THE US FEARS THE “CHINA THREAT” - THE REAL THREAT IS THE US – HERE’S WHY
Updated: May 19
In her 2021 confirmation hearing as US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield said, referring to China, “Their actions threaten our security, they threaten our values, and they threaten our way of life, and they are a threat to their neighbours and they are a threat across the globe.”[i]
American foreign policy is fixated on the “China Threat”.
World War II
World War II started in September 1939. The US declared war on Japan in December 1941 after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. Three days later Germany and Italy declared war on the US which then became fully engaged in World War II. Germany surrendered on 8 May 1945 and Japan surrendered on 2 September 1945 after the atomic bombing by USA of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. When the war ended, the US, protected by two huge oceans, was at the point of global dominance.
According to STATISTA, the number of military and civilian deaths suffered during WWII in the following countries were: Soviet Union, 24,000,000; China 19,500,000; Germany 7,700,000; Poland 5,600,000; Japan 2,850,000; India 2,087,000; France 567,000; United Kingdom 450,000; United States 418,000.
The Cold War
The Soviet Union and the United States fought as allies (of convenience) against Nazi Germany during World War II but the alliance crumbled after the war ended. These two superpowers emerged with political, social, economic, and ideological systems that were fundamentally at odds, giving rise to the Cold War which lasted for almost 45 years.
In 1989, Gorbachev and George HW Bush declared the end of the Cold War. The Berlin Wall came down, and in 1991 the Soviet Union was dissolved. US exceptionalism saw that its great enemy was gone. The Russian and US leaders had negotiated the end of the Cold War “Without any losers”, but once the Soviet Union ended, Bush changed his mind, declaring in 1992 that “By the grace of God, America won the Cold War.”
The result was a unipolar world with the US viewing itself as the leader of the free world and the world’s sole superpower.
China began to stir with the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949. The Mau-Nixon accord of 1972 marked a profound change in the US-China relationship. China’s reforms began in 1978 under Deng Xiaoping. It’s growth rate reached 9.5% per annum between 1978 and 1992. China’s early approach was reflected in Deng’s statement: “Hide our capacities and bide our time, remain free of ambition, never claim leadership.” However, the 2008 financial crisis signalled a major shift in economic power in China’s favour. The Deng mantra of keeping a low profile was ending and China became more willing to make its views and its growing strength public.[ii] During most of the 20th century China’s share of global output was less than 5%, but it soared after 1978 so that in 2016, the US share was 16% while China’s was at 18%.
Washington’s Addiction to Military Force
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, commentators hailed the dawn of an era of unrivalled US dominance, referred to as the “unipolar moment”. Since then, the US grand strategy has been to preserve America’s dominant power in the world, maintained by its wealth and unrivalled military superiority. The US describes China as “dangerously expansionist” even though the US has 800 military bases in 70 countries while China has only one overseas base in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa[iii]. According to Robert Blackwill, “Since its founding, the United States has consistently pursued a grand strategy focused on acquiring and maintaining pre-eminent power”[iv].
The US population of 335 million represents approximately 4% of the global population of 8 billion. China and India each have populations of about 1.4 billion, aggregating 2.8 billion or 35% of the global population. The total population of the G7 nations (USA, Canada, Britain, France, Italy, Germany, and Japan) is around 776 million, less than 10% of the global population, while the aggregate population of the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) is approximately 3.2 billion, which is roughly 40% of the global population. Meanwhile, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is the largest bloc in the world in terms of territory and population. Its membership includes China, Russia, and India and it continues to grow.
The “Global South” is on the rise.
It is not just population numbers that count. The US Congressional Research Service estimates that in 2021 the Chinese Navy consisted of 348 ships and submarines compared to the US Navy with 296 such vessels.
US national debt stands at $31.4 trillion having nearly tripled since 2009. The US debt ceiling limits the amount of debt the Treasury Department can incur and if the US fails to raise its debt ceiling, the US government will default, potentially leading to a global economic meltdown. The US debt ceiling is America’s political whipping boy but no political party has been willing to take action to reduce the deficit or debt while in power.
The US Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines has warned that China and Russia would exploit the situation if the US government defaulted on its debt and recently Hillary Clinton said that “by undermining America’s credibility and the pre-eminence of the dollar, the fight over the debt ceiling plays right into the hands of Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin.” According to Andy Kim, a member of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, “Our capacity to be the strongest country in the world is derived not just from guns, bombs, and military equipment – it’s very much based on our ability to be the strongest economy in the world.”
US Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen insists that America has no reason to “stifle China’s economic and technological modernisation” but adds: “China’s economic growth need not be incompatible with US economic leadership” – in other words its ok for China to grow so long as America remains Number One. This is pure hypocrisy. America fears being overtaken by China.
In the meantime, the US banking system is looking increasingly shaky with recent collapses of First Republic Bank, Silicon Valley Bank, and Signature Bank. There are real fears that others may follow.
China’s Diplomacy and Reform
In February 2023, China released a 12-point peace plan to end the war in Ukraine. Recently, Ukraine’s President Zelensky engaged in a “long and meaningful” phone call with Chinese President Xi. Iran and Saudi Arabia have agreed to resume diplomatic relations thanks to China’s mediation leaving the US on the sidelines. In April China had resumed construction of a military base in the United Arab Emirates and earlier in 2023, China concluded several agreements with Saudi Arabia, including US$50 billion worth of investments.
Recently French President Macron and China’s Xi Jinping discussed the multi-polarisation of the world while Macron stressed the importance of strategic autonomy, emphasising that being an ally (of America) does not mean being a vassal. In addition to France, there has been a steady stream of visitors to Beijing including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Brazilian President Lula and Malaysian President Anwar Ibrahim. In April China offered to mediate between Israel and Palestine.
There is much discussion about China’s diplomatic outreach, but there is a direct parallel between the diplomatic headway that China is making and increased US hostility to China. Sour grapes? Is America threatened by China’s diplomatic engagement!
Too Little, Too Late
China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was launched in 2013. More than 200 contacts have been signed throughout the world to carry out BRI engineering, construction, high-speed rail and other infrastructure projects. Nine years later, in June 2021, the G7 announced the Build Back Better World (B3W) to counter the BRI. It was soon rebranded as the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII), a repackaged version of the B3W. The G7 proposed to invest US$600 billion. However, this plan comes rather late in the game and it is difficult even now to discover what, if anything, has been achieved by the PGII.
The US renewed interest in Africa comes at a time when China, India, and the Gulf states are steadily increasing their influence across the African continent. Western efforts focusing on health, social development, and democratic governance have met with only limited success. In contrast China, India, and the Gulf countries are investing in infrastructure, manufacture, mining, and farming. Between 2010 and 2016 more than 320 foreign embassies opened across Africa but during this time, the US did not significantly expand its diplomatic presence on the African continent. In 2021, China’s trade with Africa totalled $254 billion, India’s was $90 billion while the US trade dropped from $142 billion in 2008 to only $64 billion in 2021.
The West had assumed that political “freedom” would follow China’s economic growth. China was expected to move to a more “liberal” model. However, China’s growth has occurred under Communist rule, demonstrating that democracy and growth are not interdependent and China has emerged as an economic titan. Since 2008, China has out-invested, out-produced, and out-exported the rest of the world.
Polling in 2020 by the Ash Centre at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government revealed 95% satisfaction with the Beijing government[v]. Chinese people consider their rulers to be the guardians of good government, geared to protecting and enhancing the best interests of the people. Meanwhile, the US President is fast approaching senility while planning to stand for re-election for another four years. His likely opponent, Donald Trump is ignorant, unpredictable and dangerous, yet if he is elected, he too will be an octogenarian in Oval Office.
The way that democracies are currently functioning is not satisfying for anyone. The US is afflicted with gun violence, drug addiction, a mental health crisis, widespread homelessness, crime, and a politically loaded Supreme Court. Democracies are forced to avoid short-term electoral pain, and this outweighs the need for long-term planning. The result is dysfunction and cynicism about the ability of democracies to solve their problems while China’s growth has pulled millions out of poverty and enriched countries all over the world, including Australia and the USA [vi].
In 2017, China’s President, Xi Jinping said, “We shall not import a foreign model. Nor will we export a China model, nor ask others to copy Chinese methods.” In 2019 Xi said “Civilisations don’t have to clash with each other. We should keep our civilisations dynamic and create conditions for other civilisations to flourish.” In 1963, John F Kennedy (having faced the real possibility of nuclear war) said “So, let us not be blind to our differences – but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved.”
In an address in October 2021 to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, Xi Jinping said the Chinese people have attained the goal of building a moderately prosperous society and had succeeded in eradicating absolute poverty. Xi also said, “We should resolutely uphold the authority and standing of the United Nations, and work together to practice true multilateralism. International rules can only be made by the 193 UN Member States together, and not decided by individual countries.”
The Real Threat and US Addiction
When the Cold War ended, the US emerged as the world’s sole superpower. It was the “exceptional” nation, Ronald Reagan’s “shining city on the hill” and Madeleine Albright’s “indispensable nation”. Today, America’s greatest fear is the loss of its superpower status and its self-appointed position as the leader of the free world, the greatest military power, and the richest nation on earth. America’s addiction is such that it is incapable of accepting or even recognising its diminishing status and it will go to any lengths to preserve its position.
The REAL THREAT is that China will overtake America and become the World’s largest economy, even as Xi Jinping looks to multilateralism and a shared future for mankind in a multipolar world.
“AUDI ALTERAM PARTEM” – HEAR THE OTHER SIDE!
_________________ [i] China Panic by David Brophy 2021 [ii] When China rules the World by Martin Jacques 2012 [iii] A New Foreign Policy – Beyond American Exceptionalism by Jonathan Sachs 2018 [iv] Blackwill is the Henry A. Kissinger senior fellow for US foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations he served as US ambassador to India 2001-03. [v] What the West gets A wrong about China, Harvard Business Review – May/June 2021 [vi] The Peril of Modern Democracy: Short-Term Thinking in a Long-Term World, United States Studies Centre, 3 February 2020