How Will COVID-19 Reshape U.S.-China Relations?
(GOLDKORN) The only single issue on which there is any bipartisan consensus in the United States right now is the need to get tough on China. U.S.-China relations were already at a low point before COVID-19. The pandemic is going to make them much worse.
This would be true even if the Trump administration was not trying to distract from its negligent handling of COVID-19. But the current rhetoric out of the White House (despite the president's stated affection for Xi Jinping) is leaving Trump's opponents little room to change course.
Why were relations so bad, even before COVID-19? America has a number of legitimate grievances with China. To list just a few:
- Unfair business practices and industrial policies including state subsidies and murky relationships with Chinese "champion" companies.
- Militarization of the South China Sea.
- Hacking and espionage.
- Wholly nonreciprocal arrangements in a huge range of fields from investment to the treatment of journalists.
- A hell's catalogue of human rights abuses including modern day concentration camps in Xinjiang that have interned more than a million Uyghurs, detention of lawyers, journalists, activists, and the steady destruction of civil society in China.
China's lack of transparency about COVID-19, and its aggressive propaganda and diplomatic efforts, have only aggravated the situation. I don't believe General Spalding would disagree with me about any of that. Where we perhaps differ is on what to do about it.
My fear is that the anti-China mood in Washington D.C., which a recent Pew survey indicates is now spreading throughout the country, is blinding us to the dangers ahead. We cannot simply decouple economically from China overnight, even if that was the best way forward. And does anyone really want a war, or even a financial war?
I believe we need to put a lot more thought into what went wrong in the relationship and how to change it. I also think that we need to consider how our actions affect the choices the Chinese Communist Party and its leader Xi Jinping will make. There needs to be a strategy, not a shouting match. But right now, the one-note blame-China chorus is drowning out all other voices, to the detriment of our decision-making.
Finally, the Trump administration is badly damaging what little shreds of credibility it had left by so vigorously promoting the "Wuhan lab" theory that American allies, including Australia and Britain, don't find tenable. This is also making the administration's claims of special knowledge of the dangers of Huawei less credible. All of this gives China the upper hand in promoting its propaganda to the world. It also makes the Chinese government even less likely to trust the U.S. government in trade — or any other kind — of negotiations in the future.
So, in a phrase: COVID-19 is going to make U.S.-China relations much worse. And it will make it much more difficult for America to rally its friends and allies in any campaign to change China's behavior.
(SPALDING) The power of words is incredible. And using the right words is essential when talking about US-China relations. We are in a battle against the Chinese Communist Party, not China. To be fair, I know Jeremy knows this and is not against the Chinese people, and there are times when it’s simple to say China. But to me, it is essential that all understand there are two Chinas: The People and the Party. When speaking of issues like policy, propaganda, and the pandemic, it is the Party we blame.
While I wholeheartedly agree with Jeremy’s assessment of the CCP’s lack of transparency, their moral, ethical and business violations, and their propaganda, I disagree that the “one-note blame-China chorus” of the Trump administration is having a swaying effect on the CCP. Our president and our political temperature are one bullet point in the epic-sized tome of CCP strategy.
The strategy is years, if not decades, in the making. It began after Tiananmen and will continue long after whoever wins in 2020.
The bottom line is the CCP regards our democracy, our Bill of Rights and our freedoms in the Constitution as a threat to their rule.
Document Number Nine describes this best when it states, “Promoting Western Constitutional Democracy: [Is] An attempt to undermine the current leadership and the socialism with Chinese characteristics system of governance.”
Thus, it is not sufficient for the CCP to subjugate the Chinese people. It must also actively undermine constitutional democracy abroad, and prevent it infecting the Chinese people’s thoughts.
The CCP goes on to say the Chinese people must be inoculated against this thought-virus. “Party members and governments of all levels must . . . make work in the ideological sphere a high priority in your daily agenda, routinely analyze and study new developments in the ideological sphere, react swiftly and effectively, and preemptively resolve all problems in the ideological sphere.”
中共接着说，中国人民必须接种以预防这种思想病毒。 “各级党员和政府必须。 。 。将思想领域的工作做为日程表上的重点，定期分析和研究思想领域的新发展，迅速有效地作出反应，并抢先解决思想领域中的所有问题。”
Other documents of relevance include: The CCP Constitution; The Tiananmen Papers; and The Xinjiang Papers.
These documents allow glimpses of Chinese Communist Party intent. Scholars are left to surmise the true intentions and nature of the CCP from various interviews and anecdotes that have been leaked or discovered. The failure to tell the true story of the CCP and the Chinese people has enabled the CCP to capture and control the narrative. Those allowed to “tell China’s story well” from outside the Great Firewall, and who weigh the reward of a Mainland visa over telling the truth of the CCP are complicit as well. The better we understand the nature of the regime, the safer all democracies will be.
(GOLDKORN) I agree that China and the Chinese people are not the same as the Communist Party, and that it is the Party to blame for most of the problems in U.S.-China relations.
However, the current tensions between the two countries are already hurting people and businesses — both American and Chinese. Whether you blame the worsening relations between the two countries on the CCP, or Trump, or American companies that have worked too closely with the Chinese government, the end result will be the same.
"Decoupling" and a "new cold war" are two of the most common characterizations of relations between the U.S. and China, and post COVID-19, we will hear those words much more frequently in the American media and mouths of our politicians. This will mean greater pain for companies, families and the many American and Chinese non-Party member people who have deep emotional, financial, and personal relationships in and with both countries.
So, I feel the need to repeat my question from the "Genesis" part of this exchange. I don't believe General Spalding would disagree with me about any of that. Where we perhaps differ is on what to do about it.
I believe that the current administration's strategy is no strategy at all, but rather arbitrary acts of hostility that make no distinction between the Communist Party and Chinese people, and take no regard of the harm that is being done to American people and business.
(Spalding) To answer the original question, how will coronavirus reshape relations, I need to touch upon Jeremy’s comment about a lack of strategy.
In December 2017, our National Security Strategy laid out the exact way we should answer all the questions. The problem from the beginning has been the inability of the DC Establishment to understand the NSS.
The important parts in the NSS have been completely missed. Not by the federal bureaucracy since they are tasked to implement it, but by most of DC and the media. Consequently, the rest of the world has failed to appreciate the NSS’s call to action.
The NSS is based on “American principles, a clear-eyed assessment of U.S. interests.” This meant we had to ensure that we were promoting freedom of speech and religion, rule of law and free trade. It was also a recognition that we had stopped promoting these principles abroad, and instead had left the educating and advocating to 21st century authoritarians, like the CCP.
The NSS recognizes competition is not just about bombs and bullets, but rather 1s and 0s, dollars and cents. Authoritarian states were “determined to make economies less free and less fair, to grow their militaries, and to control information and data to repress their societies and expand their influence.” Thus, economics and data are the key new domains of competition defined in the strategy.
This meant that the US had to take a different approach to competition, because “policies based on the assumption that engagement with rivals and their inclusion in international institutions and global commerce would turn them into benign actors and trustworthy partners” – our strategy toward the CCP since 1989 – was naïve at best.
To do so, the US “must work with like-minded allies and partners to ensure our principles prevail and the rules are enforced so that our economies prosper.” That is why after the NSS was released, the NSC and State Department began approaching allies and partners bilaterally to advocate for a new approach to authoritarian regimes like CCP-led China. And Allies are responding. More and more of America’s allies are choosing to address the challenges posed by the CCP by saying no to Huawei and examining Chinese investments. And in our post-coronavirus world, the US and her Allies, are witnessing in real time what the control of information and lack of transparency on the part of an authoritarian regime leads to—chaos.
Americans are hurting not because of a lack of strategy but because of reliance on a hostile dictatorship for key industries like manufacturing, pharmacy, and telecommunications. The NSS was written to counter this, and while there is more to do, after three years the policies are working.
Recognition of the challenge is growing. Mothballed authorities like the Defense Production Act are being dusted off and put to use. Others like CFIUS have been revamped. The NSS “promotes policies and incentives that return key national security industries to American shores.” It seeks to grow local talent by supporting “STEM efforts, at the Federal and state levels.” It goes on to say “the United States will prioritize emerging technologies critical to economic growth and security, such as data science, encryption, autonomous technologies, gene editing, new materials, nanotechnology, advanced computing technologies, and artificial intelligence.”
Therefore yes, Jeremy, there is a strategy, and it is working. Americans have been hurt because of the CCP’s incessant predatory economic aggression, resulting in millions of jobs lost. Communities flooded with drugs that have killed tens of thousands are the result of the CCP’s willingness to allow its pharmaceutical factories to produce fentanyl and ship it to the US. And of course, the global coronavirus pandemic, killing more tens of thousands, creating record unemployment and staggering hardship for millions.
It is important to decouple because Americans have been and continue to be hurt. There is a thoughtful strategy that seeks to offer the CCP a new path forward. They have to this point decided not to accept. They may never decide to accept, and that will be ok, because for once we have a path that restores America to what she was intended – a harbor for democracy and shelter against the authoritarian storm.
编辑：【喜马拉雅战鹰团】Edited by：【Himalaya Hawk Squad】