I. Two Centuries of U.S.-China Relations
In Chinese history, the U.S.-China relations spanned only about two hundred years. The U.S. was founded in 1776, less than two hundred and fifty years ago. In the 19th century, the United States was a young rising power. She echoed the colonialism of West powers and followed the British Empire's lead in colonial aggression in Asia. By joining the colonial power, the U.S. had gained a lot of benefits in China, access to ports, commercial trade with no tariffs, etc. The U.S. was a country established by Protestants and was keen on preaching Christianity. Therefore, there were quite a number of American ‘New Christian’ missionaries in China, making a greater influence than other Europeans. In the 20th century, Chinese people awakened and launched a revolution overthrowing the corrupt Manchurian Qing government and founding the Republic of China (ROC) with unofficial assistance from some Americans. The U.S. had proposed the Monroe Doctrine (1823) to oppose the colonization by Britain, France and Spain in Americas. Therefore, the United States did not vigorously participate in colonialism in Asia. After the founding of ROC, unfortunately China was in civil war. The Colonial powers, especially Japan and Russia took the advantage to encroach China. Thus, ROC was in a dare situation facing the humiliating consequences of the unequal treaties. In 1931 Japan started its encroachment of the Northeastern part of China and in 1937, Japan eventually launched its comprehensive plan to conquer China. China resisted with eight years of bitter war. As the Japanese aggression in Asia became a part of WW II, the U.S. and Russia became allies of China in fighting Japan, their common enemy, but with their own interests. China had no choice but to accept foreign aid to fight the industrialized Japan. After WWII, the U.S. and Russia competed for world leadership (behavior of hegemony) and the war-torn China eventually evolved into two parts till today, PRC (People’s Republic of China, CCP in mainland) and ROC (KMT in Taiwan) as a result of foreign support (or interference) from Russia and the U.S., respectively.
II. The Origin of U.S.-China Competition
In 1949, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) unified the mainland and established the PRC and the ROC (KMT) retreated to Taiwan. The development of the two sides of the Taiwan Strait took two different paths, one under sanction from the West and self-reliance and one dependent on U.S. aid and foreign technology, but with similar objectives (at least initially) to build their economy and improve their standard of living so as to unite the other side with a proven better political system. However, two decades later in 1971, a great change occurred, the United Nations voted and recognized (Resolution 2758, 10/25/1971) the PRC as the only legitimate government representing China with sovereignty over Taiwan. The U.S. also implemented the strategy of luring China for opposing the Soviet Union. This idea had been brewing while the U.S. was supporting the ROC in the UN (Kissinger's secret trip to China was in July 1971 and Nixon’s visit to China was from 2/21-28/1971). In 1979, U.S. President Carter formally recognized the PRC as the only China. The world finally witnessed the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1990. Then, the U.S. sprouted its new strategy targeting China. (As a military superpower, her military-industry power seems to need a target enemy to justify her huge military spending. With the Soviet Union gone, the rising China became the next target.) Under a pragmatic foreign policy, the U.S. left Taiwan but did not abandon it entirely, still using Taiwan as a pawn in the confrontation with China till today. With political independence, China had been focusing on her development of economy and trade, pursuing independent R & D in science and technology, and modernizing her military. PRC had gone from an ‘experimentation and correction’ phase to maintaining a steady double-digit economic growth. After 60 years (1949-2010), China became the world's second largest economy. Through vigorous military R & D, China's navy, army and air forces were advancing fast, notably also with advances in nuclear and space technology, rockets, satellites, and automatic control. These enabled China to achieve her three goals: pushing China to the status of world power with nuclear missiles, suffering no more threats and oppression, and gaining political and diplomatic autonomy. With large economic and trade power, multilateral cooperation and win-win trading strategy, China gradually gained international voice and influence making the U.S. feeling uneasy. On the other hand, Taiwan, after abandonment by the UN and U.S., failed to adhere to China's historical mandate: national reunification, strengthening the nation and enriching the people. Politicians in Taiwan maintained a narrow vision and sought political power for personal gain. The KMT gradually abandoned the goal of reunification, and the emerging party DPP was instigating ethnic divide and promoting independence. The current regime in Taiwan is blindly adhering to the U.S. and its ally Japan diplomatically, losing self-esteem and willingly acting as a pawn in the U.S.-China Chess-like competition.
III. U.S.-China All-Out Competition
After the 2008 world financial crisis, the U.S.-China competition began to sprout in all directions as China’s financial and economic power became substantial. The Obama Administration began to lay out a plan to contain China. Pivot to Asia-Pacific is its strategic policy. In the Trump era, competition with China had become fierce because of Trump's eager to win attitude and willingness to use all tactics, trade, technology, and financial wars all employed. Then Biden, self-mandated to outperform Trump, directly and officially announced that China was a serious strong competitor. The U.S. was insufficient alone and needed to build an alliance to compete with China. Thus, in addition to continuing with Trump’s anti-China wars above, the Biden team is engaging diplomatic maneuver, human rights accusation and military threats, for example conducting alliance military exercises in East China Sea (ECS) and South China Sea (SCS).
(to be continued)
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.