Thu, Jul 18, 2019 - Page 8 News List

World taking a stand against China

By Joseph Bosco

“US greatest threat to world peace.” China’s largest English daily shouted that headline to mark the first visit to Beijing by the US’ new secretary of defense.

In his public remarks, the secretary complained of repeated Chinese “characterizations of the United States as a hegemon determined to dominate China and the world.” He warned his hosts that those “constant references appearing in the Chinese media, [while] simply untrue, only provoke a negative reaction by many in my own country.”

The date was Jan. 14, 1997. The target of the anti-US calumny was William Cohen, then-US president Bill Clinton’s defense secretary.

That bit of history, not unique in the US-China relationship, serves as a partial corrective to a letter signed by 95 pro-engagement figures, entitled “China is not the enemy” and implying that today’s tensions stem equally from “Beijing’s recent behavior” and “Washington’s adversarial stance ... the current approach.”

Aside from the faulty moral equivalence, the letter-writers ignore decades of history in which many of them were privileged to participate.

They assert that the new, firmer US posture “weakens the influence of ... many Chinese leaders and other elites [who favor] a moderate, pragmatic and genuinely cooperative approach with the West.”

Presumably, by that reasoning, the moderates were in the ascendancy during the almost 40 years of generous, indulgent US policies toward China.

Yet, here we are with what they acknowledge as Beijing’s “turn toward greater domestic repression, increased state control over private firms, failure to live up to several of its trade commitments, greater efforts to control foreign opinion and more aggressive foreign policy.”

The writers evidently see no causality between the traditional, softer US policies and Beijing’s increasingly harsh response — although parallel historical experiences with expanding Asian and European powers taught similar painful lessons.

The letter argues: “If the United States presses its allies to treat China as an economic and political enemy, it will weaken its relations with those allies and could end up isolating itself rather than Beijing.”

However, since the time of Mao Zedong (毛澤東), it has been in the Chinese communist DNA to treat the West as its ultimate enemy, engagement or no engagement. And our allies, partners and other countries have experienced Beijing’s malign intentions and practices for themselves.

Under US leadership, they increasingly are cooperating to resist China’s misbehavior, from trade issues to navigational freedoms in the South China Sea — forming exactly the “enduring coalitions ... in support of economic and security objectives” that the writers call for.

Their arguments are not new — in fact, then-US president Richard Nixon made them all a half-century ago when he called for new policies toward “Red China.”

He said China had to be brought into “the family of nations,” lest it continue to “nurture its fantasies, cherish its hates and threaten its neighbors,” which sounds a lot like the China that the world confronts today, despite four decades of supportive engagement.

What went wrong? The international community failed to heed Nixon’s other cautions on how the West should interact with China.

Too generous, unconditional economic and political concessions would only “serve to confirm its rulers in their present course,” he warned.

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