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Washington is playing a losing game with China

Nan Yang

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Washington is playing a losing game with China
9 May 2021
Author: Chas W Freeman Jr, Brown University

America’s latest policies toward China will prove self-defeating. US–China relations now exemplify Freeman’s third law of strategic dynamics: for every hostile act there is a more hostile reaction.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (2nd R), joined by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan (R), speaks while facing Yang Jiechi (2nd L), director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Office, and Wang Yi (L), China's State Councilor and Foreign Minister, at the opening session of US-China talks in Anchorage, Alaska, 18 March 2021 (Photo: Frederic J Brown/Pool via Reuters).
Washington would be easy to spot in a game of chess. It’s the player with no plan beyond an aggressive opening. That is no strategy at all. The failure to think several moves ahead matters.

Washington developed some well-founded complaints about Chinese economic behaviour — and launched a trade war. Washington was alarmed about China’s potential to outcompete America — and tried to cripple it with an escalating campaign of ‘maximum pressure’. Washington saw China as a threat to US military primacy — and sought to contain it.

US farmers have lost most of their US$24 billion Chinese market. US companies have had to accept lower profits, cut wages and jobs, defer wage hikes, and raise prices for American consumers. The US shift to managed trade has cost an estimated 245,000 American jobs, while shaving about US$320 billion off US GDP. American families are paying as much as US$1,277 more a year on average for consumer goods. There has been almost no reshoring of American jobs outsourced to China. The United States can expect job losses of 320,000 by 2025 and a GDP US$1.6 trillion less than it would have been.

China’s overall trade surplus rose to a new high of US$535 billion in 2020. Beijing improved its position by lowering barriers, striking free trade deals with countries other than the United States, and sponsoring a trade dispute-settlement mechanism to replace the US-sabotaged WTO.

China is not breaking stride. It is investing 8 per cent more each year in education. China already accounts for a quarter of the world’s STEM workforce. Its science investment is almost on par with that of the United States and rising at an annual rate of 10 per cent as America’s falls. Its infrastructure is universally envied. China accounts for 30 per cent of global manufactures, versus America’s 16 per cent, and the gap is growing. It became the world’s largest consumer market in 2020. Its economy is ferociously competitive. China has many problems, but it has its act together and appears on top of them.

The principal challenge that China presents is not military but economic and technological. But the United States is geared only to deal with military threats. China has become the antidote to the US post-Cold War-enemy-deprivation syndrome and a gratifying driver of US defence spending. There are US aircraft and ships aggressively patrolling China’s borders, but no Chinese aircraft and ships off America’s coast. US bases ring China. There are no Chinese bases near America. Still, Washington ups its defence budget to make its ability to overwhelm China more credible. Yet, in the long run, the United States cannot outspend China militarily and cannot hope to beat it on its home ground.

Competitive rivalry can raise the competence of those engaged. But antagonism, seeking to hamstring one other, is not beneficial. It entrenches hostility, justifies hatred, injures, and threatens to weaken both sides.

Without exception, countries want multilateral backing to cope with the challenge, not unilateral US confrontation. They want to accommodate China on terms that maximise their sovereignties, not make China an enemy. If the United States persists in confrontation, it will find itself increasingly isolated. Given the state of US democracy, if its China policy is defined as a moral effort, most other nations will be alienated, not attracted.

There are many issues that cannot be addressed without Chinese participation. Chinese capacity needs to be leveraged to serve those US interests.

The United States should let market forces play the major part in governing trade and investment, creating a framework for trade in sensitive sectors that safeguards defence interests while taking advantage of China’s contribution to supply chains.

The United States needs to cooperate with China to reform global governance and address global problems of common concern like the mitigation of environmental degradation, pandemics, nuclear proliferation, global economic and financial instability, global poverty, and set standards for new technologies.

The United States should work with China to ease the inevitable transition from dollar hegemony to a multilateral monetary order in ways that preserve American influence; leverage not boycott China’s Belt and Road Initiative to benefit from its opportunities and connectivities; promote cross-Strait negotiations and mutual accommodation rather than China–Taiwan confrontation; and expand consular relations, restore exchanges, and promote Chinese studies to enhance understanding of China.

Doubling down on military competition gives China a reason to up the ante and call the bluff, leading to a mutually impoverishing arms race.

Stoking China’s neighbours’ dependency on the United States rather than helping countries be more self-reliant implicates them in US conflicts of interest with China without addressing their own. They need US diplomatic support more than military backing to work out a stable modus vivendi with China.

US China policy should be part of a new, broader Asia strategy — not the determinant of relations with other Asian nations or the driver of policies in the region. To hold its own with China, the United States must renew its competitive capacity and build a demonstrably better governed, better educated, more egalitarian, more open, more innovative, healthier, and freer society.

Chas W Freeman Jr is a Visiting Scholar at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Brown University, and a former US assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs.

This article is a digest of a presentation delivered on 11 February 2021 at the Washington Institute of Foreign Affairs.
 

Viet

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It’s impossible.
Washington will not sit idle to watch a dangerous country to rise.
England was not sitting idle to watch Germany prior WW1 and 2.
Before that Spain was trying everything to stop the rise of England.
 

Zsari

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It’s impossible.
Washington will not sit idle to watch a dangerous country to rise.
England was not sitting idle to watch Germany prior WW1 and 2.
Before that Spain was trying everything to stop the rise of England.
That's why it's playing a losing game. Unless it realize such, it will stands to lose more and more ground.
 

Viet

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That's why it's playing a losing game. Unless it realize such, it will stands to lose more and more ground.
It’s a long game not a losing game. Never in history a power accepts another rising power. Saying the US loses because it puts tariffs on China is naive. Politics has always the upper hands over economy.
 

silverox

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Everyone, don’t worry, both China and the United States have hydrogen bombs, which are dozens to hundreds of times more deadly than the Hiroshima atomic bomb. A single hydrogen bomb can destroy tens of thousands of square kilometers. China and the United States will not really fight, and China and the United States will only attack weak countries. Since the Korean War, the United States has decided not to fight with China.
 

Zsari

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It’s a long game not a losing game. Never in history a power accepts another rising power. Saying the US loses because it puts tariffs on China is naive. Politics has always the upper hands over economy.
The decline in Pax Americana is irreversible. The lost of economic monopoly will translate into political and military realm slowly but inevitably. The more one tries to counter act, the faster the fall will be.
 

Viet

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The decline in Pax Americana is irreversible. The lost of economic monopoly will translate into political and military realm slowly but inevitably. The more one tries to counter act, the faster the fall will be.
Wishful thinking
In Asia no country supports exclusion of America less a decline of US military and economic power.
Or can you name any country except North Korea?
An unchecked chinese rule is a nightmare.
 

Hakikat ve Hikmet

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No wonder Pak is now declining the US demands they accepted in 2001 that turned out to be disastrous for the USA for she focused on the WOT rather than the rise of the China-Russia axis...

Yes, Pak has worked as a catalyst to the decline of the USA's sole Super Power status that Pak had helped to build by creating the debacle for the USSR in Afganistan...
 

Bilal9

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Next will be Vietnam. Lol
I thought this "Dangerous Country" (China) is the largest investor in Vietnam....

As if that was a surprise.


What is surprising is that Vietnamese themselves are complaining about China.

Talk about biting the hands that feed you....
The decline in Pax Americana is irreversible. The lost of economic monopoly will translate into political and military realm slowly but inevitably. The more one tries to counter act, the faster the fall will be.
It is not about being biased toward China even or being a China shill.

This is the future and it is as plain as the nose on one's face.



 
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Beast

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It’s impossible.
Washington will not sit idle to watch a dangerous country to rise.
England was not sitting idle to watch Germany prior WW1 and 2.
Before that Spain was trying everything to stop the rise of England.
The problem is the strategy US used against China are not very effective.

Look at the trade number between US and China and u will see what I mean.
 

ZeEa5KPul

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The decline in Pax Americana is irreversible. The lost of economic monopoly will translate into political and military realm slowly but inevitably. The more one tries to counter act, the faster the fall will be.
Just like quicksand, the more they struggle, the faster they sink.
 

Zsari

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Wishful thinking
In Asia no country supports exclusion of America less a decline of US military and economic power.
Or can you name any country except North Korea?
An unchecked chinese rule is a nightmare.
Just look at the US GDP as a percentage of global GDP. It's not something that can be reversed by "support".
 

ZeEa5KPul

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Wishful thinking
In Asia no country supports exclusion of America less a decline of US military and economic power.
Or can you name any country except North Korea?
An unchecked chinese rule is a nightmare.
The only wishful thinking here is yours. It's the definition of wishful thinking - you think American power won't stop waning because you wish it were so, because "Chinese rule is a nightmare." How ironic that you accuse others of wishful thinking.

Your wishing can't change facts or the course of history. It's crystal clear that China will become the hegemon of its region and that this is unstoppable. Change your worldview so that this is no longer a "nightmare" or you're going to have a very difficult future.

There's an American aphorism (my favourite one, in fact) about wishful thinking that's apt here: Wish in one hand, sh*t in the other, then tell me which one gets full first.
 

bshifter

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It’s impossible.
Washington will not sit idle to watch a dangerous country to rise.
England was not sitting idle to watch Germany prior WW1 and 2.
Before that Spain was trying everything to stop the rise of England.
Go sit in the corner, take a deep breath and chew on a slice of mett so you can calm yourself down.
For you to keep on talking about US will not sit idle is very telling about your intelligence to everybody here. A chimpanzee even has a higher degree of intelligence than you if people still needs to be reminded about that little fact. It started with the Obama administration mister smartasssssss. What did you think pivot to Asia mean when he threw out that line to the world? Obama tried it and failed, Trump tried it and failed, Biden still playing the same type of game and it is going to fail as well.

By the way didn't Vietnam told America to leave when it suggested to have a military base in Vietnam? I guess Vietnam is no more different than North Korea in that regard. Also it is well known how Duterte feels about American presence in the region. And if America keeps pushing the South Koreans for more financial payments it too will start to kick America out.
 

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