If China responds to the slew of recent US provocations in a combative style and defines Pence’s speech as a declaration of a Cold War, then a new Cold War may become a reality. Should China just endure the insult and back down? Surely not.
China must steadfastly safeguard its legitimate rights and interests ranging from trade to defense and take countermeasures against US provocations. We need to refrain from escalating friction with the US and exaggerating the atmosphere of strategic confrontation. We cannot allow the conflict with the US to dominate China’s foreign relations or to direct where China’s governance will be heading.
No matter how many hostile reports and speeches come out of Washington, we must view the US, the biggest influencer of China’s development, in a rational manner without being misled emotionally. The US has never been as kind to China as Pence said. Neither has China been ungrateful for US kindness. Since the First Opium War until the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the country had undergone miserable times. The US played a complicated role in China’s fate during this period. The US grew to be the world’s No. 1 power but didn’t change China’s fate.
Since former US president Richard Nixon reached out to China, the two countries began to forge an equal relationship. Despite friction and setbacks, the US has played a constructive role in China’s development. China also played a positive role in the development and security of the US. China-US reconciliation bolstered the US advantage over the Soviet Union in the final phase of the Cold War. China-US cooperation consolidated global leadership of the US in the globalization era.
The friction and competition between China and the US so far have been the most moderate between an established power and a rising power in history. The two have basically controlled mutually strategic suspicions and economic and security frictions. As long as the two don’t head toward military confrontation, any quarrel and friction can be controlled.
The US in fact has limited leverage to contain China. A trade war will inevitably damage the US and is a stupid choice. It’s unrealistic to establish a NATO-style organization to target China. It is impossible to isolate and contain China given its expanding business overseas and domestic markets.
It’s difficult for the White House and Congress to mobilize an anti-China campaign in US society. Gone are the days when the public was willing to take a plunge for the so-called national interest. As long as China keeps calm in the face of hysterical US political elites, the so-called Cold War will not take shape.
At such a time, China should play tai chi with the US. This is the unique strategic wisdom of the Chinese nation. We must make the US feel the pain of the trade war and not allow the US to act unscrupulously in the South China Sea and Taiwan Straits. But we must act in a calm way. China will continue to open up. A deteriorating outside world will not change that.
China is not the Soviet Union. The US cannot deal with China as it did with the Soviet Union.