U.S. 'Cold War'
Against China Gives Way to War of Values (Huanqiu, People's Republic of China)
What is America's most effective weapon in its competition with the People's Republic of China? According to this editorial from China's state-run Huanqiu, it isn't the U.S. military or its Asia pivot, but American values, which have already found a very receptive audience among the Chinese people.
Hillary Clinton on Tuesday formally retired as U.S. secretary of state, and
John Kerry took over. Nominees for the heavyweight cabinet positions have
largely been determined: Chuck Hagel has been nominated
as secretary of defense; John Brennan for CIA director; and so on. In the past,
as far as China is concerned, the performance of these politicians can be said
to have been relatively modest.
But will this class of "newcomers" continue to hold
their moderate line toward China? It's hard to say. Thought leaders in the
United States do of course have an influence on bilateral relations, but
momentum is more important. Clinton used Cold-War thinking to deal with China,
which deepened mutual strategic suspicion. Now it is the turn of the "moderates."
They may be able to make a positive course correction, but their impact is unlikely
be more positive than Hillary's was negative.
A number of entangled interests and inertial forces characterize
Sino-U.S. relations. The bilateral relationship is filled with ups and downs,
but is also largely consistent. So generally speaking, the new cabinet will not
carry out policies significantly different from its predecessors.
Furthermore, U.S. cabinet changes now have less influence on
China. for one thing, China's power is growing and it has a bigger say when it
comes to bilateral relations. This makes it harder for U.S. leaders to act
arbitrarily and according to their individual preferences. Instead, they must
follow the law of interests.
During her tenure, Hillary Clinton pursued "smart power"
diplomacy toward China. Yet few of the relevant geopolitical outcomes amounted
to stronger alliances for the U.S., and in the face of various challenges, China
has shown greater resilience. A few years ago, China's people could hardly have
imagined being in simultaneous dispute with such a wide range of parties in the
South and East China Seas, but now we see that this is nothing serious. China
has gradually accumulated the experience it needs to manage territorial
China had been concerned over the past few years that the U.S.
would actively seek to contain China's development. Under Hillary's diplomacy,
however, it became clear that the United States had limited resources to do so.
The possibility of treating China in the Cold War fashion it had treated the
Soviet Union has gradually diminished.
So in the context of Sino-U.S. relations, America's handiest
method of struggle is the "values offensive." In this respect, the
United States has many avenues for penetrating China. Furthermore, the Chinese
public has a very low level of resistance to these values, and in fact is
widely receptive to them. One of the alterations in Chinese thought is that it
has become increasingly difficult for people to distinguish which values have
entered from the West. People often naively welcome them, and many of these
ideas have now taken root here.
process of increasing social pluralism in China continues to provide new energy
for the country's progress, but it also implanted some very odd uncertainties. The
Chinese state and mainstream society on the one side and the United States and
the West on the other will in the future compete over the hashing out and
managing of these uncertainties.
Kerry and the rest of Obama's new cabinet are likely to
take a less militarily aggressive strategy toward China and maneuver in other more
practical ways, but in its ideological competition, the United States will not
This isn't even an issue of foreign policy. It is simply an
irresistible impulse - a natural reaction - for the United States to use its
cultural and political advantages in the face of China's rise. Ideology and
values are the West's biggest advantage.
Whether or not Chinese society and politics shows the courage
of its convictions will be of decisive significance. If it does, the powers
that be in the United States and the West will be more fearful of friction. On
the other hand, if Chinese resolve is erratic, the West will increasingly have
the upper hand.
After all, America's so-called
"values superiority" is a result of hundreds of years of development.
If China can successfully defuse this pressure, the nature of competition with
the West will have fundamentally changed.
How Obama's new cabinet deals with China is important, but
China's own attitude is even more so. The trends of Sino-U.S. relations will be
shaped far more by the communications and social interactions between Chinese
and American societies than the bilateral engagements of government ministries.