Elite Chinese Reactions to Biden's China Strategy
Questioning the narrative of American economic decline, Xi Jinping thought on the international system, and geopolitics versus geoeconomics
The following is an article reposted with permission from Tuvia Gering’s Discourse Power. He’s a research fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security and a Krauthammer Fellow. In the following article, he breaks down the elite Chinese response to Blinken’s China speech from last month.
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“Prepare for a struggle”
In a speech at George Washington University in late May, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken outlined the Biden administration's long-awaited strategic approach to the People's Republic of China. Shortly afterward, more than 400,000 people tuned in to hear a dozen renowned Chinese experts and scholars discuss Sino-US ties in the wake of the Ukraine war, marking the release of a new report by the Chongyang Institute of Finance of Renmin University of China (RDCY) titled "The Great Siege: Assessment of the Progress of US Policy toward China since the Russia-Ukraine Conflict and China's Response."
"The report makes clear that the Russia-Ukraine conflict has not halted the trajectory of overall US competition with China. The recent US proposal of "integrated deterrence" against China reveals that the speed of this all-around strategic containment against China will only accelerate.
“According to the report, the US has around 24 suppressive measures against China as of May 16 in the areas of trade, finance, ideology, military science and technology, and geopolitics.
“The United States' strategic competition with China is dubbed "integrated deterrence," but it is actually laying the ground for a "great encirclement campaign" 大围剿 [a allusion to the Nationalists' five encirclement campaigns against the Communist Red Army in the 20s and 30s, which forced it to embark on the Long March].
“According to Fan Jishe, deputy director of the Central Party School's Institute of International Strategic Studies, the tone of strategic competition with China has not fundamentally changed since the Trump administration's report [National Security Strategy] was released in 2017. China is viewed as an all-powerful player who poses a systemic threat to America, a formulation that has been repeated numerous times since the Biden administration assumed office.
“Wu Xinbo, head of Fudan University's Center for American Studies, noted that since the Russia-Ukraine crisis erupted, there has been some kind of "resonance" 共振 between US and Western sanctions on Russia and the US's strategic competition with China, particularly in the four significant trends outlined below.
“The first is the weaponization of interdependence, which is made possible by globalization.
“The second is the securitization of economic relations. Technology collaboration, investment, and industrial chains, which were once encouraged on the basis of market principles, are now progressively being subjected to securitization.
“The third trend is the transformation of international public goods into [geopolitical] tools. The US dollar and the SWIFT system, for example, are both public goods in essence, but the US has privatized and instrumentalized 工具化 them to combat its opponents in the ongoing strategic rivalry among the major powers.
“Fourth, international relations are becoming increasingly ideologized, or, to use Western terminology, they are becoming more values-based. When engaging with European and Asian allies and partners, the US encourages them to pick sides based on their values.
“At this point, we can't have any illusions; we must discard them and prepare for a struggle," said Chen Wenling, head economist of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges (CCIEE). “China should be prepared for both short-term responses and long-term US measures to limit and suppress China.”
“Another major trend in the US siege of China is the promotion of de-Sinification of supply chains. The so-called Indo-Pacific economic framework (IPEF), according to Wu Xinbo, aims to accelerate the transfer of supply chains from China to Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and India.
“Furthermore, the US is attempting to form a four-party chip alliance with South Korea, Japan, and China's Taiwan, implying that there is a real move to cut connections with China in the semiconductor industry and high-end semiconductors.
“Da Wei, director of Tsinghua University's Center for International Security and Strategy (CISS), stated that connectedness vs decoupling has become the basis of the current Sino-US competition. China has achieved very successful development by opening up to the outside world, but the gradual decoupling of science and technology R&D and industrial chains will make national rejuvenation difficult for China.
“In the face of increased competition, Shao Yu, Senior Vice President and chief economist at Orient Securities, believes that the only way to truly win this race and the future is to adopt a more open approach and allow wider access, along with a series of new linkages involving global governance.
“In addition to doing our own work well," Teng Jianqun, Director of the China Institute of International Studies' Department of American Studies and Center for Arms Control and International Security, suggested, "there is at least one aspect that we can put an extra effort to work on, which is to strengthen ties with the countries that hold the middle ground, especially with Russia, thus ensuring that we can have more international space and global partners."
“Shiu Sin-por, the former Head of the HKSAR Government's Central Policy Unit and Executive Director of the New Paradigm Foundation, said that "as a result of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, China and Russia have created a large space for cooperation and a good opportunity that has never existed in the history of the two countries.
“It's now up to the two governments to decide what to do with it. If we can just get this one thing right in the face of US distrust and pressure, we can have a very favorable position for China's overall situation. In terms of energy and food security, the Russia-Ukraine conflict presents a significant opportunity for China,” added Shiu.
“Furthermore, Shiu suggested that the US dollar is America's greatest weakness and that the only reason the dollar has been able to endure is due to the lack of an alternative currency. Only the RMB has the capacity to challenge it, and as we face the most serious crisis in Sino-US relations, our only recourse is to find a more secure way to expand the utilization of the RMB in the international arena.
“According to Liu Zhiqin, a senior researcher at the RDCY, "China is perfectly capable of developing its own globalization network and increasing its circle of friends if globalization is dismantled.
“China's traditional base is Asia, Africa, and Latin America; Europe remains the focus of China's active pursuit; and the US and China should do a good job of competing at times and cooperating at others. We have decades of experience with this type of struggle," Liu added. (Guancha)
Skepticism at the American economic decline narrative
“China's clout as the representative of the "yellow race" is growing rapidly. The American elite, represented by white people, believe that the replacement of Christian civilization with Chinese civilization is unacceptable, and they will do everything possible to impede China's development…the day the US truly declines is when visa lines in front of its consulates are no longer crowded.”
Prof. Wang Jisi, President of Peking University's School of International Studies, told Beijing Cultural Review that he is skeptical of the "American economic decline" narrative, does not believe a war with the United States is imminent and does not see a fundamental shift in American Taiwan policy or a true Cold War with the United States.
Translation of the abstract:
“According to Wang, the international standing of the US has declined in comparison to China during the previous decade, but not considerably in relation to other countries.
“He thinks that in contrast to past hegemonic powers, the US has a number of available advantages that keep it from falling into a quick collapse. Although the US has lost most of its soft power in recent years as it faces unprecedented political decline, its economic and technological development has not been substantially hampered.
“The increase in immigration to the United States has exacerbated racial conflicts, but it also serves as momentum for development.
“Changes in US internal politics do not directly jeopardize the country's hegemony, but they do have an impact on the country's foreign policy guiding philosophy. The diplomatic trajectory of the Biden administration resembles that of the Trump administration in many ways.
“The populist overtones in US diplomacy will persist as a result of domestic polarization, and the country's foreign policy will become more assertive.
“He also noted that while China is America's primary "rival," many Americans do not believe that Sino-US competition will lead to a "new Cold War," because the current competition is distinct from the conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union.
“To counterbalance China, the Biden administration's China policy emphasizes strengthening itself and uniting with allies, while waiting for and even encouraging China to "make a mistake."
“Because the US considers future competition to be primarily a battle of national governance capacities, whoever can avoid major blunders can win indirectly through the opponent's mistakes.
“In response to recent concerns over the Taiwan Strait issue, Wang Jisi feels that the US's bottom line has not changed and that the amount of the US's engagement in the Taiwan Strait conflict is mostly determined by the manner and scope of cross-strait interaction. It is critical to retain a clear and impartial perspective of the United States in the context of a long-term Sino-US standoff.” (Beijing Cultural Review)
“We must employ geoeconomics to hedge against US geopolitics”
Dr. Wu Xinbo, professor and dean of the Institute of International Studies at Fudan University, and director of the Center for American Studies, believes that pragmatism has served Chinese foreign policy well, and that abandoning it for ideological rivalry will undo its achievements.
The following is an excerpt from Wu's conversation with Guancha following Anthony Blinken's Thursday speech (see intro). Wu’s answers were in response to a question from Guancha about how China should address comments by Blinken about China being the US’ "number one adversary," the announcement that a comprehensive interdepartmental [sic] "China House" will be established in the State Department to manage China affairs, and Blinken’s emphasis on the importance of fostering a "strategic environment" in China's neighborhood, citing IPEF, QUAD, and AUKUS as examples of targeted measures.
“We must employ geoeconomics to hedge against US geopolitics, which is defined as its use of geopolitics to engage in political and security blocs in an effort to confront China.
“By contrast, we use geoeconomics to engage in extensive economic cooperation with countries in this region, whether it is South Korea, Japan, or Southeast Asian countries. We try to engage in all forms of economic cooperation with them as much as possible, including bilateral, minilateral, and multilateral frameworks, among others.
“Second, we must not play the ideological card in our diplomacy. Since the reform and opening up, we have pursued a foreign policy that is flexible, pragmatic, and in keeping with the times, which has resulted in a growing diplomatic presence and worldwide influence.
“We should keep pursuing this policy, promoting peaceful development and win-win cooperation, globalization and global governance, and the creation of a community of shared future with neighboring countries and a community of shared future for mankind.
“We cannot dance to America's tune, fixating on a Sino-US competition of two systems and values. We fall into America's trap simply by engaging in this debate.” (Guancha)
Xi Jinping Thought on the International System
Dr. Mao Ruipeng, Secretary-General of the Research Center for the Theory and Practice of Major-Power Diplomacy with Chinese Characteristics at the state-backed Shanghai Institutes for International Strategic Studies (SIISS), contends that Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy "contributes Chinese wisdom to the healthy development of international system".
“President Xi Jinping always commences his foreign-policy speeches by addressing the real dilemmas that humanity faces, as he reflects on great questions such as "what has gone wrong with the world?" and "what is humanity's way forward?"
“Drawing on this basis, he discusses China's position on, philosophy toward, and solutions for the international system, infusing positive energy to keep the turbulent world healthy and stable.”
“Ideological factors are posing a severe threat to the international order - At present, the United States and other Western countries are stepping up their efforts to strengthen the so-called "free world alliance" of small groupings.
“This policy of forming so-called "coalitions of like-minded countries" based on ideology is certain to exacerbate the international system's fragmentation and jeopardize multilateralism's ability to address global challenges.
“Key Features of Xi Jinping's Thought on the International System 习近平国际体系思想
“First, its transformative nature is reflected in its assumption that the international system should be in line with the principles of fairness and justice.
“Second, its stabilizing nature is seen in its emphasis that the call to reform the international system does not imply overturning the old system and starting over.
“Third, its realist nature is apparent in its endorsement of genuine multilateralism and clearly rejecting ideological divisions between countries.
“Fourth, its forward-looking nature is demonstrated by the proposal and further development of the concept of a community of shared future for mankind.
”President Xi Jinping called for reforming the international system by moving it toward greater fairness and justice, boosting multilateralism, and supporting the United Nations' main role in international affairs in a series of diplomatic speeches.
“He has also actively supported international organizations' work in different areas such as their finances, personnel, and guiding philosophies, developing a positive national image as a firm supporter of multilateralism and contributing Chinese wisdom to the international system's healthy development.
“At the same time, we must acknowledge that, in the midst of global transformation, the United States' policy of containment of China is escalating, eroding, and squeezing our influence in international institutions.
“China's membership in international institutions, as well as the international system's health and stability, are confronting greater challenges, necessitating continued diplomatic planning and research.” (SIISS)
“China is no longer the ‘innocent little girl’ of world politics”
Anthony Blinken's address last week on the Biden administration's approach to China, according to Dr. Tian Feilong, reveals that the US' thirst for hegemony is akin to that of a “drug addict.”
Tian is an associate professor at Beijing's Beihang University Law School, as well as the executive director of the One Country Two Systems Legal Studies Centre and the director of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies.
Tian writes that “Throughout history, the US has utilized a variety of forces to infiltrate China. It has also deployed many layers of containment mechanisms throughout the global system. All of these actions are meant to lay the stage for a "color revolution" in China, as well as restructure and dismember China as a "second Soviet Union."
In regards to Blinken's speech, Tian feels that what seems to be a "softening" of the US approach to China on the surface is actually a "hardening," providing guidance and a strategy for the US' "hegemonic defense" of a new kind of globalism.
Tian thinks that getting the United States to act like a “normal” country again, that respects and values the international order of sovereign equality, is “as difficult as getting an addict to rehab." (Guancha)