Over the past two decades, China has become the second most powerful nation on the planet after the United States. Thanks to rapid economic growth, millions of citizens have been lifted out of poverty and dragged it into the world’s second largest economy, while increased military spending has made it the second largest military force (although its military spending and nuclear stockpiles are still a small fraction).
This growth – in both economic and military power – has led U.S. officials to conclude that they need to do more to combat what they consider to be China’s growing influence. Early in his administration, President Obama issued a “Asian pivot,” in which the United States would devote less resources and less attention to the Middle East and more to China’s growing power in its own territory.
It led to some reasonable escalation in conflicting relations between the two countries – including the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other regional struggles – but nothing approached a direct military confrontation. Since his tenure, President Trump has been praised by the Chinese government and its leading president, Xi Jinping, for participating with Xi over the outbreak of democracy in Hong Kong and even the outbreak of the corona virus being handled by Beijing.
But this pandemic has seriously exacerbated tensions between the two countries, given the increasingly hostile rhetoric in various areas of the West, making it more urgent than ever to catch up with the complex relationship between the two countries and how China should be seen.
The issue is much more complex than conventional efforts to create a new U.S. enemy, because numerous U.S. and Western power centers — especially its oligarchs, Wall Street, and the international capital — are not remotely hostile to Beijing, but on the contrary, both love it and depend on it. Therefore – unlike other US enemies such as Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro, the Iranian government or Nicolas Maduro – there are very powerful actors from Bill Gates to Michael Bloomberg to consulting giant McKinsey to Trump himself, defending the Chinese authorities and urging better relations with them.
This, in turn, reflects the critical reality of U.S.-China relations that defies conventional foreign policy frameworks: While both sides scoldly, pre-war political elements speak of China as an opponent to be confronted or even punished, strong interests Western financial players – Davos crowd – are inextricably linked to China, using the Chinese market and abusive Chinese labor practices to maximize their profit margins and, in the process, removing worker protection, living wages and jobs from industrial cities in the United States and everywhere. West.
Therefore, conventional left-wing anti-imperialism or right-wing isolation is an inadequate and oversimplified response to thinking about China: Beijing’s policy choices have a huge impact on workers and the economic well-being of citizens throughout the West.
Today’s new episode of SYSTEM UPDATE is dedicated to exploring the complexity of relations and how to think about China. Among me are two guests with radically different views on these issues: Kishore Mahbubani, a longtime Singaporean diplomat who chaired the U.S. Security Council, whose recently published convincing book, “Has China Won?” argues that the United States should see China as a friendly competitor and not a threat to its interests; and Matt Stoller, who has worked on issues of economic authoritarianism and the U.S. working class in many roles in Congress and various think tanks, culminating in his 2019 book “Goliath,” who argues that China is a threat to economic prosperity. belonging to the U.S. working class and civil liberties in the West.
The program, which I think provides an excellent picture of how to think about these issues, will debut this afternoon at 2pm on Intercept’s YouTube channel or can be viewed on the player below at 2pm. As always, a copy of the program will be added soon after.