Mainstream media can be defined as the part of mass media that collectively influence many people and shape their thoughts, thus mass media became mainstream because of their ability to dominate opinion. Mass media can be divided on national issues, such as budget, taxes and economy, exhibiting conservative or liberal views, then whichever view is more popular will become mainstream. On U.S. foreign affairs, such division is never too sharp or wide except sometimes on war issue, thus mass media can easily form a mainstream opinion. But history taught us that mass (mainstream) media were not always right. National mass media supported Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan to engage WW II. The Vietnam war and Iraq war are also examples that mainstream media were wrong or being manipulated wrongly to war.
Today, China policy has emerged as the most important U.S. foreign policy. U.S.-China relation began just a century after the U.S. became an independent nation when China was a corrupt and decaying dynasty led by weak emperors. In the past 150 years, U.S.-China relation went from a colonial power to colonized nation relation (<1900) to a friendlier relation (U.S. supported China’s revolution to become a republic nation, 1900- 1937) and to a strong alliance relation during WW II (1937-1949). Then the U.S. faced a two republic China dilemma but elected to continue supporting ROC (retreated to Taiwan) instead of recognizing PRC (united the Mainland China) with the intent of curtailing the spread of communism promoted by the Soviet Union.
In a rational strategic change, the U.S. recognized PRC as the sole China and invited her to join the West sanction union against the Soviet Union. The recognition took 8 years (1971-1979) to consummate eventually abandoning Taiwan (ROC) keeping an ambiguous tie. (A semi-emotional gesture of enacting the Taiwan Relations Act). The new U.S.-China relation went through a honeymoon and warm period eventually fulfilled the goal of collapsing the Soviet Union (1979-1990) while Taiwan was cultivated to adopt democracy with the post-Chiang leader Lee Deng Hui’s dubious cooperation (1988-2000) by nurturing a minority opposition party (DPP established in 1986 and took power in 2000). Post Cold War, China has accelerated her economic development, while Taiwan was gradually pushing for independence, however, the U.S. was obligated by the agreement (Shanghai Communique) to recognize only one China, thus suppressing then DPP leader Chen Sui-Bain’s independence movement (who happened to be a corrupt and greedy politician stashing millions of dollars of corrupt money in his U.S. bank accounts).
Greeting the 21st century, China continued her rapid development to become the world’s second largest economy making the U.S. nervous. The U.S.-China relations became rocky during Obama era (2009-2017) when the U.S. deployed the ‘Pivot to Asia’ and later ‘Balancing the Power’ strategies targeting China. The Trump administration (2017-2021) amplified the anti-China rhetoric and took a number of unprecedented harsh diplomatic measures such as applying unilateral tariff against Chinese imports, technology sanctions, etc. causing US-China relation to fall off a cliff. The Biden Administration, although opposing Trump’s many foreign policies essentially kept the anti-China attitude and possibly policies due to mainstream media pressure which had evolved into an irrational anti-China sentiment (mainstream media's power!) that seemingly had boxed in Biden’s China policy as seen from the recent 2+2 U.S.-China high-level diplomatic talks at Anchorage (3/18-19/2021).
In bilateral relationship, focusing first on national security then economic and other issues is rational. However, judging on the topics the U.S. raised or placed for discussion, it seemed that we had turned away from rationality, perhaps, influenced by the irrational mainstream media. The following discussion is focused on the 'rationality' question:
1. The U.S. raised several Human Rights issues in her opening remark. First let’s look at the Tibet HR issue. The U.S. has raised the Tibet HR flag for decades while China has removed the religious suppression under a cult-like religious control keeping Tibetan under poverty for centuries. Now Tibetans live a much better life and the only people who lost ‘religious liberty and authority’ are the old tyrant monk system (no Christian would ever support that). In a rational analysis, Tibet posts no security threat to the U.S. other than making her neighbor Indian Himalayan jealous comparing living condition.
2. Hong Kong was the second issue. The double standards the mass media put on HK riots and U.S. riots in the Capitol do not lend us any more moral ammunition than HK’s history of democracy. Under the British rule, HK people had limited economic freedom but no political freedom never mind democracy. Many Western folks love to live in HK because it is a striving trade port and little legal control over the Western folks. Under the Chinese 'one country two system', HK maintained its prosperity, adopted local election democracy and tightened the laws to protect its security. How would that threaten the U.S. or U.K.?
3. Pompeo (former Secretary of State) charged China practiced ‘genocide’ on the Uighurs in Xinjiang. China’s anger is understandable over Blinken's re-utterance of Xinjiang. Uighur population grew from 5.5 million to 12.8 million and China maintained better foreign relations with Iran, Afghanistan and many other Arab and Muslim nations than U.S. did. Muslim countries in a conference had praised what China had done for stopping terrorism in Xinjiang and elsewhere in China. What would U.S. gain by fabricating these horrible charges through her media? Raising them in the 2+2 meeting can only get eggs on our face reflecting what we have done to the Muslim world.
4. Taiwan issue was also put on the plate. The above review of the U.S.-China-Taiwan history clearly showed that the U.S. chose to adopt an ambiguous position to the one China issue. China had been consistent and patient for 72 years waiting for a peaceful reunification. The U.S. has little legal grounds to deny Taiwan being a domestic issue of China. Making some money by selling Taiwan weapons is hardly honorable in knowing that Taiwan people has been better off with a good relationship with the Mainland. Taiwan’s economy and export speak louder than any ideological arguments. With HK returning to peace under China’s constitution and newly established security law, Taiwan certainly can do better than HK with its constitution and laws recognized under the 'one China two system' doctrine.
One may ask what about the U.S. island chain strategy for curbing Communism? A rational answer is that, we went banana when the Soviet placed missile in Cuba. We succeeded in removing the military base there but we did not accomplish an iota in stopping South American countries to experiment with communism or socialism. China is no more communist than American left or even the Democratic Party on some issues. So our China policy really needs to move away from ideology and get into a serious Co-Competition (Cooperative Competition) relationship.
Mainstream media are not always correct, even though they tend to package themselves as politically correct. The current anti-China rhetoric has little concrete evidence other than twisting dissenters words to suit a political agenda. Senator Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Nancy Pelosi are typical examples. They have zero first hand information other than inviting political dissentors, posting for photo-op and conducting politically orchestrated interviews and testimonies. These activities tinted the mainstream media which can dangerously lead our country to disaster. If we search for the headlines in mass media in Germany or Japan before WW II, we see exactly the similar pattern in our media today.
What is the rational China policy then? By rational, we must recognize that China and the U.S. are competitors in some domains and cooperators in others. Cooperation can produce win-win outcome contrary to the hawks’ view that there is only winner and loser. Take the Olympics games, athletes compete, the end result is we have champions and runner ups; with cooperation in training, everyone’s performance is elevated. The US-China competition does naturally exist in trade, investment and economic development, but it does not have to be in military and space exploration. They can be changed to co-competition in Olympic style. The billions of dollars saved can be applied to social and welfare use. The cooperative competition model can help mankind as a whole to avoid military confrontation and enhancing space exploration to produce more progress rather than space war.