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#AndrewSingerChina Newsletter Vol. 2, Issue 18

The American government, and by extension much of the American populace and media, tends to think of China as monolithic. We equate the Chinese Communist Party with China and vice versa. And we are sure we know what China wants to do (supplant America and rule the world). In fact, there are multiple voices in China discussing U.S.-China Relations. Today’s Issue looks at some of those voices.


Chinese Intellectuals on U.S.-China Relations

Photo by kayla-kozlowski-ECQ-3QXThAA-unsplash

Chinese academics, think-tankers, and more have opinions on China, on America, and on how China should best respond to the strategic competition between the two countries. Some of these voices argue for moderation and connectivity. Others argue for seizing and pressing economic and military advantages. The arguments range from theoretical to practical. All take the rivalry seriously and look beyond the superficiality of political rhetoric.

Professor Da Wei is a U.S. specialist at China’s Tsinghua University and director of the University’s Centre for International Security and Strategy. He wrote recently on how China should engage with America and the World. His “more moderate voice” in the U.S.-China rivalry argues that:

[China] should consider rising above US-China rivalry and focus on safeguarding and enhancing China's overall connectivity with the world….[A] high level of economic and social development in China cannot be achieved without the country being connected to the outside world, especially to the economies, technologies and societies of developed countries [including the United States]….By optimising China's domestic business environment, strengthening people-to-people and cultural exchanges between China and the US, and by encouraging local-level and province-state exchanges…, we can win over more China-friendly, China-knowing…and cooperative forces.

Professor Zheng Yongnian is the founding director of the Institute for International Affairs at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen. He recently wrote an article discussing how China should respond to America. Though he chastises America for her uncertainty, fear, focus on ideology, and hypocrisy, he promotes China’s continued connection to the West as the best approach:

When faced with China-demonizing based on ideology from the West, we need to do the simplest thing, namely resorting to facts, science, and reason.…[T]he United States and the West have more than one ideology, and not all people believe in the prevailing ideology in the public opinion sphere. China's openness provides a "seeing is believing" opportunity for different groups in the West. China should increase its openness to Western groups, including businesses, investors, media, universities, and research institutions. The changes in their understanding could render those ideological-based public opinions less effective.

Yang Ping, editor-in-chief of the Beijing Cultural Review and director of the Longway Foundation, discussed his view of the future world order during a recent speech before the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at China’s Renmin University. He said that decoupling is now inevitable as China is being actively pushed out of the existing U.S.-led world order. In the face of this, Yang argues that:

It is at this point that China is faced with the task of constructing a new type of international system that is not dominated by the West….[I]f we look a little further south, we will find a vast number of developing countries, the Third World and the countries of the global South. They should be our strategy’s depth….That is to say, [we should] build a new type of international relations and a new type of international system that has strategic depth and in which China and the countries of the global South are jointly integrated….

Zhao Yanjing is a professor of urban planning at China’s Xiamen University. He recently wrote an article entitled, What We Should Do in Response to American’s Technological Decoupling.” Among his suggestions for a China response to the U.S. Chips Act, he argues that China should:

  • “Pass a law stipulating that any technology that is prohibited from export to China by a sovereign country, as well as any technology for which the export application is rejected by the government, will see its patent protection in China automatically revoked.” He analogizes this in part to the American Patent Law of 1793 which provided that patents in America were limited to Americans only. As Zhao writes, “these are successful practices that China should emulate.

  • Looking again to American history, “[a]s early as 1788, the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, was instructed to set up a network of scientific and technological spies, whose mission was to bring advanced technology, equipment, and talent to the United States through monetary inducements, threats, and intimidation. Some of the practices put in place by the U.S. are still worthy of imitation today.

Zhao describes a snowball effect whereby as China attracts more talent and grows stronger, more Chinese will opt to return from abroad, which will in turn further fuel already high American suspicions of the Chinese in America, which will lead to even more returning to opportunity in China, which will “reverse the talent flow, leaving the U.S. with a shortage of talent, and the outcome of the U.S.-China technology war will be clear.

Given America’s nativist historical track record, e.g., the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882-1943), failure to join the League of Nations (1920-1946), the Japanese Internment Camps of World War II, the McCarthy Red Scare of the 1950’s, and more recent vilification of Japanese (1980’s) and Chinese (today), it is hard to argue that Zhao’s observation, while not guaranteed to transpire, may not be an astute one.

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In reviewing what China thinks, there are a number of important considerations, including our need to:

  1. Decipher convoluted Communist thought and jargon;

  2. Analyze what is and is not able to be published and promoted and where in a censorship environment; and

  3. Recognize how each government defines and interprets the same words, phrases, and concepts.

The profiles above are based on English translations, and I am indebted to the publishers and translators affiliated with Reading the China Dream, Sinification, Pekingnology, Ginger River Review, and others for making these more widely accessible. There is an even vaster wealth of discussion only in Chinese.


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