America and the Chinese ascent
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In the last three decades, countries like China along with Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore and South Korea have achieved enormous levels of growth in trade, education, development, research and economic stability. This rise of these countries has far-reaching effects on the regional politics of Asia and on the politics of global dominance. The centre of power is shifting. There is considerable resistance from the West and its allies. All parties are pushed to weigh their options. China is leading the Asian bloc into unchartered territories and there are only a handful of policy frameworks that will lead to a sustainable tomorrow and an environment of safety and growth for developed and developing nations in the West and the East.
The United States is still by far the most powerful country in the world, even though some of its economic indicators have been overtaken by China. It still possesses the technology, military might and diplomatic power to overpower any nation in the world. But it is also true that it is in the phase of “Early Decline”. The reason behind this is, that its politics is highly polarized. Donald Trump was a manifestation of deep fissures in American society. The American polity has been divided into an “Us versus them” mindset. Trumpism expanded those cracks and developed them into a full-fledged internal divide. In the language of many intellectuals, “Trump is gone but Trumpism is still alive”. According to a survey, 80% of decisions taken by the American congress benefit only the top 10% of people of the country. This will lead to the ultimate demise of the United States.
Another cogent reason why China will rise and the United States will lose its position as a global leader, is its lack of strategic objectives. A clear contrast is seen when we observe the strategies adopted by the American Government during its conflict with the Soviet Union. The vivid objective was to disrupt the Soviet economy while overtaking every economic indicator through better technology, improved trade and highly technical industrial growth. And all these objectives were met. It resulted in the dissolution of the Soviet Union, but this is not happening in the case of China. America is in a stalemate. There is no policy framework, no plan and no strategic objectives in place.
In a survey conducted in New York, over 80% people viewed China as a threat and an enemy of the United States, but none of them was able to give a prudent reason why. And that is the predicament that prevails in the American Government. They are against China but they refuse to draft the reasons and the way forward for dealing with China. Before the election, Biden gave a clear message to the masses that high tariff rates on Chinese exports to the US are damaging businesses and jobs are being lost, but now he has retracted all those claims and the policies of the United States government are more or less the same as Trump.
The only option visible to the international eye from the American people and government is a negative attitude. There is pervading bias against China and Xi Jinping. Trade wars have actually hurt the United States economy. American Government knows that it cannot afford a direct war and confrontation with China. So, mostly there is a mere show of power. In the event of a war, both countries possess a considerable nuclear arsenal and there would be no winners in a military conflict between China and the United States. The effects would be paralyzing for the world as well as both of these nations. So, in this context, military options are not feasible by the standard. This narrows down the policy options that the United States has for China.
Many conspiracy theorists have conceptualized that Americans can resort to covert approaches to destroying the development and ascendance of China. With the control of the country in the hands of the Central Communist Party and the deployment of state-of-the-art technology in monitoring, vigilance, law and order and strict implementation, there is no chance that a regime change can be instigated by American covert agencies. Besides, China has learned from the experience of the Soviet Union and the Arab Spring where internal agents were bribed into toppling the regime of the country for the advantage of another nation. All ploys and strategies adopted in Taiwan and Hong Kong have failed. The military presence is countered at all times by the Chinese army without fail. All steps taken by the American Government are countered by the Chinese with ease.
If all of the above are not viable options for China, then what is the right approach that can be adopted by the United States for its better future and that of Asia? The answer lies in sustainable engagement. First and foremost, the ASEAN countries can prove to be a bridge between the two powers. They can help re-align the policy objectives of both nations. Bi-lateral trade can lessen the chances of war and direct conflict. There is a possibility of a world that is mutually dependent on each other for sustainable growth and survival and that can be an engine of coordination between these two superpowers.
There is a need to transform the American mindset about China. Americans must accept the progress of China and its inevitable rise. The Americans forget that they are a migration nation, a country born out of the movement of Europeans looking for new continents, which has happened only in the last few hundred years, while China is a historical nation with a history of over 5000 years. America has much to learn from China and vice versa.
The Americans always ignore the fact that China’s growth is due to Americans in many ways. China has adopted the world view of trade and industry as given by the best. It is a fact that China has beaten the West on its own turf. It is now the market leader in manufacturing, exports and commodity reserves. The West must honourably accept this fact, instead of penalizing and demonizing China for raising its population out of poverty. China does not want a war with the United States or the West. It is focused on uplifting its people, boosting its economic and diplomatic ties and ensuring its prosperous future, which cannot be denied. The United States must alter its national narrative toward China. For the very reason to avoid war, for mutual growth and to realise the dream of a world where economic co-dependence ensures progress, growth and survival of the poorest to the richest. The lessons must be learned, that adversarial politics is not the only way forward. Protectionism and engaging in trade wars is contradictory to the Western and American narrative in the WTO. The ascendance of China is inevitable, it is the need of the hour to engage with China in a way to maximize mutual gains, especially for the developing world to share in the profits and raise the living standards of its people. The Chinese model has the potential to teach the rich as the poor nations to do then what they think is possible.