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Washington won't reach summit it aspires to by always trying to force its way to top: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2024-07-10 19:01

Mike Johnson, speaker of the United States House of Representatives, made his first major foreign policy speech on Monday at the conservative think tank Hudson Institute.

It was no surprise the speech by the leading Republican in the House sounded at some points like a pro-Donald Trump Republican Party campaign manifesto. Nor that he openly disparaged Democratic Party leaders Barack Obama and Joe Biden and sang the praise of Trump. Nor the fact that much of his speech dwelled on the alleged "threat" from China. Or as he said, in his attempt to give his words more gravitas, "a China-led axis".

As former House speaker Nancy Pelosi convincingly demonstrated, the song remains essentially the same no matter which party is boss of the House. China-bashing is the new political correctness in the US Congress, where people can talk whatever rot is in their head without worrying about being held accountable so long as they present it as countering the "China threat".

Beijing has largely grown accustomed to taking such cheap shots as "a puff of wind passing the ear". Still, Johnson's speech on Monday was particularly bargain-basement bullets, and served only to expose how rotten things are in the state of the country.

In a rhetorical style that has become typical of Congress ravings, Johnson spoke of an "interconnected web of threats", from "enemies" such as China, Russia and Iran, "a group of nations openly aligned against the United States".

In his words, "Russia, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and even Cuba … all wake up every morning thinking how they can take down America".

According to his account, weak Democratic leadership under Obama and Biden has exposed US vulnerabilities at "a fateful moment". His prescription is a return to the Ronald Reagan approach to the former Soviet Union and, not surprisingly, a second term for Trump.

With Trump, he argued, the US would embrace "a new policy of peace through strength". Praising his own leadership in the assault on TikTok — conveniently ignoring the fact that Trump has been prominently using the social media platform as part of his campaigning — he promised to focus Congress on "countering China with every tool at our disposal".

He also vowed to pass a "significant package of China-related legislation" by this year's end, from sanctioning Chinese companies to restricting outbound investment in China.

Parroting Trump, he highlighted the need for a "US-led, America-first coalition" to "reinstate fear" in America's enemies and "retake the summit of respect".

Unintentionally, that gets to the nub of the US' problem: Fear does not beget respect. It is the US' predilection for the use of force to bully and coerce and the divorced-from-reality hamming in the House that drag it inexorably down and ever further from the summit it aspires to. Even its clinging-to-privileges allies don't have any respect for the showboating of Washington although they debase themselves by going along with it.

Spouting paranoid gibberish may pass for hard-hitting certainty of purpose for a prime-time audience desperate for hope that things are going to change. But to earn respect and "Make America Great Again", Washington needs to display some humility. Constructive engagement will prove far more productive than Johnson's baby-milk formula of bloc confrontation. By pitting itself against a self-forged "coalition", the US will only sink further into the quagmire of delusions of empire.

No matter how Washington politicians such as Johnson exaggerate the dire plight their country is in — ignoring its true nature – none of the "enemies" seem ready to take on that mantle. Beijing, for one, emphasizes the importance of healthy China-US relations. Even Moscow has clarified it has no intention to seek confrontation.

Time moves on and the world is moving with it. But the US is in danger of being left behind in a time loop of its own as those in Washington rant and rage about the lost good old days.

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