Wed, Aug 15, 2018 - Page 8 News List

US changing strategy on China

By Joseph Tse-Hei Lee 李榭熙

Politically, the recent imprisonments of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy and pro-independence youth leaders, the sudden revocation of Taichung’s right to host next year’s East Asian Youth Games and the intimidation of international airlines to remove Taiwan as an independent entity signified China’s determination to use coercion to accomplish political objectives.

On the surface, these intimidating tactics make Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a strong statesman and satisfy the nationalist sentiment at home. Yet such top-down measures only reinforce the widespread fear of China’s determination to globalize its autocratic values and practices.

Both the US and China can be victims of their own historical trajectories. Perceiving China’s assertion through the lens of US historical encounters with Great Britain, Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan and the Soviet Union, the US is always prepared to confront different crisis scenarios when they happen. Washington has taken on Beijing as a serious adversary, striving to defend its interests and well-being in the face of strong Chinese challenges.

Marginalized from the international economy for much of the 20th century, China has sought a global level playing field for its industries to learn from and catch up with the West. With two decades of unprecedented economic growth under its belt, China has become more confident of its developmental model. It is now more than willing to act as an unchallenged superpower, silencing domestic opinions and shaking up the international security “status quo.”

Faced with an escalating trade war with the US, China should avoid viewing the practice of international relations as a zero-sum game in the old Marxist framework of class antagonism. It should also be sensitive toward the legitimate concerns and grievances of neighboring nations, such as Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam, Laos and Nepal. Otherwise, it may be hard for China to stabilize ties with the US and seek a favorable environment for modernization.

Joseph Tse-Hei Lee is a professor of history at Pace University in New York City.

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