China has nearly 5000 years of history. The U.S. is less than 250 years old. The U.S.-China relationship has evolved from no-contact to rivalry states in the last two century. How did this happen? This paper traces the evolution of the U.S.-China relationship from a long time ago to eighteenth to nineteenth century, WW I period, WW II Period, and post WW II to current century (in four parts) in order to understand how and why the two great nations have become rivals and whether they are calculated rivals?!
The CCP initially followed the Soviet communist party, but quickly realized it would make China a poor colony. (Mao foresaw the Eastern Europe consequences) China’s resistance to the Soviet Union and struggling under sanctions from the West gave her a hard time for two to three decades, but the time had strengthened China, making her relying on herself and working extremely hard to achieve goals. It all sounds simple to have five year development plans, but it is not simple to achieve all the goals written in a plan, plan after plan for several decades. Lately, China is more self-confident thus willing to publish her detailed development plans. It is surprising that the West is so surprised by her accomplishments in the last three decades, economically, technologically and militarily all under their watchful eyes worldwide. Not enough usable land for farming, China converts desert to forests and farms and develops salt (sea) water rice crops. Barred from international Space Research, China developed her own missiles, satellites, geo-positioning technologies (Beidou system), and successfully deployed their lunar exploration programs. China recognized her deficiencies in infrastructure and transportation, she now had built the world-envied hi-speed rail network, highways and bridges and first rate international airports. If we can not deduce from these transformation and accomplishments the DNA of CCP, which is responsible for China's success, we are really blind. If anyone still says China stole all their accomplishments from the West, they are not only is blind but also ignorant. If Pompeo believes that we should be against the CCP not the Chinese people, he is naive or being brainwashed by a few anti-China Chinese dissenters. Billions of Chinese are now proud of CCP and its DNA. The more the West media attacks the CCP, the better it transforms. Transforming for better is the secret of CCP's success. No wonder, the Chinese netizens call the prominent foreign China-bashers as China's patriotic builders.
Are China and the U.S. Calculated Rivals?
The reason this article reviews the U.S.-China relation back to a long time ago is to answer this million dollar question. Based on historical facts, one may say that the U.S. did not treat China as a rivalry purposely perhaps until 21st century. The U.S. participated in the colonial aggression against China and developed an impression of weak China which may still influence many Americans today. It was understandable that the U.S. had a calculated strategy towards the Soviet Union based on the way the Soviet expanded communism around the world posing a threat to the U.S. (President John F. Kennedy's acute reaction to Russia's Cuban Missile site is a clear manifestation of the U.S. concern) But it would be a stretch to say that the U.S. had a calculated strategy treating China as a rivalry in the 19th and 20th century. In fact, the U.S. has always been ambiguous on her China policy especially regarding her taking advantage of the ‘two-China situation' developed after 1949. The U.S. was preoccupied by her Soviet policy thus only treating China as an appendix to the Soviet problem rather than having a calculated strategy aiming at China as a rivalry. Recognizing China and welcoming China into the West world for the purpose of sanctioning the Soviet economy have guided the U.S. China policy and perhaps expected China to become like Japan and Korea someday with significant dependency on the U.S. economy. This thinking may have prevailed even a decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
When the Soviet collapsed and the U.S. became the only superpower in the world, China was no longer a tool for rivaling the Soviet, but she had not been elevated to a rivalry level at that time. It was the year 1999 or the turn of the 21st century when China became the world’s number two economy, China had attracted the U.S. attention, unintentionally since China had always taken a low-key attitude. However, the Bush era (2001-2008) was too preoccupied with terrorism and Middle East issues, it was not until the Obama Administration, China’s rapid rise was noted as a potential threat to the U.S. economy and her life style. However, Obama had only made his first trip to China in 2009, a late start in dealing with a complex relation with China. Human rights issue and globalization operational rules were Obama’s main concerns. China had made drastic improvements in both arenas by lifting poverty and improving trade relations with the bulk of the world. Obama also had to deal with the impact of the financial crisis of 2008 which thanks to China was weathered through with China’s reserve funds. If there was a calculated strategy dealing with China, it was only visible through the Pivot to Asia which had made it clear that the U.S. would place more attention to Asia targeting China. However, Obama announced the Pivot to Asia in a trip to Australia in 2011 which may be a clue that the policy was yet to be firmed up then.
The surprise came in 2016 when Hillary Clinton lost the presidency bid to Donald Trump, otherwise, Clinton would probably follow a calculated strategy towards China. In terms of national security, continuity in strategy and orderly modification are very much desired. However, the American system with changing Commander-in-Chief every eight years or shorter makes the execution of a long-term strategy not so predictable, sometimes with interruptions. When Trump took over the White House, although he appointed more hawkish anti-China staff but they seem to have interrupted an original strategic plan if there was one. If not, they had made their own playbook which surprised China, American elites and citizens as well as U.S. allies. The trade war might be a part of long-term strategy but Trump's execution was full of surprises to U.S. allies and to China. The lack of patience had accelerated the trade war to a technology war impacting not only commerce and military but also on stock markets, such as initial offering and stock listing, the heart of finance. The tactic steps were too numerous, too rapid and too impulsive without calculating out consequences. Some tariffs spilled over to allies, 5G technology sanction put some industries and allies at great financial risk and the reversals on black list and the reversal of a stock exchange's de-list, relist and re-delist again all suggested that the targeting China actions were not following a calculated plan, even there was a calculated strategy.
(to be continued in part IVb)