Huang Renwei: The U.S.-China Strategic Stalemate Phase and Its Battle Relaxation Periods

Huang Renwei makes good points about U.S. strengths and weaknesses while extrapolating a steady rise for China. What Chinese commentators sometimes miss is that the world is greater than the United States and China: other countries are also growing and rising and the relative influences of both the United States and China can be expected to decline somewhat in the decades ahead. As China settles down to the slower growth rate characteristic of mature economies.

Other factors affecting China’s trajectory will be the aging of China’s population (and whether reversal of its population control policy can affect it) and likely more serious competition from other countries that are for now a bit lower on the economic food chain of world economics and trade. Premier Li Keqiang recently discussed China’s current economic problems in a video conference with provincial leaders — see 2022 Transcript: Li Keqiang at Special Economy Stabilization Conference. As Professor Huang notes, the U.S. has problems and as he does not, China also has problems. General Secretary Xi Jinping’s apparently has the same ‘president for life’ lust for power that has led to political paralysis and instability in other countries. China has the static stability of repression yet not the dynamic stability that vigorous debate (and even more important staying out of trouble after the debate) brings.

Another wild card in the coming decades may be the rise of Africa. With greater political stability and improved health (especially malaria control) , and investement, the extraordinarily young average population of Africa has great potential for rapid economic growth.

Related translations here on US – China relations:

Huang Renwei likens the U.S. – China situation today to the strategic stalemate China had with Japan during the War of Resistance Against Japan that Mao Zedong discussed in his article “On Protracted War“. Xi Jinping’s New Era has many echoes of Mao so here it is as we think of parallels in U.S. – China relations in our own latter days:

The second stage may be termed one of strategic stalemate. At the tail end of the first stage, the enemy will be forced to fix certain terminal points to his strategic offensive owing to his shortage of troops and our firm resistance, and upon reaching them he will stop his strategic offensive and enter the stage of safeguarding his occupied areas. In the second stage, the enemy will attempt to safeguard the occupied areas and to make them his own by the fraudulent method of setting up puppet governments, while plundering the Chinese people to the limit; but again he will be confronted with stubborn guerrilla warfare. Taking advantage of the fact that the enemy’s rear is unguarded, our guerrilla warfare will develop extensively in the first stage, and many base areas will be established, seriously threatening the enemy’s consolidation of the occupied areas, and so in the second stage there will still be widespread fighting.

In this stage, our form of fighting will be primarily guerrilla warfare, supplemented by mobile warfare. China will still retain a large regular army, but she will find it difficult to launch the strategic counter-offensive immediately because, on the one hand, the enemy will adopt a strategically defensive position in the big cities and along the main lines of communication under his occupation and, on the other hand, China will not yet be adequately equipped technically. Except for the troops engaged in frontal defence against the enemy, our forces will be switched in large numbers to the enemy’s rear in comparatively dispersed dispositions, and, basing themselves on all the areas not actually occupied by the enemy and co-ordinating with the people’s local armed forces, they will launch extensive, fierce guerrilla warfare against enemy-occupied areas, keeping the enemy on the move as far as possible in order to destroy him in mobile warfare, as is now being done in Shansi Province.

The fighting in the second stage will be ruthless, and the country will suffer serious devastation. But the guerrilla warfare will be successful, and if it is well conducted the enemy may be able to retain only about one-third of his occupied territory, with the remaining two-thirds in our hands, and this will constitute a great defeat for the enemy and a great victory for China. By then the enemy-occupied territory as a whole will fall into three categories: first, the enemy base areas; second, our base areas for guerrilla warfare; and, third, the guerrilla areas contested by both sides. The duration of this stage will depend on the degree of change in the balance of forces between us and the enemy and on the changes in the international situation; generally speaking, we should be prepared to see this stage last a comparatively long time and to weather its hardships. It will be a very painful period for China; the two big problems will be economic difficulties and the disruptive activities of the traitors.

The enemy will go all out to wreck China’s united front, and the traitor organizations in all the occupied areas will merge into a so-called “unified government”. Owing to the loss of big cities and the hardships of war, vacillating elements within our ranks will clamour for compromise, and pessimism will grow to a serious extent. Our tasks will then be to mobilize the whole people to unite as one man and carry on the war with unflinching perseverance, to broaden and consolidate the united front, sweep away all pessimism and ideas of compromise, promote the will to hard struggle and apply new wartime policies, and so to weather the hardships. In the second stage, we will have to call upon the whole country resolutely to maintain a united government, we will have to oppose splits and systematically improve fighting techniques, reform the armed forces, mobilize the entire people and prepare for the counter-offensive. The international situation will become still more unfavourable to Japan and the main international forces will incline towards giving more help to China, even though there may be talk of “realism” of the Chamberlain type which accommodates itself to faits accomplis.

Japan’s threat to Southeast Asia and Siberia will become greater, and there may even be another war. As regards Japan, scores of her divisions will be inextricably bogged down in China. Widespread guerrilla warfare and the people’s anti-Japanese movement will wear down this big Japanese force, greatly reducing it and also disintegrating its morale by stimulating the growth of homesickness, war-weariness and even anti-war sentiment. Though it would be wrong to say that Japan will achieve no results at all in her plunder of China, yet, being short of capital and harassed by guerrilla warfare, she cannot possibly achieve rapid or substantial results. This second stage will be the transitional stage of the entire war; it will be the most trying period but also the pivotal one. Whether China becomes an independent country or is reduced to a colony will be determined not by the retention or loss of the big cities in the first stage but by the extent to which the whole nation exerts itself in the second. If we can persevere in the War of Resistance, in the united front and in the protracted war, China will in that stage gain the power to change from weakness to strength. It will be the second act in the three-act drama of China’s War of Resistance. And through the efforts of the entire cast it will become possible to perform a most brilliant last act.

from “On Protracted War” (May 1938) by Mao Zedong, Peking, 1967, Foreign Languages Press

Huang Renwei profile on the Fudan University website:
Huang Renwei, born in 1954 in Shanghai, is now a Distinguished Researcher at the Center for Contemporary China Studies of Fudan University, Vice President of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, Professor and PhD supervisor.

Major academic experience: Participated in the study of Pudong development and opening-up strategy (1992-1993), the study of Shanghai development strategy in the 21st century (1994-1995), the study of World Expo and Shanghai’s new development strategy (2003-2004), the study of Shanghai’s medium and long-term science and technology development strategy (2004-2005); the study of relevant topics in the Central Taiwan Office (2004-2005); Research on “China’s Peaceful Rise and Development” at the Central Party School (2003-2005); China-US Strategic Dialogue at the China Foundation for International Strategic Studies (1997-); China-US-Japan Trilateral Strategic Dialogue at the China Institute of International Studies (1998-); China-US High-Level Dialogue on Taiwan at the China-Taiwan Office (2000-) Dialogue (2000 – ); and other major research projects and important strategic dialogues.

Publications: Roosevelt’s Political Speeches (1989, Jilin Education Press); American Colleagues (Volume III) (1991, People’s Publishing House); The Historical Evolution of the American Land System (1992, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences Press); Where to Go in Sino-American Relations (1995, Sichuan People’s Publishing House); Independent Peaceful Foreign Policy (1998, Shanghai People’s Publishing House); The Rise of China Shanghai People’s Publishing House); Time and Space of China’s Rise (2002 Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences Press); A New Theory of State Sovereignty (2004 Current Affairs Press); Report on China’s International Status (2004-09 People’s Publishing House); Frontier Issues of Economic Development (2004 Shanghai People’s Publishing House), The Historical Choice of China’s Peaceful Development Path (2008 (Shanghai People’s Publishing House); and numerous other papers, articles and research reports.


Huang Renwei: U.S.-China Strategic Stalemate Phase and Its Battle Relaxation Phase

By Huang Renwei (the author is Executive Vice President and Professor of the Institute of Belt and Road and Global Governance at Fudan University, and formerly Vice President and Researcher of the

Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences)

黄仁伟:中美战略相持阶段与战役缓冲

   Originally published in International Relations Studies, No. 2, 2022 (bimonthly) 原载于2022年第2期《国际关系研究》(双月刊)

   I. Historical Origin and Stages of the “Strategic Stalemate Phase” between China and the United States

   The concept of “strategic stalemate” was coined by Mao Zedong in his “On Protracted War” published during the Anti-Japanese War. He proposed that the war of resistance against Japan consisted of three stages: the Japanese strategic offensive, the Chinese strategic standoff with Japan, and the Chinese strategic counter-offensive. This paper borrows this concept to express the development trend of Sino-American relations.

   Compared with the War of Resistance Against Japan, there are three main differences between the strategic standoff between China and the United States today. First, the most fundamental difference is that the Sino-U.S. strategic competition is not in a state of war, while the strategic holdout of the War of Resistance against Japan is entirely in a state of war. Second, the next stage of the Sino-U.S. strategic rivalry was not a strategic counter-offensive stage, nor was there a strategic counter-offensive stage. China does not have the strategic goal of defeating the United States completely. Third, after a longer period of strategic stalemate, U.S.-China relations will enter a state of coexistence and co-governance. The so-called new type of great power relationship can only be formed after a long period of strategic rivalry.

   From the theoretical point of view, “strategic stalemate” should include three characteristics: 

  1. The two sides of the strategic stalemate are relatively balanced in power. Neither side has an overwhelming advantage in order to maintain the state of “strategic stalemate”. 
  2. Over a longer period of time, it is difficult for either side to defeat the other side, and there is no difference between victory and defeat. 
  3. Both sides have strong institutional confidence in order to maintain the resilience of strategic stalemate. The United States is certain that it will maintain world hegemony for more than 50 years, and China is certain that it will achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation by 2050, the second 100-year goal.

   How long will the strategic holding phase be? It is about 30 years from 2021 to 2050. This depends not only on the conditions for China to achieve its goal of modernization and power, but also on the change in the balance of power between the United States and China. Because of China’s  Two Centenaries Goals [Note: referring to the hundredth anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party in 2021 and the hundredth anniversary of the founding of the PRC in 1949. End note] the U.S. think tank’s long-term strategic scenario for China also defines the time frame as 2050. The 2020 strategy report released by the Center for International Strategic Studies (CSIS), a U.S. strategic think tank, defines the time frame for the U.S.-China strategic competition as 2020-2050. Another major think tank, The Project 2049 Institute, also sets the time frame for the U.S.-China strategic competition at 2020-2050. “The name of The Project 2049 Institute is based on China’s second century goal as its hypothetical target. As can be seen, 2050 is the expected strategic goal of both sides, and this target position determines the time orientation of the holding phase. Within these 30 years, as long as the power differential between the two sides is not reversed, strategic competition will always exist as the new normal in Sino-U.S. relations.

     II.  Three characteristics of the Sino-U.S. strategic stalemate phase

   One of the characteristics of the U.S.-China strategic stalemate phase is the duality of the power structure between China and the United States. The duality of the respective structures of China and the United States is a basic feature of the strategic holding phase. The United States has maintained a relatively strong power during its long decline, and China has always been weak during its rise. This duality between the two sides is the main axis through which the unprecedented changes of the century will be transformed over time.

   The duality of the United States is reflected in the widening gap between its hegemonic power and its goals. During the 1970s and 1980s, the United States and the Soviet Union were ranked as two superpowers, and U.S. world hegemony was incomplete. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. became the only superpower in the world and its hegemony constituted a “unipolar world” with “one superpower, many powers”. The withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and the crisis in Ukraine have further demonstrated the existence of this trajectory.

   The decline of U.S. hegemony is a longer historical process in which the United States has remained the most powerful nation in the world. The U.S. still has the strongest financial control, technological innovation, military striking power and public opinion shaping power in the world. The decline of hegemony is not the same as the weakening of U.S. comprehensive national power. The current international system, including the United Nations system, the Western allied system and the international monetary and financial system, was established by the United States after World War II, and the United States still has decisive influence. International rules, especially international economic rules, are largely created by the United States. The so-called “rule-based international order” is essentially a “world order based on U.S. rules”.

   The decline of hegemony refers to the declining status and declining capacity of the United States to lead international affairs, including the right to shape the international system, the right to create international rules, the right to dominate international discourse, the right to guarantee international security, and the right to mint the U.S. dollar as the world currency are gradually weakening. In the maintenance, reform, innovation and public goods supply of the international system, the U.S. has increasingly shown a serious lack of capacity. Under Donald Trump, the U.S. has been breaking rules and “withdrawing” from the group. After Joseph Biden took office, the U.S. began to restore the rules and to regain dominance over them. As a world currency, the U.S. dollar hegemony serves the U.S. strategy, controls the economic lifelines of other countries, and imposes economic sanctions on other countries at will. Based on its function as a world currency, the “dollar hegemony” is increasingly serving its own interests, and its function and credibility as a world currency are weakening. The decline of the dollar hegemony is one of the important manifestations of the decline of U.S. hegemony.

   The rise and fall of national power is relative to the contrast in power between different countries. Relative to the rapid rise of China since the 21st century, the growth of U.S. power is in relative decline. But relative to Europe and Japan, the power of the United States is rising significantly faster than them. The power gap between the U.S., Europe and Japan has further widened. The U.S. still has the dominant power among its Western allies, and there is even a tendency for the U.S. to strengthen its control over its Western allies. If we look at the comprehensive power of the U.S. and its allies as a whole, the power gap between China and the U.S. is still quite large, and the historical inertia of the U.S. as a superpower will remain for a long time.

   At the stage of strategic stalemate, the power contrast and power shift between China and the U.S. is producing structural contradictions, but such contradictions can have two developmental tendencies of confrontation and cooperation. Several issues need to be considered here.

   The first issue is whether confrontation between rising and defending powers is inevitable in the process of power transfer between major powers. Will the scale and speed of the transfer of power from the defending state to the rising state lead to or avoid a full-scale confrontation between the two, and will this transfer of power be reversed and lead to the defeat of the rising state; or lead to the accelerated decline of the defending state?

   The second issue is whether the narrowing of the power gap between the rising powers and the defending powers will create a limit and lead to a strategic showdown. China and the United States are the world’s first and second largest economies of great weight and equal size, respectively. The gap between China and the United States is rapidly closing. In 2001 China’s economy was 10 percent of that of the U.S.; by 2022 it will be 77 percent of the U.S.. Historically, the “iron rule” that the second largest economy in the U.S. was acceptable up to 60% of the U.S. has been broken. China’s economic growth from 70% to 100% of the U.S. economy is much shorter. If the U.S. cannot prevent China from reaching or exceeding the size of the U.S. total, then what is the acceptable limit of China’s rise and whether exceeding this limit will lead to a strategic showdown between the two.

   The third issue is whether structural contradictions between China and the United States can be transformed into an adversarial relationship under certain conditions and into a cooperative relationship under other conditions. China and the United States have a large degree of interdependence and correlation of interests, and neither side can completely abandon the complementary relationship with the other and implement the so-called “decoupling”. Various problems, whether global, regional or bilateral, require cooperation rather than confrontation between China and the United States in order for them to be mitigated or resolved. The U.S.-China relationship will be in a permanent state of oscillation between quasi-confrontation and quasi-cooperation.

   The structural contradictions between China and the U.S. are reflected in strategic competition in three major areas: global markets, two systems and geopolitics, and are characterized by the coexistence of confrontation, compromise and cooperation. As China maintains its upward momentum and reaches a state of equilibrium with the United States, the degree of confrontation in the structural contradiction between China and the United States will decline, and the confrontation will shift to compromise and cooperation.

   The second characteristic of the U.S.-China strategic standoff phase is the long-term nature of the transformation of the international system. The transformation facing the contemporary international system is different from any system transformation in history. Most of the system transformations in the past changed the international system by war, and the Cold War pattern was also largely determined by the confrontation between two military blocs. Contemporary international system transformations are largely non-war transformations (not excluding war transformations triggered by sudden crises) and are characterized by their gradual and long-term nature. This characteristic remains largely parallel to the long-term nature of the strategic standoff phase between China and the United States.

   First, the Western-dominated world system is in trouble. The West’s absolute dominance of 80% to 90% of the world economy for a long time has now dropped to a slim 50% to 60%. The West’s dominance in wealth distribution and international affairs is being weakened, and emerging economies and developing economies can to some extent constrain the rise and fall of the Western economy. China, which accounts for 1/3 of the world’s economic growth and 1/3 of the total developing country economies, is also increasing its weight of influence on the Western economy.

   Second, because of the inertia of the Western-dominated world system, the Western economy remains at the center of the international system for a long time, even if it drops below 50% of the global economy. The Western-dominated global governance, or “Western governance” system, can neither reflect the rise of emerging forces nor give them enough room to rise. It is difficult for the West to accept the concept and power structure of emerging forces and coexist with them, but the globalized economy does not allow the West and the non-West to be cut into two market systems. This will require a long process of mutual adjustment.

   Moreover, Western countries (including some developing countries) habitually accept the U.S. leadership and find it difficult to accept an international order dominated by emerging powers. This “Pax Americana” mentality will take a long time to change. It is also difficult for the emerging powers to create a new international system from scratch. Only when the hegemonic powers themselves are unable to support the old international system will it be possible for a new one to take its place.

   From China’s perspective, for more than 40 years, from 1980 to the present, China has been in the process of integrating into the Western-dominated international system. In the next 30 years China will face the rejection of China by the U.S.-led Western system and will have to shift from a process of integration to one of shaping and changing the existing international landscape and system. This requires a strong global governance capacity and an advanced global governance philosophy, which will take several generations to develop and promote before it can be established. For example, the lack of capacity encountered in the Belt and Road Initiative does not reflect inadequate investment and construction capacity, but a lack of China’s ability to convince other countries to accept the Belt and Road initiative within the world system. China’s relationship with the world and the interchange of positions in the U.S.-China relationship require a long and iterative process before qualitative changes can occur.

   The third characteristic of the U.S.-China strategic stalemate stage is the limited nature of the confrontation between China and the United States. The confrontation between China and the United States in the strategic stalemate phase is limited. China itself does not have the will to engage in a full-scale confrontation with the United States, which is inconsistent with China’s strategic goal of development by 2050. The U.S. ability and will to confront China is also limited, as such a confrontation would require the U.S. to expend several times its own national power and thus it may not be able to achieve its goals. The limited nature of the confrontation, which exists on both sides, is a fundamental condition for the relative stability of the strategic standoff phase.

   During the four years of the Trump administration, the United States has tried to pursue a bottomless confrontation strategy against China. At one point, the U.S. gathered all its resources for an “all of government, all elements of national power into an all-round” offensive against China, including economic, technological, public opinion, some military, and extreme pressure through allies and China’s internal channels. The U.S. has not only proven itself unable to defeat China, but it has also paid too high a price in damage to its own economy in the process. In the case of the U.S.-China trade war, for example, Trump imposed high additional import tariffs on $500 billion worth of Chinese goods. Ninety-two percent of that tariff burden was shifted to U.S. domestic consumers and producers, leading to a significant increase in domestic prices and triggering inflation.

   The consequences of the U.S. technology war against China will be similar. The negative consequences of the U.S. technology crackdown on China will gradually become manifest. U.S. high-tech companies will lose the Chinese market as their largest source of profits.  This in turn will reduce their capacity to fund R&D and so lower their development potential and also stimulate China’s own ability to innovate. If the U.S. were to launch a full-scale financial war against China, it would cause an unprecedented shakeup or even collapse of the dollar system and a complete shutdown of the world economy, with far greater consequences than any trade and technology war.

   An all-out military war with China would be extremely risky. The U.S. lacks adequate financial resources to support a regional war with China, let alone a nuclear war. The federal debt is now over 150 percent of U.S. GDP. If the United States were to engage in a military war with China, it would need to more than double its current military spending to at least about $1.5 trillion. If the war continues for several years, even without a nuclear war, the U.S. dollar credit, U.S. finances and U.S. stock market would collapse completely, and it would be difficult to win militarily. The United States would need at least twice the national, financial and military power of China to defeat it. Obviously, there is no possibility for the United States to mobilize such huge resources to defeat China.

   Based on these basic estimates, President Biden declared to Chinese President Xi Jinping that “the United States does not seek to change China’s system, does not seek to fight a new Cold War with China, does not seek to oppose China through strengthened alliances, and does not support Taiwan’s independence.” Although there is a problem here with the U.S. saying one thing and doing another, it is, after all, an official determination and expression at the highest levels of the U.S. of the limited nature of strategic confrontation between the U.S. and China, and a full-scale confrontation with China is not in U.S. interests. There are only two possibilities for changing the limited nature of the U.S.-China confrontation: the first, a subversive strategic mistake by China that interrupts its peaceful rise, the probability of which is low. The second, the probability that U.S. anti-China forces will absolutely dominate its decision-making hierarchy and recklessly launch a full-scale cold war or even a hot war against China. The probability of this happening is also relatively low.  With the passage of time, China’s power will fully catch up with that of the United States. The strategic confrontation between China and the United States will turn from limited to non-confrontational only when the United States is unable to confront China and can only face reality and compromise with China.

  

   III.  The Three Decades of the Strategic Stalemate Phase: Continued Changes in the Power Contrast

   The length of the strategic stalemate phase depends on the speed of change in the power contrast between the two sides. This power refers to a comprehensive competitiveness that includes all factors such as economic, military, diplomatic, political and public opinion. The biggest gap between China and the United States at present is in the field of science and technology.  This gap determines the advancement of manufacturing and also relates to cultural and institutional competitiveness. Scientific and technological competitiveness is the decisive factor of contemporary comprehensive national power. The speed of China’s S&T development determines the length of the strategic holding phase. In the four areas of science and technology, military, finance, and soft power, the United States still dominates at present, and the gap between China and the United States is narrowing, but still significant. China has made breakthroughs in individual areas, such as Huawei’s leading 5G technology. The advanced level reached by Huawei in the field of communication technology can be achieved by Chinese companies in other fields in the next 10 years or so. The fact that China’s high-tech industry has been tightened by the United States in the last two years has instead prompted China to speed up the pace of independent innovation in science and technology. By 2035, it will be possible for China to approach the U.S. level in basic technology areas; then by 2050 there will be a basis to be on par with the U.S. in science.

   In April 2021, the International Monetary Fund predicted that China’s total GDP will reach about 90 percent of that of the United States by 2026, and could equal the United States in 2027-2028. The International Institute for Strategic Studies in London predicts that China’s total GDP will catch up with that of the United States in 2028. The assessments of these international institutions are somewhat more optimistic than China’s own. In terms of exchange rate calculations, tying China’s GDP with the U.S. in 2030 is a more modest projection. If the U.S. maintains an average annual growth rate of 2 percent over the next 10 years and China maintains a 5 percent growth rate, by 2030 China’s total economy will catch up with the U.S., with a GDP per capita of $20,000 and a total between $25 trillion and $28 trillion, which is a more modest expected target. Although China is crossing the warning line for the U.S. to strike the second largest power, the 10-year period from 2021 to 2030 remains the most intense and dangerous period of strategic competition between the U.S. and China, where all conflicting points of conflict are most likely to be concentrated.

   If China’s total economic output catches up with that of the United States in the first decade from 2020 to 2030, and China’s overall national power catches up with that of the United States in the second decade from 2030 to 2040, a decisive shift will occur in the contrast of power in the strategic standoff phase between China and the United States. During the third decade from 2040 to 2050, China will catch up with the United States in major fields, including major science and technology. By 2020, China will have surpassed the United States in two important indicators: the number of corporate patents and the number of papers published in core natural science journals. In higher-end indicators such as the number of Nobel Prizes won, China is still significantly behind. Based on the large number of innovations and basic research results, there exists hope that China will be able to catch up with the US in the field of science and technology during the third decade of the twenty-first century.

   The biggest gap between China and the United States is in the area of soft power, including the “broad soft power” and “institutional resilience” of various cultural vehicles and communication capabilities. The ability of the U.S. ideology and institutional model to infiltrate and subvert other countries is almost ubiquitous. The difficulty factor in promoting widespread acceptance of Chinese information and culture around the world is very high. In the next 30 years of strategic stalemate, the U.S. will make greater use of its soft power advantage, whose cost-benefit ratio is far more favorable to the U.S. in its hard power confrontation.  Therefore, the intensity of U.S.-China soft power competition will exceed that of hard power competition. This is a long-term trend, the more rapidly the U.S. hard power declines, the more it will use its soft power advantage to confront China.

   There are both explicit and implicit factors in the U.S.-China power contrast. Explicit factors include “visible” factors such as military power, technological power, and dollar power. Implicit factors refer to “invisible” factors related to soft power, which are difficult to put a number on, such as the extent to which China is able to produce the same quantity and quality of scientific and technological talent as the United States. China’s disadvantage is also evident in terms of hidden factors. The cultural and educational gap between China and the United States is obvious. Eight of the top 10 universities in the world are U.S. universities, and 50 of the top 100 are U.S. universities. Peking University and Tsinghua University are currently ranked in the top 30 in the world, and it will take a long time to shorten the gap with the top U.S. universities. The U.S. use of public opinion warfare to distort China’s image is the key to the invisible power gap between China and the United States.

   It is necessary to dialectically understand the power gap between China and the U.S. and realize the conversion of China’s power advantages and disadvantages. Transform quantitative growth to quality enhancement, i.e., achieve high-quality development. Achieving a qualitative transformation of China’s economy and domestic governance in the 30 years of the strategic holding phase is the core task for China in the next 30 years, and this domestic development strategy issue, placed in the framework of the strategic holding phase between China and the U.S., is an international strategy issue. It will determine whether we will be able to turn our disadvantages into advantages and strategic resources into strategic capabilities in the strategic standoff phase.

   Having the world’s largest market capacity is China’s greatest strategic advantage.  This will have a decisive impact on the contrast of power between China and the United States in the strategic standoff phase. China currently has a population of 1.4 billion and a GDP per capita of $10,000; if the GDP doubles, it becomes $28 trillion and $20,000 per capita. This is a goal that probably could be achieved by 2030. If the U.S. GDP were to rise to $28 trillion, it would need to achieve $90,000 per capita in 2030, which is quite difficult. China’s market potential is so huge that its ability to absorb imports of foreign goods can be transformed into international economic cooperation capacity, and its ability to export goods can be transformed into foreign investment capacity and infrastructure construction capacity. The “Belt and Road” is actually the transformation of China’s domestic market potential into overseas market projection capacity. Market capacity is also, to some extent, cultural communication capacity, which can be translated into the ability to create the rules of the international system. The size of the market will determine the power to create the rules of the market. The countries along the “Belt and Road” will implement the “four-in-one” new international rules of Western rules, UN rules, Chinese rules and local rules, instead of the single US rules. The battle over rules will be a combination of market competition and strategic competition between China and the United States.

   There are also limits to U.S. power during the strategic standoff phase. The limitations of U.S. power essentially reflect the potential crisis of the United States. The most obvious one is the federal fiscal crisis, with the U.S. federal debt reaching $30 trillion in the first quarter of 2022, or 140% of U.S. GDP; interest on the federal debt alone will take up 1/3 of the annual federal budget.  Moreover “robbery” in international affairs, causing serious damage to the credit and image of the United States. The gap between the near bankruptcy of U.S. finances and the enormous expenditures required for strategic competition between China and the United States is the greatest limitation of U.S. power. Kissinger once judged that the greatest threat to U.S. security comes from the federal debt, and the larger the federal debt, the more dangerous the United States is. This warning hit the nail on the head.

   The current U.S. economy is in the middle of three huge bubbles: one is the U.S. debt bubble, the second is the inflation bubble, and the third is the U.S. stock market bubble. The U.S. inflation rate has reached 8%, the highest in nearly 40 years. Inflation will continue to rise after the Ukraine crisis. Stimulated by ten consecutive years of easy monetary policy since 2011, the U.S. stock market rose from being at over 10,000 to over 30,000 at the beginning of 2020. With a serious new coronavirus epidemic and the risk of recession, the stock market is irrationally exuberant amidst a false boom. The consequence of unlimited dollar issuance will inevitably lead to a decline in the value of the dollar.  The Federal Reserve is issuing large amounts of money to buy treasury bonds. The debt, stock market and inflation problems coming all at once are negative factors.  The U.S. abused its power as the issuer of the U.S. dollar – which functions as the world’s reserve currency world currency – to transfer the U.S. crisis to countries around the world by spilling over and absorbing the U.S. inflation into the world economy. During the Ukraine crisis, the U.S. has used both the SWIFT system to attack both Russia and the Euro with energy price hikes. After both Europe and Russia were weakened, abusing the hegemony of the dollar to strike China was the next option. But China has a superb resistance to these strikes that neither the European Union nor the Russian Federation possess.  The result will be that the dollar will encounter unprecedented countermeasures, and all countries will be cautious about the consequences of dollar hegemony abuse. Thus, the dollar hegemony crisis is the biggest strategic limitation of the United States.

   The growing centrifugal tendencies within the United States will make it harder for the U.S. to contain China. In the last two years, divisive tendencies within the United States have reached their highest point since the 20th century. These divisions are more complex than those that led to the U.S. Civil War. Severe racial divisions and deep divisions between rich and poor are intertwined, highlighting the dichotomy between the 1 percent and the 99 percent. The regional split between Republican “red states” and Democratic “blue states”  coincides with a split between federal government at the center and state governments was triggered by the epidemic. These problems are compounded by the fact that America’s strength is in the stock of capital and resources.  This stock keeps getting smaller and smaller while flows keep getting bigger and bigger. This is an insurmountable constraint for the U.S. in the strategic holding phase.

  

   IV. Seize the battle relaxation period and postpone the strategic showdown between China and the United States

   The concept of “strategic holding phase” is conducive to the overall grasp of the trend of U.S.-China relations and the maintenance of strategic stability, so that we will not follow the oscillation because of the policy adjustment of the U.S. presidential change. Taking advantage of the cyclical changes in the phases will help us gain strategic initiative. The buffer period is characterized by no change in U.S. strategic goals and directions, a decrease in the intensity of U.S.-China confrontation, and a partial restoration of dialogue, compromise and cooperation between the two sides.

   Assuming that the strategic standoff phase is divided into three decades, at least two presidents will change in each decade, and U.S. policy will be adjusted or even turned around when each president takes office or leaves office. During this adjustment and turnaround process, there will be battle phases of intensification and buffering, which can be called “battle intensification period” and “battle relaxation” period. The strategic stalemate phase is completed in the alternating process of intensification and relaxation.

   The U.S.-China relationship during the strategic stalemate period is characterized by a longer period of intensification (3-5 years) and a shorter period of relaxation (2-3 years). Seizing the battle relaxation period is a key step to avoid a full-scale confrontation between China and the U.S. during the strategic standoff phase. If we want to avoid a U.S.-China strategic showdown in 20-30 years, we have to seize several of these relaxation periods to digest the aftermath left by the previous period of intensification and prepare for the crisis that may arise in the next period of intensification. During the intensification period, we should address the incoming enemy moves tit-for-tat, while during the relaxation period, we should pay attention to being reasonable, seeking benefits, and maintaining a good tone in relations, maintain and expand the content of cooperation, extending the relaxation period as much as possible, and postpone the breaking point of the strategic showdown between China and the United States. This is the dialectical relationship between strategic holding and battle relaxation. Time is on our side and the direction of power shift is in our favor. Making good use of the buffer relaxation period is an important condition for us to transform the phase of strategic stalemate into a period of strategic opportunity.

   Biden’s rise to power triggered the first battle relaxation period. The first alternating cycle of battle intensification and battle relaxation occurred during the turnover between the Trump and Biden Administrations. During 2019 and 2020, key members of Biden’s foreign policy team, including Anthony Blinken, Jake Sullivan and Kurt Campbell, published several articles on China policy in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, and mainstream media such as the Washington Post and the New York Times, setting out the next administration’s policies. The fierce clash in the U.S. presidential election at the end of 2020, in which the Republicans and Democrats engaged in a deadly power struggle, foreshadowed Biden’s rise to power. All of these indicate a relaxation period after Biden takes office.

   The difference between the main members of Biden’s team and the far-right wing of Trump’s team, such as Pompeo, Bolton and Bannon can be said to be the difference between “rational suppression” and “irrational anti-China”.  This will result in a relaxation period.  The difference can be seen as the difference between “rational suppression” and “irrational anti-China”, which results in the alternation of “relaxation period” and “intensification period”. If Pompeo and others  had remained in power after 2021, U.S.-China relations would have fallen off a cliff and there may well have been a dangerous prospect of a strategic showdown. In contrast, the emergence of a period or periods of “battle relaxation” to avoid continued intensification and a precipitous fall in bilateral relations is objectively conducive to the stability of the strategic stalemate phase.

   However, we have seen no significant relaxation in the six months after Biden took office, or the degree of relaxation is also less than expected. There are three reasons for this: 

  1. The obstacles set by Trump are very large, eliminating policy inertia is hard to do over the short term, and the political atmosphere in Washington is still “anti-China political correctness”. 
  2. The two parties have formed a consensus to position China as the number one strategic opponent, and no matter which party comes to power, this strategic positioning will not change even during the relaxation period. 
  3. The ideological factor of Biden’s China policy is very strong, and his “small yard, high fence” strategy of precision strikes is more confusing and less appealing to the public than the strong anti-China posture of Trump’s team.

   The Biden Administration’s new China policy adjustment has two main components.  The first is to lock China in with rules (i.e., “regulation lock-in”), and to characterize China’s international behavior as much as possible as being in the “non-compliant” or even “illegal” range. “The other is to establish new multilateral mechanisms. The second is the creation of a new multilateral mechanism (the so-called “pseudo-multilateral”), which is essentially a U.S.-led “united front” against China. The U.S. targeting of multilateral mechanisms at China has been one of the features of policy adjustments that Biden has made toward China since his inauguration. This is the only difference from Trump’s unilateralist approach to China is in the way it is being done.

   The relaxation period for this round of battles can be long or short. If the Republicans gain majorities in both chambers in the 2022 midterm elections, the Biden administration will enter “lame duck” status early and the relaxation period will be difficult to maintain. Even if the Democrats retain both houses of Congress, 2024 will be a presidential election year, the two parties will again be amidst fierce political campaigns. The political atmosphere will have become seriously poisoned and the battle relaxation period will be basically over. Therefore, this round of battle relaxation period  will last only one to two years.  By 2025, when a new administration takes office, China and the United States will enter a new period of intensified battles, and both the far-right wing of the Republican Party and the Democratic Party establishment will inevitably launch a fierce attack on China when they take office. Because the first decade of 2030 is so close, the psychological pressure of the United States being overtaken by China in aggregate is already hard for China to bear.

   The cycle of alternating periods of battle intensification and battle relaxation in the first round provides us with a typical template for the sometimes-aggravating and sometimes-buffering relationship between China and the United States. Careful analysis of the internal logic of this cycle will help us reveal the regularities within the strategic standoff phase, and moreover, help us promote the transformation of Sino-U.S. relations in a healthy direction, and help China and the United States share the responsibility of maintaining peace and development. (Notes omitted)


黄仁伟:中美战略相持阶段与战役缓冲

更新时间:2022-07-07 05:29:12

进入专题: 中美关系   战略相持  

● 黄仁伟 

   一、 中美“战略相持阶段”的历史由来及阶段性

   “战略相持阶段”概念是毛泽东在抗日战争时期发表的《论持久战》中创造的。他提出,抗日战争包括日本的战略进攻、中国与日本的战略相持、中国的战略反攻这三个阶段。本文借用这一概念来表述中美关系的发展趋势。

   与抗战时期相比,今天的中美战略相持,主要有三个区别。其一,最根本的区别是,中美战略竞争并非处于战争状态,而抗日战争的战略相持则完全是战争状态。其二,中美战略相持阶段的下一个阶段并不是战略反攻阶段,也不存在战略反攻阶段。中国并没有将美国彻底打败的战略目标。其三,经过较长时期的战略相持,中美关系将进入一个共存共治的状态。所谓新型大国关系,须经过战略相持的长期竞争状态才能形成。

   从学理上来说,“战略相持”应包含三个特征:一是战略相持的双方力量相对均衡。任何一方都不具有压倒性优势,才能保持“战略相持”状态。二是在较长时期内,任何一方都难以打垮对方,没有战胜和战败之分。三是双方都有强烈的制度自信,才能保持战略相持的韧性。美国确信将保持世界霸权50年以上,中国确信到2050年实现中华民族伟大复兴,即第二个百年目标。

   战略相持阶段将有多长时间?大约是2021~2050年的30年时间。这不仅取决于中国实现现代化强国目标的条件,而且取决于美国与中国的力量对比变化。由于中国提出“两个百年”的目标,美国智库针对中国的长期战略方案也把时间坐标界定在2050年。美国战略智库“国际战略研究中心”(CSIS)发布的2020年战略报告,将中美战略竞争的时间段定为2020~2050年。另一个重要智库“2049中心”也将中美战略竞争的时间段定为2020~2050年。“2049中心”的智库名称就是以中国的第二个百年目标作为其假想对象。可见,2050年是双方的战略预期目标,这个目标定位决定了相持阶段的时间向度。在这30年内,只要双方力量对比没有发生逆转,战略竞争作为中美关系的新常态就会始终存在。

  

   二、中美战略相持阶段的三个特征

   中美战略相持阶段的特征之一是中美力量结构的两重性。中美两国各自的两重性结构是战略相持阶段的基本特征。美国在其漫长的衰落过程中保持着相对强大的力量,中国在崛起过程中始终存在着薄弱之处。双方的这种两重性是贯穿百年未有之大变局的主轴,将随着时间推移而发生转变。

   美国的两重性体现在其霸权力量和目标之间的差距不断扩大。20世纪70~80年代,美国与苏联并列为两个超级大国,美国的世界霸权并不完整。苏联解体后,美国成为世界上唯一的超级大国,美国霸权构成“一超多强”的“单极世界”。2008年国际金融危机和2020年新冠疫情后美国霸权呈现衰落的轨迹,阿富汗撤军和乌克兰危机更加显示这条轨迹的存在。

   美国霸权衰落是一个较长的历史过程,在这过程中美国仍然保持着国力最强国家的地位。美国在世界上仍然拥有最强的金融控制能力、科技创新能力、军事打击能力和舆论塑造能力。霸权衰落并不等于美国综合国力的衰弱。当前的国际体系,包括联合国体系、西方盟国体系和国际货币金融体系是二战后由美国主导建立的,现在美国仍然具有决定性影响力。国际规则,特别是国际经济规则很大程度上是由美国创制的。所谓“以规则为基础的国际秩序” 实质上就是“以美国规则为基础的世界秩序”。

   霸权衰落是指美国领导国际事务的地位和能力不断下降,包括国际体系的塑造权、国际规则的创制权、国际话语的主导权、国际安全的保障权以及作为世界货币的美元铸币权都在逐步削弱。在国际体系的维护、改革、创新和公共产品供给等方面,美国越来越显示出能力严重不足。特朗普时期美国破坏规则和“退群”的行为不断。拜登上台后,美国开始恢复规则并要重新主导规则。作为世界货币的美元霸权,服务于美国战略,控制他国的经济命脉,对他国任意实施经济制裁。立足于具有世界货币功能的“美元霸权”越来越服务其本国利益,作为世界货币的功能和信用正在削弱。美元霸权的衰落是美国霸权衰落的重要表现之一。

   国力升降是相对不同国家之间的力量对比而呈现出来的。相对于中国21世纪以来的迅速崛起,美国的力量生长呈现相对衰落状态。但是相对于欧洲和日本,美国的力量上升明显快于它们。美、欧、日之间的实力差距进一步拉大。美国在西方盟国中仍然拥有主导能力,甚至出现美国对西方盟国的控制权有所加强的倾向。如果把美国及其盟国的综合实力作为一个整体来看,中国与美国的实力差距还是相当大的,美国作为超级大国的历史惯性还将保持很长时间。

   在战略相持阶段,中美之间的力量对比和权力转移产生结构性矛盾,但是这种矛盾可以有对抗和合作的两种发展趋向。这里需要考虑几个问题:

   一是在大国权力转移过程中,崛起国与守成国之间是否必然产生对抗。守成国向崛起国权力转移的规模和速度是否会导致或者避免二者的全面对抗,这种权力转移是否会逆转而导致崛起国的失败;或者导致守成国的加速衰落?

   二是崛起国与守成国之间的力量差距缩小是否会产生极限并导致战略摊牌。中美两国分别为分量极大、规模相当的世界上第一位和第二位经济体。中国与美国的经济总量差距正在迅速缩小。在2001年中国的经济总量是美国的10%,到2022年已是美国的77%。历史上,美国可接受的第二位大国经济总量极限为美国60%的“铁律”已被打破。中国经济总量占美国比例从70%上升到100%的过程大为缩短。如果美国不能阻止中国达到或超过美国总量规模,那么美国可以接受的中国上升极限是多少,超过这个极限是否会导致二者的战略摊牌。

   三是中美结构性矛盾在一定条件下可能转化为对抗性关系,在另一种条件下也可能转化为合作性关系。中国与美国存在着较大的相互依存度与利益相关性,没有一方可以完全放弃与对方的互补关系,实行所谓的“脱钩”。无论是全球性的、地区性的还是双边性的各种问题,都需要中美之间的合作而不是对抗才能得到缓解或解决。中美关系将长期处于在准对抗性和准合作性之间摆动的状态。

   中美结构性矛盾体现在全球市场、两种制度和地缘政治这三大领域的战略竞争,具有对抗性、妥协性和合作性并存的特点。随着中国保持上升势头并达到与美国相平衡的状态,中美之间结构性矛盾的对抗度就会下降,对抗性就会向妥协性和合作性转变。

   中美战略相持阶段的特征之二是国际体系转型的长期性。当代国际体系面临的转型与历史上的体系转型都不相同,过去的体系转型大多数以战争方式改变国际体系,冷战格局在很大程度上也是由两个军事集团之间的对抗性决定的。当代国际体系转型在很大程度上是非战争转型(不排除突发危机引发的战争转型),其特点是渐进性和长期性。这个特点与中美战略相持阶段的长期性基本保持平行。

   首先,西方主导的世界体系陷入困境。很长时期内西方在世界经济总量占80%~90%的绝对优势,现在已降至50%~60%的微弱优势。西方主导财富分配和国际事务的统治地位正在受到削弱,新兴经济体和发展中国家经济在一定程度上可以制约西方经济的升降盛衰。中国占世界经济增量的1/3和发展中国家经济总量的1/3,对西方经济影响力的权重也在不断提高。

   其次,由于西方主导的世界体系具有惯性,西方经济即使降至全球经济的50%以下,它依然长期处在国际体系中的中心位置。西方主导的全球治理即“西方治理”体系既不能反映新兴力量的崛起,又不能给予新兴力量足够的上升空间。西方难以接受新兴力量的理念、力量结构并与之共存,但是全球化经济又不容西方与非西方切割为两个市场体系。这就需要一个较长的相互调适过程。

   再者,西方国家(包括一部分发展中国家)习惯性地接受美国领导,难以接纳一个由新兴大国主导的国际秩序。这种“美国治下的和平”的心理状态需要很长时间才会改变。新兴大国也难以另起炉灶创建新的国际体系。只有在霸权国本身难以支撑旧的国际体系时,新的国际体系才有可能取而代之。

   从中国的角度来看,从1980年至今的40多年,中国始终处在融入西方主导国际体系的进程中。未来30年中国将面对美国为首的西方体系排斥中国的情况,不得不从融入为主转变为塑造和改变现有国际格局与体系的进程。这需要强大的全球治理能力和先进的全球治理理念,而这种能力和理念需要几代人的培养和推广才能得到确立。例如,“一带一路”建设遇到的能力不足问题,并不是投资建设能力不足,而是中国在世界体系内说服他国接受“一带一路”的塑造能力不足。中国与世界的关系以及中美关系的位置互换,需要长期反复的过程才能发生质变。

   中美战略相持阶段的特征之三是中美对抗的有限性。中美之间在战略相持阶段的对抗是有限的。中国本身并没有与美国全面对抗的意愿,这不符合中国到2050年发展战略目标的要求。美国对抗中国的能力与意志也是有限的,因为这种对抗需要美国几倍于自己的国力消耗且未必能达到目的。中美双方都存在的对抗有限性是战略相持阶段得以相对稳定的基本条件。

   在特朗普执政的四年中,美国曾经试图对中国实行无底线对抗的战略。一度聚集所有资源对中国采取“全政府、全要素、全方位”的攻势,包括经济上、技术上、舆论上、部分军事上以及通过盟国、中国内部等途径的极限施压。事实证明,美国无法打垮中国,反而让美国付出过高的成本。以中美贸易战为例,特朗普对价值5000亿美元的中国商品增收高额进口关税,其中92%关税负担转移到美国国内消费者和生产者身上,导致美国国内价格大幅度上升,引发通货膨胀。

   美国对华技术战的后果也将是如此。美国在技术上打击中国的负面后果将逐步显示出来。美国高科技公司将失去中国市场这一最大利润来源,进而减少研发资金投入,降低其发展潜力,却刺激起中国的自主创新能力。如果美国对中国发动全面的金融战,将使美元体系受到空前动摇甚至崩溃,世界经济全面停摆,其后果远大于贸易战和技术战。

   美国与中国进行全面的军事战争极为冒险。美国财力难以支持同中国打一场局部战争,遑论核大战。当下联邦债务已经高达美国国内生产总值的150%以上。如果美国与中国展开军事战,至少需将现有军费开支提高一倍以上,达到大约1.5万亿美元。如果战争持续数年,即使不发生核大战,美元信用、美国财政和美国股市将全面崩溃,军事上也难以获胜。美国要战胜中国,至少需要两倍于中国的国力、财力和军力。显然,美国没有可能动员如此庞大资源来打垮中国。

   基于上述基本估计,美国总统拜登对中国国家主席习近平宣称,“美国不寻求改变中国的制度,不寻求与中国打新冷战,不寻求通过强化同盟关系反对中国,不支持台湾独立”。尽管这里存在着美国说一套做一套的问题,但是毕竟是美国最高层对中美战略对抗有限性的官方认定和表述,全面对抗中国不符合美国的利益。只有两种可能性才能改变中美对抗的有限性:一是中国出现颠覆性的战略错误,中断其和平崛起的进程,这种可能性概率很低;二是美国反华力量绝对主导其决策层,不计后果地对中国发动全面冷战甚至热战,这种可能性的概率也比较低。随着时间推移,中国力量将全面赶超美国,美国在无法对抗中国,只能面对现实与中国妥协时,中美战略对抗才会从有限性转变成非对抗性。

  

   三、战略相持阶段的三个10年:力量对比持续变化

   战略相持阶段的时间长度取决于双方力量对比的变化快慢。这种力量指的是包含经济、军事、外交、政治和舆论等所有因素的综合竞争力。当前中国与美国差距最大的是科技领域,科技领域决定制造业的先进性,也关系到文化和制度竞争力。科技竞争力是当代综合国力的决定性因素。中国科技发展的速度决定战略相持阶段的时间长度。在科技、军事、金融和软实力这四个领域,美国目前仍然占据优势,中国与美国的差距在缩小,但依然明显。中国在个别领域取得突破,如华为领先的5G技术。华为在通讯技术领域达到的先进水平,未来10年左右中国企业在其他领域也能做到。最近两年中国高科技产业被美国紧逼,反而促使中国加快科技自主创新的速度。到2035年,中国的基本技术领域接近美国水平是有可能的;再到2050年在科学领域与美国并驾齐驱就有基础了。

   2021年4月,国际货币基金组织预测,到2026年中国的国内生产总值总量将达到美国的90%左右,2027~2028年可与美国持平。伦敦国际战略研究所预计,2028年中国的国内生产总值总量将赶上美国。这些国际机构的评估比中国自己的评估还要乐观一些。从汇率计算来看,在2030年中国国内生产总值与美国并列是比较适中的预测。未来10年如果美国保持平均2%的年增长率,中国保持5%的增长率,到2030年,中国经济总量将赶超美国,人均GDP达到2万美元,总量在25万亿至28万亿美元之间,这是比较适中的预期目标。尽管中国正在跨过美国打击第二位大国的警戒线,2021年至2030年的10年间仍然是中美战略竞争最激烈最危险的时期,所有矛盾的冲突点最可能在此时期集中爆发。

   如果在2020~2030年第一个10年内,中国的经济总量赶上美国,2030~2040年第二个10年中国的综合国力赶上美国,中美战略相持阶段的力量对比将发生决定性转变。2040~2050年的第三个10年,中国将在主要领域包括主要科技领域赶上美国。到2020年,中国的企业专利数和自然科学核心刊物的论文发表数这两项重要指标已经超过美国。更高端指标如诺贝尔奖获得数,中国还处于明显落后状态。以已有大量的创新成果和基础研究成果作为基础,中国在第三个10年在科技领域赶超美国是有希望的。

   中国与美国差距最大的是软实力领域,包括各种文化载体和传播能力的“广义软实力”和“制度弹性”。美国意识形态和制度模式对他国的渗透颠覆能力几乎无处不在。促使世界各国广泛接受中国信息与文化的难度系数非常大。在今后30年的战略相持阶段中,美国将更多地利用其软实力优势,其成本与收益的性价比远远超过硬实力对抗,因此中美软实力竞争的激烈程度将超过硬实力竞争。这是一个长期趋势,美国硬实力下降得越迅速,其就越会运用软实力优势与中国对抗。

   中美力量对比既有显性因素,也有隐性因素。显性因素包括军事力量、科技力量和美元力量等“看得见”因素。隐性因素主要指与软实力有关的“不容易看见”、难以用数据统计的因素,例如中国在多大程度上能够培养与美国同等数量和同等质量的科技人才。隐性因素方面,中国的劣势也是明显的。中美文化教育差距明显。世界大学排名前10位中,有8所都是美国大学,前100位中有50所是美国大学。北大、清华目前排到世界前30位,缩短与美国顶尖大学的差距还需要较长时间。美国运用舆论战扭曲中国形象是中美隐形力量差距的关键所在。

   要辩证地认识中美间力量差距,实现中美力量优势与劣势的转换。把数量增长型转变为质量增强型,即实现高质量发展。在战略相持阶段的30年里实现中国经济和国内治理的质量型转变,是中国今后30年的核心任务,这个国内发展战略问题,放在中美战略相持阶段的框架里就是国际战略问题。它决定了在战略相持阶段中能否把我们的劣势转化为优势,把战略资源转变为战略能力。

   拥有世界上最大的市场容量是中国最大的战略优势,对战略相持阶段的中美力量对比将产生决定性影响。目前中国有14亿人口,人均国内生产总值是1万美元,如果国内生产总值翻一倍,就变成28万亿,人均2万美元。这是在2030年大概率可以达到的目标。如果美国上升至28万亿美元,需要在2030年实现人均9万美元,其难度相当大。中国的市场潜力非常巨大,吸纳外国商品的进口能力可以转化为国际经济合作能力,商品出口能力可以转化为对外投资能力和基础设施建设能力。“一带一路”实际上就是中国国内市场潜力转化为海外市场投射能力。市场容量在某种程度上也是文化传播能力,可以转化为国际体系规则的创作能力。市场规模将决定市场规则的创制权。“一带一路”沿线国家将实施西方规则、联合国规则、中国规则和当地国家规则的“四合一”全新的国际规则,而不是单一的美国规则。规则之争将是中美市场竞争和战略竞争结合的体现。

   中美战略相持阶段,美国力量也存在局限性。美国力量的局限性本质上反映了美国的潜在危机。最明显的就是联邦财政危机,2022年第一季度美国联邦债务已经达到30万亿美元,是美国GDP的140%;仅联邦债务利息就要占用联邦年度预算的1/3。美国联邦债务以及美国联邦财政的巨大亏空,迫使美国在国际事务中大量“赖账”和“打劫”,造成美国信用和形象的严重损害。美国财政几乎破产与中美战略竞争所需要的巨大支出,二者之间的差距就是美国力量的最大局限性。基辛格曾经判断美国安全的最大威胁来自于联邦债务,联邦债务越大,美国就越危险。这个警告一语中的。

   当前美国经济处于三个巨大的泡沫之中:一是美国债务泡沫,二是通胀泡沫,三是美国股市泡沫。美国的通胀率已经达到8%,是近40年来最高的。乌克兰危机之后通胀率将继续上升。在2011年以来连续10年宽松货币政策刺激下,美国股市从2020年初时处于1万多点涨到3万多点。在新冠疫情严重并面临经济衰退风险的情况下,股市呈现虚假繁荣的亢奋状态。无限发行美元的后果必然是美元价值下降,美联储又大量发行货币用来购买国债。高处不胜寒的债务、股市、通胀三者叠加,一损俱损。美国当权者滥用美元的世界货币功能,试图将美国通胀在世界范围内溢出并加以消化,将美国危机转移给世界各国。在这次乌克兰危机中,美国既用SWIFT系统打击俄罗斯,又用能源涨价打击欧元,在欧、俄都被削弱后,滥用美元霸权对中国实施打击就是下一步选择。但是中国具备欧盟和俄罗斯都不拥有的超强的抗打击能力,将使美元遇到前所未有的反制,各国都将对美元霸权滥用的后果谨慎。因此,美元霸权危机是美国最大的战略局限性。

   美国国内的离心倾向愈发严重,将牵制美国遏制中国的能量。最近两年,美国国内各种分裂倾向达到20世纪以来的最高点,其复杂性超过美国内战时期。严重的种族分裂和深刻的贫富分化交织在一起,凸现1%和99%的对立关系。共和党的“红州”与民主党的“蓝州”形成地区分裂,由疫情引发联邦与各州政府的央地分裂。这些问题叠加在一起,美国的优势是存量,它面对的问题是增量。存量越来越小,增量越来越大,这是美国在战略相持阶段中不可克服的制约。

  

   四、抓住战役缓冲期,推迟中美战略摊牌

   “战略相持阶段”概念有利于对中美关系趋势的总体把握,有利于保持战略定力,不会因为美国总统更替的政策调整而使我们追随摆动。利用阶段性的周期变化,有助于我们取得战略主动权。缓冲期的特点就是美国的战略目标和方向没有改变,中美对抗的激烈程度有所下降,双方对话、妥协和合作得到部分恢复。

   假定战略相持阶段分成三个10年,每个10年至少有两任总统要换届,每一任总统上台或者下台,美国政策都会有所调整甚至是转折。在这个调整转折过程中就会出现战役阶段性的激化和缓冲,可称之为“战役激化期”和“战役缓冲期”。战略相持阶段就是在激化和缓冲的交替过程中完成的。

   战略相持期的中美关系表现为较长时间的战役激化期(3~5年)和较短时间的战役缓冲期(2~3年)交替的进程。抓住战役缓冲期,是在战略相持阶段避免中美全面对抗的关键步骤。如果我们要在20~30年的时间里避免中美战略摊牌,就要抓住其中的若干个缓冲期,消化前一个激化期留下的后遗症,准备应对下一个激化期可能出现的危机。在激化期我们要针锋相对痛击来犯之敌,在缓冲期则要注意有理有利有节,保持和扩大合作内容,尽量延长缓冲期,推迟中美战略摊牌的爆发点。这就是战略相持和战役缓冲之间的辨证关系。时间在我们这边,力量转移方向对我有利。利用好缓冲期,是我们把战略相持阶段转化为战略机遇期的重要条件。

   拜登上台引发第一个战役缓冲期。第一个战役激化和战役缓冲的交替周期,出现在特朗普执政和拜登上台之间的更替。2019~2020年间,拜登外交政策团队的主要成员布林肯、沙利文和坎贝尔等人在《外交事务》《外交政策》以及《华盛顿邮报》《纽约时报》等主流媒体上发表多篇有关对华政策的文章,阐述他们执政后准备调整对华政策的基本策略。2020年底美国总统大选的激烈冲突,共和党与民主党展开你死我活的权力争夺。这些都预示拜登上台后将出现一个战役缓冲期。

   拜登团队的主要成员和特朗普团队的蓬佩奥、博尔顿和班农等极右翼是有区别的,可以视为“理性打压”和“非理性反华”的区别,由此产生了“缓冲期”和“激化期”的更替。如果蓬佩奥等人在2021年后继续执政,中美关系将悬崖式下跌,可能出现战略摊牌的危险前景。相比较而言,出现一段或几段“战役缓冲期”避免持续激化、出现悬崖式下跌,客观上有利于战略相持阶段的稳定性。

   然而,我们看到拜登上台后半年没有出现明显缓冲,或者缓冲程度也小于预期。其原因有三:一是特朗普设置的障碍非常之大,短期内难以消除政策惯性,华盛顿的政治气氛仍然是“反华政治正确”。二是美国两党已经形成共识,把中国定位为头号战略对手,无论哪个党上台,即使在缓冲期也不会改变这个战略定位。三是拜登团队的对华政策意识形态因素十分强烈,其精确打击的“小院高墙”策略比特朗普团队的强势反华姿态更有迷惑力和号召力。

   拜登对华政策调整中增加的新策略主要有两条,一条是以规则锁定中国(即“规锁”),尽可能地把中国的国际行为锁定在“不合规”甚至是“不合法”的范围内。另一条是设立新的多边机制(即所谓“假多边”),其实质就是美国领导的、以反对中国为目标的“统一战线”。美国把多边机制的目标对准中国,是拜登上台后对华政策调整的特点之一。这与特朗普以单边主义的方式打击中国只是形式的不同。

   这一轮战役缓冲期的时间可长可短。如果共和党在2022年中期选举中在参众两院都取得多数,拜登政府将提前进入“跛鸭”状态,缓冲期也难以维持。即使民主党保住国会两院,2024年就将进入总统大选年,两党竞选再度激烈,政治空气严重毒化,战役缓冲期也基本告终。所以,这一轮战役缓冲期只有1~2年的时间。到2025年新一届政府上台,中美将进入新的战役激化期,无论是共和党极右翼还是民主党建制派上台,都必然对中国展开猛烈攻击。因为距离2030年的第一个10年已经很近了,美国在总量上被中国超越的心理压力已经难以承受。

   第一轮战役激化期和战役缓冲期的周期更替,为我们提供了中美关系时而激化时而缓冲的典型模板。仔细分析这个周期的内在逻辑,有助于我们揭示战略相持阶段的规律性,更有助于我们推动中美关系向健康的方向转变,有助中美两国共同承担维护和平与发展的责任。(注释略)

  

  

   作者:黄仁伟(作者是复旦大学一带一路及全球治理研究院常务副院长、教授,曾任上海社会科学院副院长、研究员)

   原载于2022年第2期《国际关系研究》(双月刊)

  

  

   

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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