Wed, Oct 17, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Storm brewing over US-China ties

By John Lim 林泉忠

Modern history is full of examples of famous speeches that have had a major impact on international relations and even human history.

On Oct. 4, US Vice President Mike Pence delivered a speech on the US-China relationship at the Hudson Institute, which set out a thorough criticism of China’s domestic and foreign policy over the past few years. It could be seen as a historic speech that directed a stream of criticism at Beijing.

Pence expressed in no uncertain terms that the US will no longer attempt to appease the threat that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) poses to the world and said that the White House will be making a comprehensive adjustment to the US’ China policy.

As the 40th anniversary of the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between the US and the PRC approaches, Pence’s speech marks the beginning of a new era from which there is no turning back.

The change to the US’ China policy is certainly not the special domain of US President Donald Trump; rather, it reflects the prevailing consensus within US government and political circles, including the White House, Capitol Hill and Washington think tanks.

By relying on its increasing national power and resorting to the use of unscrupulous means, Beijing has encroached upon US national interests and threatened the settled international order. Therefore, the US must not continue to appease China.

Washington’s stance toward Beijing has changed and it is now based on the assumption that China is a threat to its national interests. This viewpoint was clearly on display during Pence’s speech.

First, Pence set out how China has systematically engaged in a coordinated penetration of the US economy, military, politics, public debate and academia, and even tried to influence the outcome of US elections and interfere in US politics.

If Beijing had simply sought to extend its influence outside of the US’ sphere of influence, thereby only partially challenging the US’ pre-eminent position within the international order, this would probably not have been sufficient provocation to cause Washington to turn hostile against China.

Second, Pence outlined how Beijing has ramped up its economic and military activities around the globe, severely threatening the US-led global order and US national interests, and disturbing the free and open international order.

Pence said that the Chinese Communist Party has employed “an arsenal of policies inconsistent with free and fair trade, including tariffs, quotas, currency manipulation, forced technology transfer, intellectual property theft and industrial subsidies that are handed out like candy.”

In addition, Beijing is using opaque investments through its Belt and Road Initiative to promote a policy of “debt trap diplomacy” as a way to extend its influence throughout the world.

Washington finds any challenges to the US’ dominant global military position by any foreign power as particularly objectionable.

Pence went on to say that “China now spends as much on its military as the rest of Asia combined and Beijing is prioritizing capabilities to erode America’s military advantages at land, at sea, in air, and in space. Beijing wants nothing less than to push them from the Western Pacific in an attempt to prevent us from coming to the aid of our allies.”

Third, Pence said that after China began to reform and open up its economy in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the hopes that it would choose the path of liberty and democracy have come to nothing.

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