The Remoteness of Sino-US Rupture

B Arjun

A FRESH Cold War is brewing in the world. The new battleground is Indo Pacific. China is America’s main enemy this time. China is not only poking at the US nuclear and naval hegemony but is also offering a formidable challenge to the dominance of the world by US dollar. The Chinese naval ships are “crossing the bows” of the American warships. Recently, a Chinese naval vessel came within 50 yards of the USS Decatur, loitering in South China Sea. However, much more than the Chinese navy, it is the Chinese currency that the US is finding it hard to contain as country after country is defying the US imposed diktats.

America is finding it increasingly hard to manage the collapse of its empire. EU, Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China have agreed to set up a new mechanism to facilitate legitimate trade between European companies and Iran to bypass US sanctions. The countries have decided to resort to barter system in trading with Iran to bypass the SWIFT international bank transfer system, dominated by America.

China is continuing to rise and spread its capital to distant locations beyond the Indo Pacific. More recently it announced an additional $5bn investment in Venezuela. According to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, these fresh flows are ushering a new era of economic progress in their country. Over the past twenty years, China has invested more than $60bn in Venezuelan economy, of which $40bn have been returned through regular oil imports. Chinese investments have reached the Piraeus seaport in Greece. China has also signed an agreement with Panama for the development of a container port at the Atlantic entrance of the Panama Canal. America is unable to match the Chinese investments and is feeling the pressure. The obvious American reaction is to hit back at China and assert that it is still the big brother in the global game. It is pressurising China to play second fiddle just as it had had forced Japan to slow down its economic march in the 1980s. To achieve these objectives, Trump is building domestic and international public opinion against China.

In a desperate attempt to erect speed breakers in the Chinese progress towards emerging as a big power, the Trump administration has launched a tariff war on Chinese goods. A strong China has retaliated with matching tariffs on American goods entering their shores. Both Washington and Beijing imposed on each other 25 percent tariffs on $34 billion worth of goods. Trump has issued vain statements against China and asked it to stop hurting American workers, “farmers, ranchers and industrial workers” merely because they are loyal to Trump. Trump is fooling his working classes to believe that the Chinese Communist Party, and not American capitalist class, is responsible for their plight. The US president is pushing the gullible American public into accepting that only the right wing is capable of standing up to China. He is also bringing in religion to portray China as the enemy of Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. There is nothing new in the manner in which the US is behaving; it has used all these tactics to isolate the so called “godless communists” during the Cold War.

As the trade war widens, the US has found a new economic instrument to impose their will on China. At the recently concluded US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, the 24-year-old North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was replaced with a clause that prohibits/debars Canada or Mexico from formulating a free-trade deal with a “non-market economy”, which basically means that the two small neighbours have their sovereignty severely curtailed. This is the new American way to strengthen its empire. It is likely to be applied to many other countries. The American empire will allow countries to celebrate nationalism by giving them greater freedom to showcase their culture but will use all economic, technological and military instruments to colonise them further.    

America is digging from its propaganda kit old memes - “tariffs, quotas, currency manipulation, forced technology transfer, intellectual property theft, and industrial subsidies” – to show China as a monster eating American jobs and gnawing at American prosperity. US President Donald Trump has blamed China for "actively trying to impact and change" the US election. An "administration-wide" anti-China propaganda machinery has been activated to isolate China to achieve not just external policy objectives but also to earn massive electoral dividends. In his recent speech at Hudson institute, Vice President Mike Pence made a strong case against China blaming it for all the ills plaguing America. The Republicans have started the bogey of Chinese "meddling in America’s democracy" to drown out the Democrats complaint about Russian penetration of American electoral politics on behalf of Trump. The introduction of China factor helps Trump to polarise the American society further. In all likelihood, all opposing Trump’s trade war with China will be branded as anti-nationals. Commenting on the introduction of China element in US domestic political debates, a foreign policy expert tweeted “American patriots now may vote for Russian or Chinese agents?! Welcome to US politics, in the post-truth era, Trump style.”

The US is ratcheting up the rhetoric against the exercise of Chinese soft power in international universities and think tanks and their use of hard power in Xinjiang, Tibet and Taiwan. Using the   rhetoric of freedom, to sympathise with the Chinese people it says that Beijing is hardly serious about “reforms and opening” and “Deng Xiaoping’s famous policy now rings hollow”. China is being projected as “an unparalleled surveillance state” that is unscrupulously intruding the privacy of their citizens. Ironically, China is using the same technology that America is employing to create a digital empire across the globe. The US problem is that China is refusing to plug into the US networks. It is continuously increasing the height of its digital firewalls to prevent American companies from colonising their cyberspace.

The US is openly rebuking China for unfair trade practises and plethora of other things but it also trying to cajole Beijing and is asking it to jointly work with it. Feelers have been sent by the White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow stating that America was "ready to negotiate and talk with China any time that they are ready for serious and substantive negotiations toward free trade to reduce tariffs and non-tariff barriers, to open markets, to allow the most competitive economy in the world, ours, to export more and more goods and services to China.”

Mike Pence ended his supposedly hard hitting speech against China with an ancient Chinese proverb that says “men see only the present, but heaven sees the future.” He further said “As we go forward, let us pursue a future of peace and prosperity with resolve and faith… Faith that heaven sees the future – and by God’s grace, America and China will meet that future together.”

India needs to be careful and not jump to conclusions about the Sino-US rupture. Chinese markets are too important for American trade and prosperity. Therefore to imagine an ensuing war or major clash between the two is preposterous. However, the American strategy has not changed since 1949, it continues to aim at causing the Sino-Russian split to break the continuity of the Eurasian landmass. India supported the American split strategy in 1962 and fought an unnecessary war with China. India cannot repeat its past mistake by aligning with the US strategic interests.


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