There is nothing more important and controversial about U.S.-China relations on the world stage today. The confrontation is spreading from international politics, world economy, and military competition to cultural, media, and social battles affecting not only the two great powers but also the entire world. In this struggle, the driving force originated in the anti-communism and Cold War ideology deeply rooted in the hegemony theory (in the U.S.) and anti-hegemony philosophy (in China and its long history). The U.S. has always been prepared and calculated in strategic plans (ex. white papers) when comes to national security issues.
This was reflected in its history: Monroe Doctrine from the nineteen century onward (which led to its expansion and influence in the world), calculated strategic Alliances during WW I, WW II, and Cold War (which led to its victories) and now the current U.S. Administration has launched the Indo-Pacific strategy patterned NATO (targeting Russia) targeting China instead. There is considerable urgency perceived by the U.S. in patching up such a strategy as evidenced by the piecemeal work of forming AUKUS (the alliance of Australia, the UK and the U.S.), Quad+ (U.S., Australia, Japan and India hoping to expand), JUSK (Japan, U.S., and South Korea), and courting the Philippines and South East Asian nations as well as arming the pro-U.S. Taiwan government.
The Indo-Pacific strategy is a grand scheme for confronting the rising China. However, China is not like the Soviet Union, rising through hegemony which eventually collapsed because of failures in the economy. China, on the other hand, rose to the world’s second-largest economy in a few decades through hard work, now poised to surpass the U.S. to become the number one economy in the word. Moreover, China is the number one trading partner with over one hundred twenty nations. Therefore, one cannot predict that the Indo-Pacific strategy would surely succeed in collapsing China as the EU and NATO collapsed the Soviet Union and Warsaw. China does not form alliances to engage in a Cold War II, like the Indo-Pacific strategy. China’s economy is thriving because of its world-wide economic development plan such as the Belt and Road Initiative counting on co-prosperity through collaborative co-development.
Post COVID Pandemic, while the U.S. is struggling to revive its economy at a below 1% growth rate, China is recovering to 3, 4 and 6% by the second half of 2023. Therefore, there are different views on the U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy, one from the Administration or political leaders' point of view and the other from citizens' or industrial leaders' point of view. The former view tends to be ‘political’, biased with politicians’ selfish, election-motivated, and short-sighted perspectives; whereas the latter view tends to be ‘economical’, based on citizens’ real-life, standard of living and industrial performance-employment considerations. The intellectual elites and analysts on U.S.-China relations are divided between the above two views but obviously and unfortunately leaning towards the ‘political’ view because the funding sources of their work, especially from the government, are biased. In this article, the author will attempt to analyze the outcome and future of the Indo-Pacific strategy from the above two views.
Political Analysis of Indo-Pacific Strategy
Biden Administration is following the basic anti-China (and Russia) strategy from previous administrations’ Pivot to Asia Pacific and Balance of Power strategies to today’s targeting China as ‘the competitor’ and the Indo-Pacific strategy. Because Biden is schooled by post- WW II U.S. hegemony diplomacy and indoctrinated by Cold War mentality and because he is alerted by the fast development of China and agitated by anxiety, he has launched an all-out anti-China strategy, doubling down in trade war, technology sanction, military competition, etc. centered around the Indo-Pacific strategy. The wishful thinking is that the U.S., united with all its allies, can not only stop China’s growth but collapse her. However, the reality is that the U.S. allies may not be more united than China’s non-alliance trading partners. Take AUKUS, The U.K. Is a declining nation, not even a power anymore, Australia has little to offer but a desire to receive U.S. military technology. Its trade relationship is so dependent on China, it cannot help but turn around its China policy. Canada’s desire of joining AUKUS adds little politico-military value but cast an Anglo-Saxon racial bias aura.
Taking the Quad as a part of Indo-Pacific strategy, India has made its position pretty clear, intrinsically India adheres to a non-alliance principle. Joint military exercises to develop military skills are fine, counting India to take on a U.S. surrogate war is very questionable. The U.S. indeed has a tight grip on Japan and South Korea as allies, but their national hatred sowed from Japan’s near-century occupation of Korea far-outweigh their desire to get U.S. military (nuclear) technology and cooperate. In contrast, China has cultivated excellent relations with ASEAN countries, amended Saudi and Iran hostility, and promoted a fast economic development chain in Central Asia. The U.S. is now trying to emulate China’s BRI in Asia, but it may be too little and too late. Would the U.S. be able to build rail network for Saudi connecting to India? Why didn’t the U.S. build a high-speed rail network connecting Boston, New York, Washington, and Chicago in the first place?
Economic Analysis of Indo-Pacific Strategy
On the other hand, from the ‘economic view’ of the Indo-Pacific strategy, we see even more serious problems. First, the tariff or trade war with China is a failure for the U.S. China not only did not suffer but gained in trade with the U.S. The semiconductor sanction so far looks more like a pipe dream. Wishing Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea to sacrifice their trade with China to build a U.S. dictated supply chain simply violates most economic principles and damages all their self interests. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. investment gurus, 92-year-old Warren Buffet and 99-year-old Charlie Munger spoke in their shareholders' meeting: “Stupid, stupid, stupid to decouple with China….Apple is a living example ….”. Apple’s success depended on its world-wide supply chain and markets, disrupting that is like taking apart a huge Lego structure and rebuilding one without a blueprint.
American citizens are more followers than challengers in foreign affairs. Hence, under the influence of mass media, the anti-China strategy has become a mainstream view. However, political truth may take a long time to come out but eventually will surface. In the U.S.-China relations, the mass media has been controlled by the above ‘political view’ building a strong anti-China sentiment using several stories: “China stole our technology”, “cheated in trade”, “spreaded corona virus”, “violated human rights”, and “aggressor to other nations”. But examining the history, the world media has eventually revealed the truth: China is no different from other countries including the U.S. in technology development, going through learn-work-contribute phases, China is now the world's number one patent holder and applicator. According to WTO, China worked hard (not by cheating) to achieve its trade, lifting its poverty and earning wealth. China did not spread the virus but did the best job on saving lives. China had no concentration camps in Xinjiang nor invaded any other country.
The lies smearing China eventually vindicated her. The recent Russia-Ukraine war added further evidence that China is pro-peace. Its mediation resulted in Saudi-Iran building their diplomatic relations. China’s 12 point peace-proposal showed its sincerity in seeking a ceasefire and peace. The U.S. cannot help but turn around its opposition to China’s peace effort. Clearly, the EU citizens (and most of the third world) have learned the truth. They and their leaders have realized that China is a positive force to maintain world order and prosperity. This turn-around is going to influence the world including the Americans. Looking forward, it is likely that the American voters will wake up to the truth. The problem with the U.S. is internal politics, and the inability to deal with domestic issues effectively. The U.S. cannot blame other nations, especially China, for its decline in world influence. It would be a win-win as China advocated if the U.S. and China could truly work together rather than practice a hypocritical strategy such as the Indo-Pacific Strategy trying to divide the world into two polarized halves instead of working together for mankind.
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.