The present situation of US - China relations is tense, like an overwound clockwork with no release mechanism. The U.S. has developed its targeting-China strategy through at least three U.S. Presidential Administration eras (Obama-Trump-Biden) with bipartisan consensus and mass media support. The clockwork of the anti-China strategy was wound up so tight because, in each election cycle, the two parties in the U.S. were motivated to blame the U.S. problems, domestic and foreign issues, on a foreign target. The U.S. bipartisan politics pass legislations and execute administrative power with ‘bickering-horse trading-voting district and election impact’ concern, it is difficult to trace and pin the consequences of any legislation or administrative order to a single party or even a single president. Hence, the convenient way out is to blame a foreign country and promise that we can be tougher on the targeted enemy to play on citizens’ patriotism. The Soviet Union, Japan, EU, and Russia had been the ‘target in the past, now China is the principal target.
For the next presidential election in 2024, both political parties in the U.S. are trying to direct the voters' attention to China. It is true that China has risen rapidly in the past two decades. It has lifted a billion of its people out of poverty and grew its economy to become the second largest in the world. Both U.S. parties and every presidential candidate are bound by this artificially created ‘political correctness’ and the politicians are motivated to demonstrate who can be tougher on China. This is the reason that the anti-China clockwork has been wound up so tight. China apparently has seen through the U.S. China policy and decided not to waste time engaging in meaningless dialogues with the U.S. They see that the U.S. is saying one thing and doing the other. For China, it has felt simply frustrated and useless in its attempt to improve U.S.-China relations. At the last high-level meeting in Alaska on March 18-19, 2021, China had finally exhausted its patience, it felt that their effort has been fruitless except serving the media mainly for the U.S. election drama. (The way the U.S. managed the meeting and the media’s presence has clearly contributed to China’s anger.) Since then China has laid down conditions for dialogue. Without dialogue means no means to release the overwound clockwork.
A wound-up clockwork would take time to release its energy, second by second and minute by minute. But in real-time the world has felt the tension between the U.S. and China, the painful effect of the COVID pandemic and other natural disasters, the man-made war between Russia and Ukraine, and the global inflation and its consequences on the world economy. In addition, the U.S. orchestrated world-wide semiconductor technology and product sanctions against China has an effect of turning over the apple cart of the supply chain, manufacturing, and product distribution of the entire world semiconductor industry. The U.S. plan is long in sanctions and punishment for exporting products, technology, and investments to China but short in building a realistic alternative solution to satisfy the world dependence on the semiconductor industry. Biden’s Administration is overestimating the cards in G7 countries and wishfully hoping that the U.S. can rebuild a new semiconductor world order with the three little dragons that it can influence. This is very doubtful simply because the U.S. is no longer the world's largest consumer or market of semiconductor products.
China is the world's largest manufacturer, hence the largest consumer of semiconductor products. Under globalization, China indeed relies on the supply of the world semiconductor industry, particularly the U.S., Japan South Korea, and Taiwan. However, economic principles tell us, in the complete cycle of capital-material-technology-manufacturing-markets, markets are the primary driver and capital is the lubricant. China possesses the largest semiconductor market and holds plenty of capital, it is in able to invest and build its own complete semiconductor supply chain. The U.S. focuses on hi-end semiconductor technology, design and nano-meter manufacturing, which is to a large extent misguided by their importance in hi-end military applications. It is true that in a prolonged war using hi-technology weapons, hi-end semiconductor technology would be a key element, however, in the consumer world, the root semiconductor manufacturing processes based on 14- and 28- nanometer technology are the real workhorse. China has no problem gearing up its manufacturing to meet the demand. So in a non-military confrontation, China may be slowed down a little in its economic development, but it will catch up quickly in a short time.
Assuming the U.S. is plotting to engage in a hi-tech military confrontation with China, does the U.S. hold all the winning cards? No, it does not, that is why the road of U.S.-China relations is very rocky if it is pursuing a non-peaceful road. First, taking a broad assessment of China’s military capability, one can see that China is now having an independent Beidou system totally independent of the U.S. GPS system (GPS was helpful to Ukraine in the Russia-Ukraine war). China’s navy is advancing at 2.5 times the pace of the U.S., it already has three modern carriers more than sufficient to defend its coastlines and economic zones. China was able to put a space station single-handedly in space, there is no doubt about its capability in missiles and supersonic jets and weapons. The high-end nanometer technology is at the end of its physical limit, there isn’t much lead there for the U.S. and EU to hold. Besides, the process of moving TSMC’s hi-end nano factory to Arizona is facing numerous problems including labor skills, racial discrimination, and higher cost issues. In addition, China for retaliating the U.S. sanctions, has started its control of export of gallium and germanium vital components for hi-tech and hi-end military weapon development.
Therefore, we may extrapolate and predict that the present anti-China strategy is not a sensible choice. Taking a peaceful road to build U.S.-China relations makes better sense and mutual benefits. This peaceful road does exist since there is no concrete proof that China is destined to replace the U.S. as the world hegemony. All the China threat stories are fiction based on imaginary assumptions. On the contrary, a peaceful road for U.S.-China relation does exist if the U.S. elects to take it. Unfortunately, the peaceful road for U.S.-China relations is rocky in the present 'political correctness' road.
Ifay Chang. Ph.D., Inventor, Author, TV Game Show Host and Columnist (www.us-chinaforum.org) as well as serving as Trustee, Somers Central School District