As tensions rise over US meddling in China's domestic affairs, leading American politicians have continued to use strident anti-China language in domestic speeches. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is a good example, playing an important role as President Trump's attack dog. When Pompeo was appointed to his current role in March 2018, CNBC's Squawk Box anchor Jim Cramer opined the appointment says to China you are our enemy. This week the secretary weighed in on Huawei issues, saying Huawei is a long-term national security threat and 5G must have Western values. He was supported in his views on Hong Kong by US Senator Rick Scott, a China hawk and a leading politician on various Washington committees. Scott's language pulled no punches. It is disgusting what they (Beijing) are doing in Hong Kong. They are taking away basic rights. This is just a part of Communist China's crackdown on peoples' rights. Communist China wants to control the entire world, including America.
If American citizens are listening closely to such rhetoric, they could easily become afraid of China. However I think many Americans know better and that includes politicians, including governors, in many states. For example, California and Oregon value good relations with China and the Chinese in their own communities. There are many models of how China is perceived in the world but sadly the current US Administration is using the China threat model over the view China is a responsible stakeholder in the world and partner in tacking common problems. I don't recall ever describing China to American students as Communist China, but rather describing China as offering Socialism with Chinese characteristics and, while those characteristics include some fundamental principles of the Communist Party, they also include the willingness to embrace things like the efficiency of markets, the need for some to get rich first as Deng Xiaoping put it and the value of free trade.
China does not want to take over the world. Chinese authorities some years ago published a white paper stating its commitment to a peaceful rise, and its military spending is well below that of the US — both in absolute dollars and as a percentage of GDP. China continues to reaffirm the principle of mutual non-interference in other countries' affairs and rejects hegemony. Economic assistance to other countries by China is not attached to political objectives or regime change. China is not a country to be feared but a country to work closely with. The fact the US in recent years has not taken the opportunity to do so, whether in the Paris Climate Agreement, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the opportunities of the Belt and Road Initiative or transpacific economic cooperation, has been its own decision. Yet China continues to seek cooperation, a reduction in US-China trade tensions and a relationship based on mutual respect. The language of some US politicians demonstrably lacks that respect.
The world needs a strong US-China relationship for economic growth and to address the common problems of instability, environmental issues and terrorism. Globalization is an unstoppable trend, and the US and China should embrace the future together.
The Writer Colin Speakman is an economist and international educator with CAPA: The Global Education Network, a US–based organization that cooperates with East China Normal University in Shanghai and the Chinese University of Hong Kong.