As China has made it clear that it is willing to cooperate, the onus is on the US side to change its current confrontational approach.
On Feb 21, 1972, then president Richard Nixon paid a visit to China, which heralded the normalizing of Sino-US relations. The trip broke the long-term isolation of China and ended the confrontation between China and the United States. This has had a very important impact on the two countries and the whole world. Although there have been many twists and turns in Sino-US relations since the historic visit, on the whole, relations between the two countries have not deviated from the track of normal development, and the economic, social and cultural ties between the two countries have continually deepened, which has made important contributions to peace and development all over the world.
However, the US policy toward China began to undergo drastic changes after Donald Trump became the US president in 2017. The Trump administration not only defined China as the largest strategic competitor of the US for the first time, but also publicly announced that the long-term strategy of engagement with China had failed, and the theme of the current US policy toward China is competition between great powers. After taking office, Biden inherited Trump’s China policy and has continued to adopt a tough policy toward China. He is also pursuing a democratic alliance strategy, trying to leverage the advantages of the US’ alliance network to co-opt its allies and partners into its containment strategy targeting China. The incumbent Joe Biden administration continues to use the South China Sea and human rights issues to create trouble for China, but the most dangerous thing it is doing is risking China’s redline on the Taiwan question being crossed.
Since the US engagement strategy with China is now history, the cooperative relationship established by China and the US in the years following Nixon’s visit to China is now facing a severe test. The US needs a strong external opponent to create domestic consensus and strengthen its control over its ally system. However, it is folly for the US to challenge China on issues related to China’s core interests.
At present, the US is facing a series of serious problems at home and abroad. At home, it faces problems such as weak economic growth, high inflation, political polarization, racial conflicts and intensified social divisions. The failure of the Trump administration and the Biden administration to bring the COVID-19 pandemic under control has highlighted the current difficult situation faced by the US government. On the international stage, the US has stretched its hands too far, interfering in the internal affairs of other countries and constantly provoking conflicts, which has seriously consumed its national strength. At the same time, its long-term unfair position on the Palestinian-Israeli issue has already aroused widespread dissatisfaction in the Muslim world, and its crackdowns on Russia, Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are also constantly triggering responses from these countries. Under such circumstances, if the US continues to treat China as its main opponent and continues to provoke and suppress China, once China comprehensively counters its moves, the US will face more difficult days. So, choosing to contain China is a high-risk approach for the US.
At present, the world is facing many common challenges such as climate change, terrorism and the spread of infectious diseases. To solve these problems, the US needs to cooperate with China and join hands with the international community.
On Jan 1, 2022, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in an article: “The year 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of president Nixon’s visit to China. The two countries should review the spirit of that ice-melting trip, follow through on the common understandings reached between the two heads of state, observe the three principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation, abide by the three China-US joint communiques, steer the US’ China policy back to reason, and bring China-US relations back on the right track.” It can be said that China has continually displayed goodwill toward the US, and has also raised expectations for the relationship between the two countries to return to the right track.
Therefore, China’s position and attitude are very clear, and the ball is in the US court. In the near future, Biden will release a formal National Security Strategy, and the Pentagon will also release documents including the new US National Defense Strategy. These documents will define clear principles and goals for the US’ foreign strategy, and therefore will have an important impact on its China policy.
Although the contents of the Biden administration’s new National Security Strategy are unlikely to deviate seriously from the Interim National Security Strategy Guide issued by Biden in March 2021, we still hope that the Biden administration can take a more constructive position in defining US policy toward China, instead of continuing along the road of containing China and provoking confrontation.