Happy New Year to our readers!
When we looked back 2021 reviewing the foreign affairs on the world stage, we saw familiar and new intensified issues, democracy versus authoritarianism, impact of climate change, new waves of pandemic threat (not only on human health and lives but also on people's productivity and world economy), besides trouble spot like Ukraine, the U.S.- China conflict escalated and caught the world's attention in multiple domains ranging from trade, technology sanction, vaccine competition, and all sorts of diplomatic confrontations including Winter Olympic Games, military exercises, formation of alliances, and most acutely US-China tension creating a new Cold War and fighting a 'fake' ideology battle. It is a taunting task to do a comprehensive review in this column, but the author felt obligated to write a brief review for our readers for the purpose of cleansing some fake news in the mass media and most importantly sending a new year message to our column's readers.
After a week of searching, reading and reflecting, the author selected the following topics to do a review and comments for 2021. I must confess that I have taken a short cut by reviewing the briefings and tabulations of top issues discussed and published in some key publications such as Time, The Economists, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policies and the like. Comparing to many American newspapers and journals, The Economists still retained significant objectivity in its essays on foreign affairs (although, on China issues, it had shown some bias in alignment with the West media's assault on China). Hence this review is following the chronological order of The Economists' briefings to select the more important world issue to review and comment. Obviously, the selection is tilted towards US-China relations for this column. Hopefully, this review will give our readers a quick grasp of what had happened on the world stage in 2021 with comments balanced with organic view, particularly on issues related to the U.S. and China.
Biden Set for Putin Call to Ease Ukraine Standoff. (Foreign Policy, Dec. 29) Ukraine is the most troubled spot today with more than 100,000 Russian troops dispatched at its border. This is the second Putin-Biden phone conversation which clearly signals the urgency of resolving the tension at Ukraine and other US-Russia conflicts. The post phone call press announcement revealed little substance leaving the public to guess what it may happen. Following the increased interactions between Russia and China in response to the U.S. anti-China and anti-Russia measures, we may speculate that the Putin initiated phone call may contain an ultimatum on stopping US-NATO's involvement in Ukraine. The U.S. and Russia must respond to the Ukraine issue as carefully as they did in the Cuban missile crisis except the bluffing is now reversed.
Joe Biden’s Democracy Summit Is the Height of Hypocrisy (Time, Dec. 10, 2021) . There are no post Democracy Summit essays offering positive comments. On the contrary, there are pleas for efforts to save democracy. This diplomatic summit did not accomplish any goal of forming a big alliance against China, but it might have aroused some self-reflection on democracy. Ideology battle may be proven futile.
The world that the West built after Pearl Harbor is cracking (The Economists, Dec. 11). This article reflects a British sentiment remembering her glorious days before WW II and her desire to remain an influence on the world stage with the U.S. But the world has changed, the U.S. as a superpower has become weary. She needs new adrenaline but not by blaming others or getting it from a declining UK.
Omicron looks ominous. How bad is it likely to be? (The Economists, Dec. 4) Predicting the impact of corona virus is clearly difficult. Control, manage and prevention are the norm to stay. More effort on Vaccine distribution to the world should be our goal in view of China's world distribution of 2 billion dosages of vaccines. Cooperation should not be viewed as losing face.As America retreats, regional rogues are on the rise. (The Economists, Nov. 27) Retreat from Afghanistan is obviously not a solution to a problem. Smaller menaces are indeed throwing their weight around more brazenly than ever before. It is time for China, Russia and the U.S. to treat the Middle East as a common concern moving forward, focusing on humanitarian issues and not geopolitics.
Vladimir Putin has shifted from autocracy to dictatorship. (The Economists, Nov. 13) The article says that Russians across the country are feeling the heat. Obviously it is an ideological wish. Whatever way leaders of countries gain power, they must be able to lead and benefit the people. Equating democracy to periodic voting oversimplifies the criteria of good governance which deserve serious rethinking in all nations, China, Russia, the U.S., U.K., ... especially South Korea, Philippines, Brazil and Kenya subject to term limits for new election in the new year before the mid-term election in the U.S.
How the world learns to live with COVID-19. (The Economists, Oct. 16) Winter 2025 with luck could be normal, from pandemic to epidemic. World's health systems are under strain. Cooperation between nations are imperative, we hope that the U.S. and China will begin to cooperate for mutual and world benefits from COVID to other domains..
AUKUS reshapes the landscape of Indo-Pacific, a major submarine deal underscores how the new theater for great-power competition is maritime. (The Economics, Sept. 25) The view outside of AUKUS is pessimistic and negative. The deal alienated France to offer nuclear submarine to India and provoked China to possibly bring nuclear defense to South China Sea where ASEAN countries want no part of it. Should American citizens worry about AUKUS, seeing paper, 'Don't sink the nuclear submarine deal – the benefits of AUKUS outweigh the proliferation risks', appears (Foreign Affairs Web, Sept. 27)?
The Taiwan Temptation, why Beijing might resort to force. (Foreign Affairs July/Aug 2021) Taiwan has become a hot spot largely because the U.S. has shifted her China policy to find any means (Taiwan card) that may stop China's fast rise. Many Chinese Americans disagrees with this FA assessment. Taiwan's economy is heavily dependent on China, only contributing to China's economy like a small province of China. There is no strong incentive for China to take over Taiwan with force risking stability and management challenges. The U.S. can't afford to have a war in Taiwan Strait and arms sale to Taiwan only gets limited benefits, hence, the author feels that the Taiwan card will be discarded soon after the U.S. realizing its futility.
The roots of cultural genocide in Xinjiang, China's imperial past hangs over
Three degrees of global warming is quite plausible and truly disastrous, rapid emission cuts can reduce the risks but not eliminate them. (The Economists, July 24) Even though 2021 was comparatively cool, the global weather behavior was disconcerting with storms and floods in Europe and China displacing hundreds of thousands people from home. The world should be glad to see the U.S., China and the globe cooperating in fighting climate change rather than echoing fabricated 'genocide' story. Xinjiang's fast development is the envy of the Muslim world.
Joe Biden is determined that China should not displace America, his China policy is looking even tougher than Donald Trump’s. (The Economists, July 17) Rush Doshi, a scholar at Brookings Institute, argues that China has worked for years to undermine America's geopolitical dominance. Dr. Wordman does not believe so, the Chinese history did not have the genes of West hegemony. In contrast, pursuing harmony to the extent of using marriage union to resolve confrontation had often been applied in Chinese foreign policies. The U.S. will be better off not to use its own behavior and geopolitical philosophy to judge China.
China’s growing military confidence puts Taiwan at risk, all-out conflict may not feel imminent, but America is deeply concerned. (The Economists, May 1) The U.S. should not repeat the history of the Korean War. AUKUS may be a good political gesture, but the U.S. should not fight for UK, Australia or Taiwan since there is no assurance for victory nor real benefit to the U.S. China, practicing her own democracy, is not like North Korea. So long China maintains economic growth, she will be a rival power deserving fair respect.
China is not just shackling Hong Kong, it is remaking it, and it does not think global finance will object. (The Economists, Mar. 18) This observation is correct. It is about time, the British should wake up from her colonial dream. Hong Kong is a part of China not attached to London stock exchange. China was patient in transforming Hong Kong back to her sovereignty rather than maintaining it as a British colony.
In no region is China’s influence felt more strongly than in South-East Asia, the region has a complex relationship with its giant neighbor. (The Economists, Feb. 27) The aggressors invaded China and Indo-China in the past. Some apologized and some never showed remorse believing that the past should be forgotten. The colonialist idea of pushing Hong Kong or Taiwan towards independence is rubbing salt on China's wound. The Chinese people in SE Asia, like the Jews experienced the holocaust, will stick together. The RCEP taking effect in the new year will show that.
The party that failed, an insider breaks with Beijing. (Foreign Affairs, Jan./Feb. 2021) The mass media influenced by government and Congress often like to feature Chinese dissidents to attack China as if any Chinese said bad things about the CCP would automatically be credible. Cai Xia gave a detailed personal account of her struggle in siding with ideology and leadership in China, eventually she identified with Jiang Zemin's reform, challenging the CCP conservatives. Finally she selected to live in the U.S. to be a dissident, but she is just one of 1.4 billion Chinese. The majority of Chinese gave CCP especially Xi Jinping very high approval ratings. Wouldn't we say that the CCP party succeeded or improved under our democratic standard?
Trade wars and technology sanctions between the U.S. and China are not likely to stop quickly since they are part of the fundamental competitions between the two great nations. However, the COVID pandemic is putting a strain on the world economy including that of the U.S. and China. Looking back in 2021, the inflation impact on cost of living has been an obvious concern, apparently more so in the U.S. Therefore, we may expect the two countries to begin a new round of trade negotiations in 2022 to make repairs to economy barring any fake ideological squabble triggering a senseless military confrontation. Looking forward to 2022, the author is cautiously optimistic that the U.S. - China relations which had fallen to the bottom of a cliff has only one way to go up. To that end, the author would like to offer the following messages to fellow citizens, especially Chinese Americans:
No doubt, the U.S.-China relations is reaching the worst point since the era of Korean War. The current tension is partly due to the result of the fast rise of China (becoming the number two economy of the world) pressuring the U.S. economy. As China is moving up in her industrial and manufacturing sectors in technology content, she is causing competition with the U.S. However, this type of competition is quite natural happened numerous times between industrial nations since the beginning of industrial revolution. The other part of tension is due to ideological differences, namely communism versus liberalism. Tracing the history, we have seen China and the U.S. both changing over time, with China abandoning Stalinist communism and gradually embracing capitalism and the U.S. making transformation and absorbing gradually some socialism. These changes are converging in nature, hence the two great nations are both seeking improved governing system suitable to their people. Therefore, the tension created by ideological arguments are artificial and irrational to large extent, but unfortunately they can be inflamed to intensify and compound whatever tension (due to natural economic competition). This is happening right now driving US-China tension to a dangerous point.
The mass media is at fault for the above phenomenon. Many people, especially the Chinese American communities, exposed to the organic media, do recognize this phenomenon. However, they choose to be silent or lack of means in facing the mass media. One often hears that the Chinese Americans complain that their second, third or fourth generation decedents often side with the mass media in promoting the anti-China fake news even though they have never been to China, Hong Kong or Xinjiang as their elders have. When Chinese American family members meet, they refrain from discussing politics such as US-China relations for being afraid of damaging family relations. Chinese are generally less vocal about politics and they often choose to be silent when confronted with issues, for example, on the issue of the justice department profiling liberally 'all' Chinese American scholars and scientists as spies for China, many choose to be silent. This is absolutely wrong in a liberal democratic society. This author urges all Chinese Americans to be vocal, speaking up about anti-China fake news and discrimination as well as trying to convince people around you with evidence. If you chose to be silent now, you might regret later when the U.S. and China broke out to war for any irrational reason or a trivial event.
Speaking up about the truth is not unpatriotic. In fact, when truth is understood and misunderstanding is avoided, chances of war, discrimination and hate crime will be reduced. If anyone made effort on that, he or she is patriotic.
Dr. Wordman wishes you Happy New Year of 2022. In this column, he would like to leave you a message: Be patriotic and speak up about the truth. Shatter those fake news causing unnecessary US-China tension. The U.S. and China are two great nations separated by big ocean with no territorial dispute. The people are peace loving. The two rich and resourceful countries can compete and can cooperate to make progress for mankind! Let's say Our new year resolution is to work together to make that happen!