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Attempts to check China's rise will backfire in the end

By Chen Weihua | China Daily | Updated: 2023-11-10 07:52
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Employees work on the production line of a digital product manufacturer in Ganzhou, Jiangxi province. [ZHU HAIPENG/FOR CHINA DAILY]

It was a big relief to see the resumption of visits and meetings between top Chinese and US government officials just when many believed Sino-US relations had hit the lowest point since former US president Richard Nixon made the historic trip to China in 1972 in "the week that changed the world" as Nixon described himself.

There is no doubt that the world has become substantially better since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the US in 1979. From virtually no contact before 1971, China and the US had established 90 bilateral high-level dialogue mechanisms in the following decades covering almost all fields, from strategic, economic and trade to intellectual property rights protection and people-to-people exchanges. I covered many of those events during the years I was posted in the US from 2009 to 2018.

US officials, pundits and news media were lying when they claimed China, in the past few years, had rejected high-level talks with the United States. They forgot that it was former US president Donald Trump who canceled almost all these bilateral mechanisms.

The Joe Biden administration should show more courage to put bilateral ties on the normal track. Biden and many of his administration's officials participated in the dialogues every year and applauded them when they were serving in the Barack Obama administration.

Dialogue and contacts are essential to prevent bilateral relations from going into free fall into a new Cold War and, worse, even a hot war. If the ongoing Russia-Ukraine and Israel-Palestine conflicts are devastating, a conflict between the world's two largest economies and military powers will be catastrophic for not just China and the US, but the entire world too.

However, talks and visits alone are not enough to put bilateral ties back on track. For that to happen, Washington has to change its national security strategy which views China as its "biggest threat". The US' China-containment policy has undermined the bilateral relationship. The US has been waging reckless tariff, trade and tech wars against China, and rallying and coercing US allies to join it to form a "formidable" front against China to check its peaceful rise.

The US which has, for decades, lectured China and other countries on the benefits of an open global economy, free and fair trade and economic globalization has now resorted to protectionism and unilateralism.

In particular, the US has been playing with fire on the Taiwan question, by changing the status quo many a time during the Trump and Biden administrations, a move that breaches China's redline. Anyone who understands China's history and the Chinese psyche knows that such US provocations are indeed dangerous.

The US is desperate to contain China economically by cracking down on Chinese tech companies and put them on its Entity List and restricting exports to China, but such Cold War-era measures will only slow down China's rise in the short term. In the long run, China will emerge stronger just like the rapid development of China's military industry in the face of the US' and the European Union's arms embargo against China.

The US' tariff, trade and tech wars against China have hurt many US companies and consumers given that China is a manufacturing powerhouse and the largest trade partner of more than 120 countries and regions. The US' restrictions on exporting semiconductors to China is a typical example.

US companies, from General Motors to General Electric, know very well what the vast Chinese market means for their businesses and they know it much better than their politicians. That's why it is absurd for politicians to lecture business leaders on the risks of doing business with China.

The world will be worse off if China and the US stop cooperating. That is the biggest threat for the world in the 21st century.


Chen Weihua

The author is chief of China Daily EU Bureau based in Brussels.

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