Beijing does not share the positive view of the president about U.S. efforts within the Indo-Pacific region. Beijing does not see the Indo-Pacific efforts of the United States in a positive light, despite President Biden’s rhetoric. China has made this very clear.
To a neutral observer, China appears to exist in a parallel universe with the United States. Both are unconnected. And what one says about its interests and aims, no matter how truthful and accurate, is lost in transmission.
The reason is the failure of different states and cultures to acquire sufficient knowledge and understanding of others. Many cultures and states, including the United States of America, believe that the strategic logic used in one area is universal. Since the end of World War II, too many U.S. administrations believed that other states reasoned as we did or needed education to bring them to our level.
American interventions in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, in which the U.S. attempted to overlay some form of its democracy, proved catastrophic failures. Ironically, courting Vietnam 50 years after the end of the war is a lesson in how history can change. The incidents of flying spy balloons above America, harassing warships in international waters, and aircraft operating within international airspace and water are not mere nuisances. Establishing “police” stations in America to monitor Chinese nationals and outright spying are not acts of friendship. China is also unwilling to have a serious discussion on important issues. China is America’s “pacing” threat, and Russia is its secondary threat. U.S. Military priorities have shifted towards the Indo-Pacific Region. The trip to India, Vietnam and Australia highlighted this. The U.S. is committed to six bilateral defense agreements or treaties in the region: the Quad, Taiwan Relations Act, and the AUKUS agreement (Australia, United Kingdom, U.S.). The recently signed AUKUS agreement (Australia, United Kingdom, U.S.) will provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines.
Finally and perhaps most significantly, Chinese economic policies are not transparent, fair or competitive. One example is its restrictions on foreign investments. China is trying to influence the international order by implementing the Global Security and Development Initiatives and the Belt and Road Initiative. The U.S. rejects China’s human rights violations and its strict control of Chinese residents’ behaviour, including online. China recognizes that members of Congress from both parties fear China as a major threat to the U.S. Sanctions, tariffs, limitations on technology and export controls under the guise of “small yard, high fence” are deeply offensive as well as economically crippling.
This has led China to substantially increase its nuclear and conventional forces with long-range missiles that can strike targets thousands of miles away and a more potent navy. It is to prevent another century of humiliation by foreign dominance. The outlook for U.S. China relations in the future is not positive, according to an objective observer. Biden sent several senior officials to Beijing in an attempt to improve the relationship. This hasn’t worked. Both sides should hope that the other side does not do anything stupid unless Biden and China’s Xi Jinping are able to reach a rapprochement like Richard Nixon and Mao Zedong. That is not the best basis for a happy outcome.
Harlan Ullman Ph.D. is senior advisor at Washington, D.C.’s Atlantic Council and the prime author of the “shock and awe” military doctrine. His 12th book “
The Five Horseman and The New MAD: Why Massive Attacks Of Disruption Have Become the Looming Existential Risk to a Divided Country and the World At Large
” is available on Amazon. He can be reached on Twitter @harlankullman.
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