, and that change has been in favor of China, which has led to a change in the U.S. perception of China as well. On the one hand, the U.S. feels that China is very powerful; on the other hand, the U.S. finds it difficult to “push” China back to its past position, and weakening China is either impossible or not very convenient to do in name. Therefore, to enhance its own competitiveness, so that its power is still above China, it has become the goal of the U.S. efforts to pursue. The only approach the United States can take is to strengthen its competition with China, isolate China in the world, and put China in a passive position. Put another way, China itself has indeed undergone significant changes in recent years, including many initiatives to consolidate the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. While China sees such changes as beneficial to its position of power and to world peace and development, the United States sees such changes as detrimental to it, and so their negative perception of China has increased significantly. This is actually a collision of two values, and it is difficult to avoid this collision as China and the U.S. become closer in power, and it is a natural result of the tension between China and the U.S.

Q: The impact of Trump on China-US relations is huge. How is the current US strategy toward China different from the containment of the Soviet Union during the Cold War?

A: When it comes to the U.S. strategy toward China, it is difficult to be completely clear. No U.S. president has been able to develop a strategy toward China that can be summarized in a few sentences during his or her tenure. If one wishes to summarize the U.S. strategy toward China in concise words, such a summary is meaningless because concise words cannot paint a comprehensive picture of this complex subject. Moreover, some of the U.S. government’s China-related document announcements do not necessarily translate into actual policy. As an example, the domestic academic community pays close attention to the quadrennial National Security Strategy Report published by the U.S. government, and whenever a new report is released, many people will go to study it carefully. But looking back after four years, it becomes clear that the actual value of this report is not as important as one might think.  This is because the release of the annual report is a move by the U.S. executive branch to respond to congressional requests, and Congress needs a written guideline to show just where things stand so that they are at ease. From the executive branch’s perspective, in order to maintain its own policy flexibility, it does not want to be overly constrained by this document and does not want to see it strictly frame the foreign policy that the U.S. government should actually adopt in the next four years.

When it comes to the difference between the current U.S. strategy toward China and the Cold War containment strategy toward the Soviet Union, I think it is more in the impact of the civilizational and ethnic differences between the two sides of the game. The U.S. believes that the Western civilization system, which has continued from ancient Greece and Rome to the present, represents “universal values” and represents the direction the world should go. They do not believe that there is any other civilization that is so vital and so universal. China, on the other hand, believes that the 5,000-year heritage of Chinese civilization is sufficient to illustrate the vitality and advancement of Eastern civilization or Confucian civilization, and that we have the responsibility and obligation to carry forward Chinese civilization, which is different from Western Christian civilization, and that the two can go hand in hand.

In this light, the conflict between China and the United States is indeed significantly different from the conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union back then. First, although the Soviet Union also advocated atheism, it was unable to escape the subtle influence of Orthodox Christianity and Western civilization, and it seems that Russia is still using Orthodox Christianity to expand its influence, even Putin openly says he believes in Orthodox Christianity. The origins of Orthodox Christianity and Protestantism are the same, so from a civilizational point of view, the U.S. and the Soviet Union were in the same Western system during the Cold War, the difference only being whether to transform the world by way of Marxism-Leninism or by way of Anglo-Saxon civilization. What exists between China and the United States is not only a debate between Marxism-Leninism and Western liberalism, but in fact what we call Marxism has been sinicized and has distinctive Chinese characteristics. Although China has not tried to actively promote its political system abroad, as the Soviet Union did, it is a fact that China’s international influence is growing and its development experience is being borrowed by more and more countries. This reality is becoming increasingly difficult for the United States to accept, and thus it is considered inevitable that the two civilizational systems will collide and clash.

This, in turn, leads to the issue of race. There is an implicit and deep-rooted belief in the West that while many other races have embraced the Christian faith, it is the whites in Europe and America, especially the Anglo-Saxon English-speaking countries, who truly represent Christian and Protestant civilization, and that the African, Latino and Islamic groups do not. They cannot accept the dominance of China as an “alien” in the world, but are powerless to change the rapid rise of China with its large population. The world’s population has changed, with whites accounting for 25% of the world’s population 100 years ago, but now down to less than 10%. This change is reflected politically in the significant decline in the power and influence of the West as a whole, where cultural and religious influence is not what it used to be. The influence of China, as the representative of the “yellow race,” [“黃種人”] is also rising rapidly, and in the view of the American elite, represented by whites, it is intolerable for Chinese civilization to replace Christian civilization, so they will do everything possible to prevent China from developing.

Q: The question of whether there is a “new cold war” between China and the United States is now more controversial in academic circles. How do you see this issue?

A: Compared with the U.S.-Soviet relationship during the Cold War, the current U.S.-China relationship is still different in many ways. First of all, neither side can resort to “bloc politics”, so the U.S. and China will not become a bipolar opposition like the U.S.S.R. By “poles”, I mean attracting other countries to unite around them and form a united camp. The United States wants to do this, but it is difficult to do so. China, for its part, does not seek to build such a camp. In contrast, as the gap between other countries and China and the United States grows, the future may turn out to be a world in which the two powers stand side by side, but there will not be two camps as there were during the Cold War.

Secondly, from the ideological aspect, the competition between China and the United States is not as obvious as the ideological confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union, but is mainly a manifestation of nationalism. Therefore, there is no ideological struggle between China and the U.S. like the one between the U.S. and the Soviet Union back then.

The last and more important point is that we all know very well that the U.S. and the Soviet Union have very little economic contact with each other, while China and the U.S. are inseparable economically, and economic interests will play a very big role between the two countries. It is the economic and trade structure of the two countries determines that the complete “decoupling” of the United States and China is impossible, even in the economic field “partial decoupling” is very difficult to do.

At present, the U.S. efforts to facilitate the “decoupling” is mainly in the field of technology, but this “decoupling” is also limited. The interdependence between China and the United States is not a matter of willingness, but a problem that no one can avoid. It is impossible for a country to develop all economic sectors, which is determined by the distribution of natural resources as well as the law of economic development. If a country has no demand for the outside world at all, that country cannot achieve real development either. From this perspective, the United States cannot completely “decouple” from China; while for China, there would even be the risk of “strangulation”, so we still have to continue to insist on opening up to the outside world.

Q: It is true that the interdependence between China and the United States is incomparable to that between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, but Britain and Germany also had close economic ties before the First World War, but there was a war in the end. Do you think economic ties can prevent a serious conflict between China and the United States?

A: The closeness of the current ties between China and the U.S., including the communication of information, the movement of people, the flow of materials, etc., especially the mutual integration of finance and technology in the digital age, is unparalleled to that between Britain and Germany 100 years ago. The reason why the risk of war is not that great is because the communication between China and the United States in all aspects has been very extensive and deep, making the probability of a sudden incident or a surprise attack very low. If you want to launch a surprise attack and let the other side achieve its goal without any prior notice, it seems unlikely to do so under the current conditions; and you can’t do it alone while hurting the other side. Of course we cannot completely rule out the possibility of a surprise attack leading to a rapid escalation of the conflict and eventually getting out of hand, but this possibility is quite small because neither China nor the United States wants to go to war. It is necessary to be prepared to deal with war and not to be weak in foreign rhetoric, but both countries know what a full-scale war would lead to against the background of each possessing nuclear weapons, so war is not the current option.

Q: In recent years, the situation in the Taiwan Strait has become increasingly tense, and the U.S. and China have entered a new phase of competition on the Taiwan issue. Do you think the U.S. government’s policy toward Taiwan is undergoing a fundamental change? If a war breaks out in the Taiwan Strait, will the U.S. intervene?

A: I don’t think there is a fundamental change in U.S. policy toward Taiwan. The United States still emphasizes the one-China policy, but that policy has never included recognizing Taiwan as a part of China. The U.S. is ambiguous on this issue, recognizing only the government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legitimate government representing China, which shows the fundamental difference between the U.S. one-China policy and our one-China principle. We believe that there is only one China in the world, that the Government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legitimate government representing all of China, and that Taiwan is a part of China, and these three sentences are linked together. The United States has accepted only the first two statements, while constantly walking a tightrope on the third one, not denying that Taiwan is an autonomous political entity, but also saying that it does not support “Taiwan independence”.

In my view, the United States does not fully support Taiwan’s independence. Successive U.S. administrations have used the Taiwan issue to keep China in check, and in the unlikely event that “Taiwan independence” does materialize, the U.S. would lose the leverage to use Taiwan as a counterweight to China. The U.S. would not benefit from a war between China and the U.S. if “Taiwan independence” were to occur. For the U.S., the best state of affairs is that Taiwan is neither under the control of the mainland, nor does it transform itself into a legally “independent Taiwan”. This way it can continue to “reap the benefits” on both sides. The United States has always supported Taiwan’s non-unification and non-independence, and this basic principle has not changed. The Biden administration has increased its efforts to use the Taiwan issue as a bargaining chip to pressure China, but I don’t think the bottom line has changed.

As for the question of whether the United States will intervene in the event of a war in the Taiwan Strait and the extent of that intervention, I think it is difficult to pre-determine, but it depends mainly on the form and scale of the mainland’s “military action against Taiwan. We must keep the option of “using force against Taiwan” as a bottom-line thinking, and as Tsai’s provocations against the mainland continue to escalate, we will also emphasize the credibility and urgency of resolving the Taiwan issue by force, so as to form a stronger deterrent to the “Taiwan independence” forces. I believe that the China has already developed plans for the eventual use of force if that should become necessary and that plan includes preparations for a possible U.S. involvement.

Q: During the Trump administration, China-U.S. human relations also fell into the category of “decoupling”. Since the Biden administration, visa controls for travel to the U.S. have been gradually liberalized, but academic exchanges between the two countries have remained largely stagnant. How do you see the prospect of resuming humanistic exchanges between the U.S. and China?

A: There is currently news that more Chinese students are applying to come to the U.S. than before, I am not sure about that and I don’t know where these numbers come from. My feeling is that the resumption of humanities exchanges between China and the U.S. will be a slow process, depending not only on the trend of the novel coronavirus epidemic, but also on people feeling a restored confidence in the stable development of China-U.S. relations. Humanities exchanges between China and the U.S. may continue and recover in the future, but they cannot return to their pre-2017 level. That is determined by the general political environment of the relationship between the two countries.

Q: You have talked about the relationship between the state of China-US relations and the situation of Chinese people in the US in some conferences. How do you think China-US relations will affect the working life of Chinese people in the US?

A: The U.S.-China relationship more or less affects the state of Chinese life in the U.S. and how they are treated in the United States. Especially if the Trump administration deliberately incites people in the U.S. to hate China and the Chinese government because of the epidemic, as the Trump administration has done, it will certainly inspire some Americans to resent and reject Chinese people because of their Asian faces. But when we look at the overall crime rate in the U.S., there does not seem to have been a significant increase over the years, and there is a lack of sufficient data to support whether there has been a significant increase in serious violent crimes against ethnic Chinese. Since the onset of the novel coronavirus epidemic, xenophobia in the U.S. has intensified, and some Asians have been subjected to inexplicable insults, harassment and even violent attacks, but overall there has been no large-scale, high-intensity, sustained and organized deliberate acts of harm against ethnic Chinese people. And after some related video footage appeared on self-published social media, the U.S. mainstream has severely criticized such behavior. The murder of Chinese students in the U.S. has raised a lot of concerns, and it is indeed a disaster for them and their families, but at the level of relations between the two countries, it does not bring much impact, after all, it is only an individual criminal case, not a government action, much less a deliberate targeting of Chinese. And this kind of thing can happen in any country, we don’t need to over-hype it, otherwise it will be detrimental to the stability of China-US relations and will bring more pressure to the Chinese in the US. We can keep an eye on these cases and conduct research, but don’t over-extend them to the political level.

(This article represents the views of the author only and does not represent the views of this platform.)


王缉思: 美国到底有没有衰落? 中国人应有清醒认识

2022年05月14日  |  来源:文化纵横   |  阅读量:644

关键词: 一带一路全球治理国别研究地缘政治

【导读】近年来,美国国内社会政治问题频出,国际表现反复无常,引发全球关注。东西方很多人感叹美国正在衰败,也有很多人反对唱衰美国。对于这一问题,究竟怎么看?

在本篇访谈中,北京大学国际战略研究院院长王缉思指出,近十年来,美国的国际地位相对于中国确实在下降,但对中国以外的国家而言并未明显下降。较之于以往的霸权国家,美国现有的各种优势使其不至于快速衰落。当前美国的软实力大不如前,其政治衰败是历史上少见的,但这尚未严重制约其经济和科技发展。美国移民的增多加剧了种族冲突,但移民也赋予美国发展后劲。美国国内政治的变化虽然不会立即导致其霸权地位的动摇,但却会影响外交政策逻辑。受制于国内政治极化,拜登政府的外交路径实际上和特朗普政府相差不大,美国外交中的民粹主义色彩将会持续,对外政策也会更加强硬。

他也指出,中国是美国认定的首要“竞争对象”,但许多美国人并不认为中美竞争将导致“新冷战”,因为中美矛盾与当年的美苏矛盾不同。拜登政府的对华政策强调要增强自身实力,联合盟友共同制衡中国,同时也在等待甚至刺激中国“犯错误”。因为美国认为未来的竞争主要是国家治理能力较量,谁能不出现明显失误,谁就可以经由对手失误而间接获胜。对于近期关于台海问题的担忧,王缉思认为美国底线并未改变,其对台海冲突的介入程度,主要取决于两岸互动的方式和规模。在中美长期相持的背景下,对美国保持清醒客观的认知十分必要。

本文原载《当代美国评论》2022年第1期,原题为《美国内政外交演变的表现与动因——王缉思教授专访》,仅代表作者本人观点,供诸君思考。

美国内政外交演变的表现与动因

——王缉思教授专访

美国的国际地位: 相对下降, 总体稳定

问:您曾于1999 年出版了《高处不胜寒:冷战后美国的全球战略和世界地位》一书,和20 多年前或者和冷战结束初期相比,您认为当前美国在世界上是否还处于“高处”?

答:判断美国国际地位的变化需要以事实为依据。如果从美国经济的各项指标,尤其是GDP的数值来看,美国目前并没有明显的衰落。1980年时美国的GDP占世界GDP的25.3%,到1995年升至28.82%,在克林顿政府执政末期的2000年达到30.4%。到2007年,这一数字回落至24.9%。在国际金融危机发生后的2011年,美国的占比进一步降至21.1%的最低点,到2020年又恢复到24.9%。这意味着在2011年至2020年的十年中,美国的GDP在世界经济总量中的占比呈现出增长而非下降的趋势。

那么,美国的经济究竟是否衰落了,或者说,和哪个国家相比在衰落?答案是中国,而且唯有在与中国相比时才显示出衰落态势。在1980年时,中国的GDP仅占世界经济总量的1.7%;到2007年,升至6.1%。2011年当美国经济处于低谷时,中国GDP的全球占比稳步升至10.3%;2020年则进一步增长到17.4%。这也意味着,美国在世界经济总量中占比的下降相当意义上是源于中国的上升。但如果拿美国去和日本、俄罗斯、英国、欧盟、巴西等其他国家(和地区)相比,其经济总量占比上升势头表现得非常明显。

图片

▲ 过去20年中,中国gdp占世界总量比例持续上升。图源:brookings

仅从这一点来看,我就对“美国经济衰落”这一论断存在怀疑。多年以来尽管美国经济占世界经济总量的比重相对下降,但都基本稳定在25%~30%区间,即使偶有滑出,也会在短期内恢复到这个区间。人们之所以感到美国经济疲软,只因为是把中国作为比照对象。除了经济总量指标以外,美国在科学技术和国防支出等硬指标方面的表现也没有出现明显下滑,而是始终维持在高位。

尽管如此,整个西方世界在经济方面的衰退却是事实。我们可以把GDP排名靠前的十个发达国家和十个发展中国家进行比较。2001年时这十个发达国家在世界经济总量中的占比高达64%,而十个发展中国家仅占12%;到了2020年,前者的占比下降至47.3%,后者上升至26.7%。这显然表明发展中国家的总体经济实力在上升,发达国家则在下降。这一表现也印证了“东升西降”的总体论断。

谈到所谓的软实力,也就是美国价值体系、政治制度和价值观的吸引力,现在还有哪些国家会认为美国具有“榜样”的力量?2021年初,特朗普鼓动美国民众冲击国会山,造成大规模骚乱。这样的国家如何能够作为“世界的灯塔”发挥引领作用?如果说美国在某些方面确实有所衰落,我认为主要是表现在软实力方面。

问:目前国内外学界对美国的国际地位有明显不同的看法,您认为需要根据哪些指标来判断美国是否衰落?

答:人们针对“美国是否衰落”的讨论大多是从政治角度出发的,我在《西风瘦马,还是北天雄鹰?》一文中也曾经探讨过这个问题。这个命题最早应该是毛泽东在1946年提出的,原话是“一切反动派都是纸老虎”,“但是美国反动派也将要同一切历史上的反动派一样,被证明为并没有什么力量。在美国,另有一类人是真正有力量的,这就是美国人民”。毛主席在1957年强调“东风压倒西风”。当时中国的看法是“敌人一天天烂下去,我们一天天好起来”。现在我们说“东升西降”,这都是一脉相承的。美国在世界上的一些对手如苏联(和现在的俄罗斯)、朝鲜等认为,美国永远处于下降中,“美国衰落”是一个恒量。美国学者沃勒斯坦(Immanuel Wallerstein)认为,如果和1945年时的状态相比,美国始终是处于衰落中的。还有人从另一个视角考虑,认为美国没有把该做好的事情做好,因而总体上呈下降趋势是必然的,他们这样认为是带着一种恨铁不成钢的情绪。与之相对的判断则是“美国始终没有衰落”,持有此类观点的代表人物是美国学者约瑟夫·奈。我认为客观来说,美国的综合国力基本维持稳定,但这似乎不是国内外的主流观点,毕竟站在不同的立场上,就会得出不同的结论。因此,“美国是否衰落”更多意义上是一个政治判断问题,而不是一个学术问题。

问:相较于以往那些已经衰落的霸权国家,当前的美国具备什么优势?

答:美国在自然禀赋、人口变化及地理位置上均具有明显的优势,这也是西班牙、葡萄牙、荷兰和英国等曾经的霸权国所不具备的。这些要素既是美国成为世界大国的前提条件,也是其继续保持活力的根基。因此认为美国将在短期内衰落是不符合逻辑的。

图片

(图源/路透社)

美国政治: 衰败持续, 韧性犹存

问:拜登总统就职后,提出了雄心勃勃的施政计划,也在大刀阔斧推进各项政策议程,但他的国内支持率却不断下降。您认为是什么原因导致了这一结果?

答:拜登支持率的下降并不令人意外。几乎所有选举制国家的政府在执政初期的支持率都会偏高,而后逐渐下降。对于拜登来说,这种下降源于多方面因素,其中一个重要因素是美国仓促从阿富汗撤军,以及随后塔利班再度占领喀布尔。无论拜登政府如何为自身辩护,也无法改变美国在全世界面前颜面尽失的现实。与此同时,拜登政府在经济领域的表现没有太多亮点,在国内推进各项政治议程的步伐缓慢,也未能兑现竞选期间做出的“迅速克服新冠疫情影响”承诺,再加上他本人频频出现高龄化的特有表现,支持率的下降是很自然的事情。

拜登维持支持率的前提条件是其执政能满足大部分美国选民的利益诉求。因此,提升民众的生活质量和就业率而非单纯改善经济指标才是其基本要务,但这是他在短期内无法做到的。实际上,美国国内的贫富差距正进一步拉大,不过这不仅是美国的问题,也是世界性的问题。我一直在关注世界范围内的基尼系数变化,几乎所有国家的这一指标都在上升,美国也不例外,而且美国上升的幅度可能更大。虽然我没有具体的数据,但大部分美国人承认,本国的贫富愈发悬殊。从统计数据看,当前美国最贫困的群体仍然集中在拉美裔和非洲裔中,少数族群整体的贫困率要明显高于白人,因此引发其强烈的不满情绪。与此同时,白人群体内的贫富差距也在加大,一部分白人的生活质量明显不如以往。从现实中看,尽管美国的经济在回暖,但仍然是最富裕的少部分人获得了主要的红利,少数族裔与贫困的白人对此都很不满,觉得生活质量不如过去,经济增长指标再高对他们也没有意义。在这种情况下,拜登的支持率如何能够提升?

问:近年来美国国内左右两派都更为极端,非理性行为越来越多。美国历史上也有类似情况吗?当前这种表现具有美国特色吗?

答:在我的印象中,尽管美国过去也有很多问题,但当前的政治极化和对抗是历史上少见的。具体来说,我在20世纪80年代、90年代和21世纪初分别在美国访问过较长时间。而现在再去,就切身体会到美国的服务质量在下降,族群之间的矛盾在增加,贫富差距不断拉大,而且对亚裔的歧视日益严重。

我刚接触美国时的感受不是这样的。我在美国的朋友以及老一辈的美籍华人,也有类似感受。在他们看来,20世纪四五十年代的美国是一个“很好的美国”,即使也有种族歧视现象,也有贫富不均,但人们对生活、对家庭的态度和应对问题的方式都比现在要积极得多。

在我考察了其他许多国家之后,发现很多现象并非美国独有,美国的问题实际上是整个世界的缩影。几乎所有国家的贫富差距都在扩大,生态环境遭到破坏,腐败比过去更严重,社会风气和人们的道德水平在下降,族群之间的分裂更常见,公众对政府的不满在上升。美国面临的这些问题很多国家都存在,是世界性的问题。比较而言,中国的发展独树一帜,民意调查显示民众对中央政府的满意度很高,这是西方国家难以想象的。

问:您觉得美国政治中存在的这些问题对于它未来的发展会有多大制约?

答:客观来说,美国国内的创造力与它当前的政治过程没有多少直接联系。美国的政治衰败不是一年两年了,但有马斯克这样的人存在,而且他个人事业的发展越来越好,已经可以说明问题。另外,特别关注美国衰败问题的福山也是外来移民,但他在美国也能成为有影响的人物。其他很多外国人和外国企业在美国也很活跃,包括一些非白人主导的企业,说明美国政治问题的影响相对有限,至少对经济发展的影响不明显。但是,政治衰败对美国社会的影响显而易见,国内凝聚力已经今非昔比。这不会马上就产生效应,但在潜移默化中会通过各种问题表现出来。从历史上看,美国各种思潮和势力始终都能保持一种基本的平衡,过于极端的终究无法长久,因此也不用太悲观。虽然现在极化对抗是潮流,但美国国内对此还是很警惕的,选民不会让一方全赢,同时整个社会也在悄悄向中间回归,不可能永远极化下去,也不至于走到极左或者极右的道路上去。

问:放在更长的历史阶段考察,您觉得美国国内的种族矛盾是趋于缓解还是激化了?您觉得美国的种族问题能解决吗?

答:种族间的矛盾增大、新老移民之间的冲突,既存在于美国,也存在于欧洲和世界其他地区,因此这也是世界性的问题。不同族群原本是分开居住的,当人类自由流动的“潘多拉盒子”被打开,这种矛盾就在所难免。美国在很多问题上的表现都是世界各国普遍存在问题的缩影。

同时美国也有其特殊性。我在研究世界政治的过程中发现一个现象:凡是移民多的国家,族群矛盾一定会增多。美国种族矛盾迅速上升的一个重要原因是它吸收外来移民的速度很快。相比之下,欧洲吸收移民的速度略逊一筹,而日本基本不吸收移民,因此规避了这个问题。在美国国内,不同族群的人不愿意相互融合,自然形成了彼此隔绝的生活空间,利益冲突必然增加。即使美国强调平权,呼吁照顾少数族裔权益,但在具体推行过程中势必面临各种各样的阻力。从这个角度看,美国的种族矛盾只会逐步加剧,而不太可能化解。

尽管如此,这种大量吸收移民的传统做法对美国来说仍然是把“双刃剑”,虽然移民加深了国内矛盾,但包容开放使美国能够吸引全世界的科学家、技术人员和知识分子前去学习和定居,这又是一个很大的优势。如果这个优势能够保持,那么美国在科学技术、教育和经济等领域就不会明显衰落。特朗普当选以后,很多美国人表示要移民加拿大。尽管美国到加拿大的移民确实在增加,但是到其他国家的移民数量似乎没有明显增加,他们好像还是愿意继续在美国生活,这也从另一个方面反映出美国的吸引力。简单来说,当美国领事馆前等待签证的队伍不再人头攒动时,才是美国真正衰落之日。

问:拜登政府提出的“中产阶级外交”,与特朗普政府的“美国优先”政策有什么区别?

答:美国人对美国自身的表现非常不满意,但对其他国家的批评更多。他们认为墨西哥人抢了他们的“饭碗”,中国人“夺走”了美国的制造业,甚至认为整个世界都“占了美国的便宜”,美国国内民族主义意识上升,民粹主义情绪强烈,这是无可阻挡的。于是美国就开始抹黑他们不喜欢的国家,对外表现得更加自私和强硬,当前美国的外交政策就是在这种基调下形成的。

提到拜登政府提出的“中产阶级外交”,实际上和特朗普政府的政策差别不大,仍然是要高举民族主义旗帜,优先考虑保护美国的利益,本质上仍是“美国第一”和“美国优先”,只是拜登政府不大肆渲染而已,而是把精力放在行动上。总的来看,虽然仍会以满足内部需求为核心,但拜登政府会在国际上更多拥抱以美国为中心的多边主义。

问:当前美国国内的政治极化现象非常严重,同时两党内部的分裂也很明显,这一局面会如何影响其外交政策?

答:美国国内发生的上述变化,必然会导致外交上有所调整。美国人对外部世界的怀疑、反感变得更多,政府在对外政策方面更需要讨好国内民众,因此,更具有民族主义色彩,对外表态也会更强硬。美国需要针对一些国家,特别是其话语体系中所谓的“极权国家”和“占美国便宜”的国家表现出强硬态度,这样国内一部分人的利益和心理需求才能得到满足。比如,尼古拉斯·伯恩斯来中国当大使之前,在国会听证会上发表了一系列对华强硬的言论。如果他不出此言,就很难得到国会对其提名的批准,他的话主要是说给国内听的,这是美国的政治现实决定的。拜登政府必须要取悦国内选民,其对外政策只能是目前这个样子。

中美关系: 深刻对垒,难称“冷战”

问:您认为与特朗普政府时期相比,拜登政府执政以来的对华战略有什么特点?

答:拜登政府的对华战略有三个特征。一是以强化美国自身的实力为出发点。拜登政府总是强调“从实力地位出发”与中国对话,因为如果自身实力下降的话,美国就失去了竞争力。所以他们第一步是要加强美国自身的力量,提升国内的经济实力和技术实力,加快基础设施建设,“找回”实体经济。

二是美国要联合世界上其他一些国家来共同制约中国,要建立多边对华阵营。拜登政府执政以来,美国举办了“民主国家峰会”,建立了美日印澳“四方安全对话机制”和美英澳“三边安全伙伴关系”,始终都在强调美国不能“单打独斗”。这是与特朗普政府明显不同的做法,且与第一点紧密相关。谈到这里,我不得不提及一个非常重要的研究领域,就是有关标准和规则的研究,其中包括技术经济、技术标准、数字经济、数字标准、网络标准等。美国等西方国家把中国看作一个“异类”,希望通过制订各种新的有针对性的标准,把中国排除在外。我们在这方面的研究还非常不足,希望年轻人能多下功夫,多关注涉及下一代技术发展的标准和规则方面的问题,不能让西方阵营把中国完全排斥在外。

如果还有第三点的话,那就是美国认为未来的竞争主要是国家治理能力的较量,谁能够不出现明显的政策失误,谁就可以经由对手的失误而间接获胜。民主党政府认识到自身对于“改变中国”无能为力,因此只能想方设法期待利用中国或许会出现的“政策失误”来削弱中国的力量。所以美国有时候会故意刺激中国,诱使中国做出“鲁莽”的错误应对,这一举动带有明显的目的性,虽然不像前两条那样摆在明面上,但却是美方很重要的一个考虑。

问:当前对华强硬已成美国国内的“政治正确”。其主要致因究竟是中美两国实力的接近,还是在中美互动中美国对华认知发生了显著改变?

答:我认为这两者之间并不是非此即彼的关系。中美之间实力对比显然发生了变化,而且这种变化是有利于中国的,这导致美国对中国的看法也发生了变化。一方面,美国觉得中国很厉害;另一方面,美国认为很难把中国“推回”到过去的位置上去,削弱中国一是做不到,二是不太方便名正言顺地去做。因此,提升自身的竞争力,使自己的力量仍在中国之上,就成为美国努力追求的目标。美国能够采取的办法只能是加强对华竞争,在世界范围内孤立中国,使中国陷入被动。换一个角度来看,中国自身近年来确实也发生了显著的变化,包括巩固中国共产党的领导地位的许多举措。中国认为这种变化是有利于中国实力地位的提高和世界和平与发展的,美国却认为这种变化对其不利,所以他们对中国的负面认知也显著增多了。这实际上是两种价值观的碰撞,而且随着中美实力的接近,这种碰撞是难以回避的,中美关系趋于紧张也是自然的结果。

问:特朗普对中美关系带来的影响是巨大的,当前美国的对华战略与冷战时期对苏联的遏制有什么不同?

答:谈到美国的对华战略,很难完全说清楚。没有一位美国总统在其任内能够形成可以用几句话概括出来的对华战略。如果希望用简洁的文字来概括美国的对华战略,那么这种概括是没有意义的,因为简洁的文字无法全面描绘这一复杂的主题。而且,美国政府的某些涉华文件公告,也不一定能够转化为实际政策。举个例子,国内学界很关注美国政府发表的四年一度的《国家安全战略报告》,每当新的报告公布,很多人都会去仔细研究。但过了四年再回头看,就会发现这份报告实际的价值并没有想象中那么重要,因为发布年度报告是美国行政部门应对国会要求的举措,国会需要一份成文的指导方针放在那里,这样他们就安心了。从行政部门的角度来看,为了保持自身政策的灵活性,并不希望过多受到这份文件的约束,不愿看到它严格框定了未来四年美国政府实际应该采取的外交政策。

提到当前美国的对华战略与冷战时期对苏遏制战略的区别,我认为更多体现在博弈双方在文明和种族上的差异所带来的影响上。美国认为,从古希腊和古罗马时期延续至今的西方文明体系属于一种“普世价值”,代表了世界前进的方向,他们不相信此外还有其他什么文明能具有如此的生命力和普适性。中国则认为,五千年中华文明的历史传承已经足以说明东方文明或儒家文明的生命力与先进性,我们有责任有义务将与西方基督教文明不同的中华文明发扬光大,两者是可以并行不悖的。

由此来看,中美之间的矛盾与当年的美苏矛盾确实存在明显不同。首先,尽管苏联同样主张无神论,但却无法摆脱东正教和西方文明对其潜移默化的影响,而目前看来俄罗斯还在利用东正教来扩大自身的影响,甚至普京也公开说自己信仰东正教。东正教与新教的起源是一致的,因此从文明的角度来看,美苏在冷战期间是处于同一西方体系中的,区别只在于是以马克思列宁主义还是以盎格鲁-撒克逊文明来改造世界。而在中美之间,存在的不仅是马克思列宁主义与西方自由主义之间的争论,实际上我们所说的马克思主义是已经中国化了的,具备了鲜明的中国特色。虽然中国并没有像苏联那样试图将自身的政治制度主动向外推广,但中国的国际影响力不断增大,中国的发展经验正在被越来越多的国家借鉴,却是事实。这一现实让美国愈发难以接受,因而认为两大文明体系的碰撞和冲突在所难免。

这又引申出了种族问题。西方人内心潜移默化且根深蒂固地认为,虽然很多其他种族也接受了基督教信仰,但欧美地区的白人,特别是盎格鲁-撒克逊人的英语国家才真正代表着基督教和新教文明,非洲裔、拉美裔和伊斯兰群体都不能代表。他们不能接受中国作为“异类”在世界上占据主导地位,但是又无力改变人口数量众多的中国迅速崛起的事实。从世界人口的变化看,100年前白人在世界人口中的占比是25%,而现在已经下降到不足10%。这一数据的变化反映到政治上,就是西方整体的实力和影响力显著下降,其中文化影响力和宗教影响力已今非昔比。而作为“黄种人”代表的中国的影响力也在迅速上升,在以白人为代表的美国精英看来,由中华文明取代基督教文明是难以容忍的,因此他们会千方百计地阻止中国发展。

问:关于中美之间是否出现了“新冷战”的问题,目前学界的争议较大。您如何看待这一问题?

答:与冷战期间的美苏关系相比,当前的中美关系还是有很多不同的。首先是双方谁也无法诉诸“集团政治”,因此中美不会变成美苏那样的两极对立。所谓“极”,是指吸引别的国家团结在自身周围,组成一个一致对外的联合阵营。美国想这么做,但是很难做到。中国则并不追求建立这种阵营。相对而言,由于其他国家和中美之间的差距越来越大,未来可能演变成“两强”并立的世界格局,但是不会出现冷战期间那样的两个阵营。

其次从意识形态方面看,中美之间的竞争并非如美苏之间那样带有明显的意识形态对抗色彩,而主要是一种民族主义的体现。因此,中美之间没有出现像当年的美苏那样在意识形态领域展开你死我活、不共戴天斗争的态势。

最后一点也是更重要的一点,我们都很清楚美苏之间是很少有经济往来的,而中美之间在经济上却是割不断的,经济利益在中美两国之间会发挥非常大的作用。正是两国的经贸结构决定了中美完全“脱钩”是做不到的,甚至于在经济领域“部分脱钩”都很难做到。

目前,美国努力促成“脱钩”的主要是技术领域,但这种“脱钩”也是有限的。中美相互依赖并不是愿不愿意的问题,而是谁都无法回避的问题。一个国家不可能发展出所有的经济产业部门,这既是由自然资源的分布情况决定的,也是经济发展规律。如果一个国家对外界完全没有需求,这个国家也无法获得真正的发展。从这个角度来看,美国无法对华完全“脱钩”;而对于中国来说,即使存在“卡脖子”的风险,我们也还是要继续坚持对外开放。

问:中美之间的相互依赖确实是美苏之间不可比的,但是英国和德国在第一次世界大战前的经济联系也很密切,最后还是发生战争了。您觉得经济联系能够阻止中美之间发生严重冲突吗?

答:当前中美之间联系的密切程度,包括信息的沟通、人员的往来、物资的流动等,特别是数字时代金融与科技的相互融合,是100年前的英德之间难以相比的。发生战争的风险之所以没那么大,是因为中美之间各方面的交流已经非常广泛深入,使得突发事件或者遭遇突然袭击的概率非常低。如果想发动突袭,让对方在事先完全没有察觉的情况下达成目标,这在当前条件下似乎不太可能做到;而且在伤害对方的同时也无法独善其身。当然我们不能完全排除突发事件导致冲突迅速升级并最终失控的可能,但这种可能性相当小,因为中美双方都不想打仗。做好应对战争的准备是必要的,而且在对外言辞上也不能软弱,但两国都知道在各自都拥有核武器的背景下,全面开战会导致什么结果,所以战争并不是当前的选项。

问:近年来,台海局势越来越紧张,中美在台湾问题上的较量进入了一个新的阶段。您认为美国政府的对台政策是否在发生根本性的变化?如果台海发生战事,美国会介入吗?

答:我认为美国的对台政策没有发生根本性的变化。美国仍然强调一个中国政策,但这种政策始终不包括承认台湾是中国的一部分。美国在这个问题上态度模糊,仅承认中华人民共和国政府是代表中国的唯一合法政府,可见美国的一个中国政策和我们的一个中国原则存在根本差别。我们认为世界上只有一个中国,中华人民共和国政府是代表全中国的唯一合法政府,台湾是中国的一部分,这三句话是连成一体的。美国只接受了前两句话,同时在第三句话上不断“走钢丝”,既不否认台湾是一个自主的政治实体,又表示不支持“台独”。

在我看来,美国并不完全支持“台独”。历届美国政府都在利用台湾问题来牵制中国大陆,假如“台独”万一真的实现了,美国就失去了利用台湾问题对中国进行制衡的筹码。而且“台独”会引发中美之间的战争,美国也得不到什么好处。对于美国来说,最好的状态就是台湾既没有处于大陆的控制之下,也没有形成法理上的“台独”,这可以使其在两边持续“捞好处”。一直以来,美国支持的都是台湾不统不独,这一基本原则并未改变。当前拜登政府加大了利用台湾问题这个筹码对华施压的力度,但是我不认为美国的底线已经发生了改变。

至于如果台海发生战事,美国是否会介入,以及介入程度的问题,我觉得很难去预设,主要还是取决于大陆“对台动武”的形式和规模。我们必须保留“对台动武”的选项,这是一种底线思维,而且随着蔡英文当局对大陆挑衅的不断升级,我们也会更多强调以武力方式解决台湾问题的可信性和迫切性,以对“台独”势力形成更强的威慑。如果最终迫不得已必须动武,我相信大陆方面已经做好了规划,同时对于美国可能的介入方式也有预案。

问:在特朗普政府任内,中美人文交往也属于“脱钩”的范畴。拜登政府执政以来,逐步放开了对赴美签证的管制,但目前两国学术界的交往依然基本停顿。您如何看待中美之间恢复人文交往的前景?

答:目前有消息称,申请赴美的中国留学生比以前多了,我不太确定,也不知道这些数字从何而来。我的感觉是,中美之间人文交流的恢复是一个缓慢的进程,不仅取决于新冠疫情的走势,同时也需要人们对中美关系的稳定发展恢复信心。未来中美人文交流可能还会继续,也会有所恢复,但无法恢复到2017年以前的水平。这是由两国关系的政治大环境所决定的。

问:您在一些会议上曾谈到中美关系状态和在美华人状况之间的关系,您认为中美关系会如何影响在美华人的工作生活?

答:中美关系或多或少会影响到华人在美国的生活状态,以及他们在美国受到的对待。特别是像特朗普政府那样,因为疫情问题而在美国国内故意煽动民众对中国和中国政府的仇视,这必然会激发一些美国人对有着东方面孔的华人的反感和排斥。但是我们看美国整体的犯罪率,这些年来似乎没有明显的增加,华裔受到严重的暴力犯罪侵扰的情况是否显著增多,还缺乏足够的数据支持。新冠疫情发生以来,美国的排外情绪更加强烈,一些亚裔也受到莫名其妙的侮辱、骚扰甚至暴力袭击,但是整体来看并没有出现大规模、高强度、持续以及有组织的刻意针对华裔的伤害行为。而且在自媒体上出现一些相关的视频画面后,美国主流社会对这种行为进行了严厉批判。中国留学生在美国被杀害的事件引发了很多人的关注,这对其本人和家庭来说确实是一场灾难,但是在两国关系层面,并没有带来太大的影响,毕竟这只是个别刑事案件,不是政府行为,更非刻意针对华人。而且这种事情在哪个国家都可能会发生,我们没有必要过分炒作,否则会对稳定中美关系不利,也会给在美华人带来更大的压力。我们可以对这些案例保持关注,进行研究,但是不要过度拔高到政治层面。

(本文仅代表作者观点,不代表本平台观点。)

About 高大伟 David Cowhig

After retirement translated, with wife Jessie, Liao Yiwu's 2019 "Bullets and Opium", and have been studying things 格物致知. Worked 25 years as a US State Department Foreign Service Officer including ten years at US Embassy Beijing and US Consulate General Chengdu and four years as a China Analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Before State I translated Japanese and Chinese scientific and technical books and articles into English freelance for six years. Before that I taught English at Tunghai University in Taiwan for three years. And before that I worked two summers on Norwegian farms, milking cows and feeding chickens.
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