'The Nation' website published on February 9, 2023, an article, War with China Is Preventable, Not Inevitable - What is needed is a policy of constructive coexistence, authored by Jake Werner, research fellow, and William D Hartung, senior research fellow (W&H both work at Quincy Institute). W&H’s article and its title are so correct and timely for catching the attention of Americans since Congress (a concerted bi-partisan effort) is hysterically driving anti-China rhetoric as a national politically correct narrative to feed the U.S. citizens and the entire world. W&H recognized that Biden did repeat his China position in his State of the Union speech: He (Biden) seeks “competition, not conflict” and that the US was “committed to working with China where it can advance American interests and benefit the world.” W&H’s principal message is to urge President Biden to follow up his own words by quickly rescheduling Secretary of State Blinken’s trip to China, as a first step toward crafting a policy of constructive coexistence. This principal message deserves to be horn blown to all Americans, however, this author feels compelled to add some comments to amplify W&H’s rationale.
W&H is right that Biden will face stiff opposition not just outside of his administration but within it as well. For example, “four-star Air Force Gen. Mike Minihan caused a stir” when a memo predicted a US war with China, stating, “my gut tells me we will fight in 2025”. W&H regarded Minihan’s statement as irresponsible and misguided and offered a “sanity” note by Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee: Smith said of Minihan’s assertion that war is “not only not inevitable, but it’s also highly unlikely.“ It is obvious that war cannot occur just like single palm cannot clap. The current provocative behavior in Congress towards China is not in the best interest of the U.S. It is violating the goal of preventing a serious war, especially, when our war games simulating the US-China conflict showed unfavorable results to the U.S. The best consequence is that a U.S.-China war will be inflicting heavy losses on both sides, destabilizing the global economy, and raising the risk of a nuclear disaster in the world.
W&H argue that no matter how war is likely, the U. S. Policy goal ought to be preventing war. They seem to adhere to the U.S. deterrence strategy towards China, except advising not to engage in a risky arms race to deter China but adopting a balanced and concerted effort to reassure a sound relationship. They suggest the U.S. return to the one-China policy and the informal relationship with Taiwan, which has kept Taiwan Strait peaceful for more than 50 years. They point out that the U.S. ambiguous Taiwan policy has been changed raising deep doubt in China and the recent behavior of U.S. Congress has destroyed trust between China and U.S. W&H advise that it is not too late to make a difference, the spiraling tension in Taiwan Strait must be dealt with a coexistence policy. The U.S. military strategy towards China must be defensive not to create dangerous scenarios. China and the U.S. must rebuild confidence on both sides that U.S. and China can survive and prosper together. W&H mention that the U.S. and China have worked and can work on pandemic and climate issues rather than engage in a zero-sum competition. They urge two sides to work on mutual concerns, not confrontations.
The present author agrees wholeheartedly with W&H’s plea for the U.S. to change its current China policy to pursue a constructive co-existence path. Biden’s Administration is indeed challenged by an anti-China Congress blaming the U.S. domestic problems and falling U.S. prestige on the world stage to foreign countries. Hence, the Administration has turned its focus on creating and prolonging the Ukraine war and on plotting and building an alliance to confront China from a defensive to an aggressive approach - unprecedented economic sanctions (trade war, technology sanctions and decoupling of supply chain) and a hostile diplomacy against China. However, the present author must point out that W&H has failed to mention that the U.S. deterrence policy is a legacy policy brew out of its Hegemony strategy (refer to Prof. John Mearsheimer’s articulation about U.S. hegemony based on U.S. history) over the years. In this strategy, the U.S. wants to maintain a superpower position and targets any rising country which may threaten the U.S. supreme position. This is the psychological basis of the U.S. right-wing hawkish sentiments; unfortunately, it has been directed to China and hyped since Obama, Trump, and Biden Administrations. Since the hegemony strategy has been successfully applied to the Soviet Union, Japan, and European powers in the past, the U.S. is essentially addicted to the hegemony ideal.
In the present author’s opinion, American citizens must honestly reflect on the U.S. hegemony strategy and ponder what Prof. Mearsheimer is now earnestly warning what the U.S.-China hegemony confrontation may bring to the world – nuclear war, mutual destruction and global dissasters. This author agrees with Prof. Mearsheimer’s prediction of the horrible outcome if the U.S. maintains its hegemony strategy, but he wants to point out that the U.S. must recognize that China is not a hegemon and there is no advantage to provoke her to become a hegemon. China’s history shows that China’s rise is not through hegemony at all, following a very different path from what Russia, Japan and the U.S. had taken. The U.S. must understand this background about China to feel safe to abandon its hegemony strategy and pursue a policy of constructive co-existence. The U.S. politicians, especially its Congress members, must break out from the Congressional foreign affairs and military committees’ self-reinforced ideology (which have indulged in the hegemony theory for centuries since the era of Monroe doctrine). The author asserts that there is existence of an anti-hegemony behavior, practiced for thousands of years by China based on a simple ideal that humans can live harmoniously together so long they work diligently under what nature has offered them. Therefore, the Chinese people contain 56 ethnic groups, and many of them are absorbed into China naturally and peacefully becoming one race because of this simple tolerant and accommodating philosophy - a philosophy opposite from hegemony theory.
This author recommends highly W&H’s article, “War With China Is Preventable, Not Inevitable - What is needed is a policy of constructive coexistence”, but he must emphasize and plead to Americans to understand hegemony and anti-hegemony theories. Facing China, an anti-hegemony big nation, the U.S. should not follow the hegemony theory and should not provoke China into a hegemon. W&H’s advice is a wise one and a constructive coexistence policy will work if the U.S. can abandon being a hegemon and accept and treat China as an anti-hegemon.