The topic of China is in the headlines quite frequently these days. China is struggling in various ways and sometimes appears to be feeling its way, even changing direction at times. The most current example of this is its COVID policy. The COVID lock down policy that it has had until late last year came under attack by the Chinese people last fall. An apartment fire was the catalyst for a grassroots uprising by people all over the country. Blockades that had been set up as part of the lockdown process inhibited firefighters from getting to the fire. Some in the building had been locked into their apartments because of COVID. The residents died as the building burned. Though not organized, people all over China went to the streets, calling for an end to the Chinese Communist Party. Not long after, the lockdown policy just went away.
China’s economy is also faltering as its growing debt required some pull back in the country’s rapid growth. While the Chinese Communist Party never shares real numbers with those outside (it still wants people to believe that only about 5,000 Chinese citizens have died due to COVID since its inception) it appears that their economy has actually begun shrinking. The area that is not shrinking is their military industrial complex. China’s military is growing faster than any military has grown since World War II.
The Biden Administration’s China Policy is defined as “Invest, Align and Compete.” Encouraging US companies to invest in China creates hundreds of billions of dollars of cash flowing into and out of China each year. Many want the US to do away with all of the tariffs that the Trump Administration put on China but as of now, most still remain.
Climate change policy and COVID 19 are pointed to as opportunities for...cooperation
Aligning our interests with China’s, or finding common interests for cooperation is sought. Climate change policy and COVID 19 are pointed to as opportunities for such cooperation, although China’s actions have never given an indication that they are willing to make any sacrifice to reduce its climate footprint. To date, they have never been cooperative in sharing information about COVID, even the strain that they are struggling with now.
Competing with China is viewed as a combination of competing economically and having influence with other Asia/Pacific nations to develop a strong capability to push back on China’s desire to expand its influence in the region. China’s military build-up is dwarfing anything that others in the region are doing, militarily, to defend themselves.
As with most policy positions, those opposing Biden, politically, hold a completely different view. Most Republican lawmakers believe that China is playing the US for a patsy. They accuse China of purposely allowing COVID to expand outside of their borders in 2020 when the pandemic was discovered. Now, as COVID, or something similar to it, is ravaging China again causing lines in front of crematoriums to reach around the block and families to burn their own dead in public spaces, China is encouraging its citizens to travel abroad. Countries, including the US, that are now requiring travelers from China to have a negative COVID test before being allowed to travel, are being threatened by China that they will reciprocate in some way.
China’s military build-up is also pointed to as being provocative
China’s military build-up is also pointed to as being provocative. They have built an island in the South China Sea by dredging and depositing soil from the seabed. The island now hosts an airbase from which they can extend their range of power in the Pacific region. Of course they pushed communism onto Hong Kong in violation of a treaty that promised 50 years of self-rule following the 1997 handover by Great Britain. China continues to threaten Taiwan through provocative acts and rhetoric that leads most to believe that China intends to invade the island in the not-to-distant future.
Gordon Chang, the noted expert on China has stated his belief that China’s president, Xi Jinping, is not in as stable a position as we might think after he was re-elected by the CPP for a third term in 2022. He states that the COVID lock-down policy was his policy and being forced to give it up might be seen as a weakness to Xi’s domestic enemies. Chang says that, as a totalitarian, he can do whatever he wishes and could begin aggressive moves at any time in an effort to restore his reputation. He states that the Chinese mindset is very different than that of the west. Unless we understand that, we are bound to make incorrect assumptions about what Xi might do.
At this time, it appears that adversaries perceive that America is weak. Many believe that our inept handling of the Afghanistan pull-out and our inability to head off Putin’s aggression before they invaded Ukraine has made the US look weak.
Considering China’s massive military build-up and their general lack of cooperation suggests to me that we should be treating them as a potential enemy. In recent years we have caught their spies in the US directing military secrets to their homeland. Yet, we are still allowing Chinese controlled companies to come in, buy up land and set up shop in the US even as companies like Tik Tok give an indication of laying the groundwork for gathering intelligence and preparing for confrontation.
How would you categorize China’s relationship to America?