An editorial from China’s state-run Global Times on Thursday called for “peaceful co-existence” between the United States and China, a goal the Chinese evidently seek to achieve by insulting and belittling everyone who doubts the majestic benevolence of Beijing as a warmongering would-be conquistador.
The editorial begins by quoting freshly reconfirmed Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford warning Congress that “China probably poses the greatest threat to our nation by about 2025,” and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross “attacking China’s fast-growing robotics industry.”
The Global Times crew apparently got that line about Ross by cribbing the first line from the Financial Times report on his visit, without attribution. (Intellectual property theft is such a persistent problem with Communist China!) However, the Chinese paper did not bother quoting what Ross actually said:
Speaking to reporters in Hong Kong on Wednesday, after talks with top Chinese officials including Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing, Mr Ross singled out China’s substantial subsidies for industrial automation as an emerging threat to the US economy.
“Overcapacity is a big problem already and given the 2025 plan and the subsidies that it contemplates for a number of new industries, one of the worries that one has to have is that that may result in future overcapacity,” he said.
“For example in robotics, there apparently are something like 400 robotics companies in China right now and people in the industry tell me their estimate is that maybe 360 of those are in it to get the subsidies and tax breaks and are not really that serious about products.”
The Financial Times quotes Louis Kujis of Oxford Economics supporting Ross’ charge of overcapacity, which is a problem because it leverages authoritarian government power to distort global free markets. In essence, authoritarian states jump into an industry and pollute its clean capitalist waters by manipulating global supply, making it difficult for private industry to turn a profit.
Government power can be used in the short term to distort markets so badly that private competition over the long term becomes almost impossible. It is not just the Trump administration or American economists complaining about China’s habit of unleashing a horde of state-subsidized, state-protected “zombie companies” on industries they plan to take over.
China, of course, maintains that everyone who expresses such fears is a hopeless paranoid who just wants to discredit the miraculous flourishing of Chinese industrial might.
“China is working in its own way to improve its strength in key areas and at a pace commensurate with economic development. We neither turn our progress into head-on competition with the US nor challenge the US development mode and pace. Thus the logic of the US rebuking China threats often seems strange in Chinese society,” the Global Times insists with an innocent flutter of its editorial eyelashes, treating the very notion of Beijing’s aggressive economic warfare as an insane theory that took years for the bemused Chinese to understand.
“Chinese always bring up the philosophy of win-win cooperation with which Chinese civilization has endured throughout its long history of cultural convergence. But this is hardly understandable to Americans, probably because Western civilization always believes in absolute conquest or even the uprooting of the other side,” the Global Times sneers.
The editorial goes on to lecture that Chinese development to match or exceed the West in several areas is “unstoppable,” and the West can only hurt itself by “heading in a wrongheaded, self-defeating, dismal direction” and attempting to stop it.
“The U.S. needs to accept the win-win logic and work jointly with China and other powers to make the world a better place. This looks like abasement to some US elites who believe the US, stronger than other nations, should contain and crush China like it did the Soviet Union. But this approach will beget difficulties because Chinese society has much stronger cohesion than the Soviet Union. The US needs to get down to preparing for peaceful coexistence with China,” the Global Times advises.
That boast undersells the severe problems with Chinese “cohesion” bubbling up everywhere from Hong Kong to Xinjiang, home of the restless Muslim Uighurs, who were just instructed by Chinese authorities to hand over their Korans and prayer mats or face the consequences.
“While many ordinary Americans have realized the fundamental changes that globalization has brought to the world, the US elites should take a broader view and lead their country forward. They need to buy a new compass and try to see the world in three dimensions, not simply shadow every move China makes and declare it a threat,” the Global Times concludes.
That is the rhetorical tactic from China that must be rejected most vigorously: Not even the American China hawks with the broadest wingspans and sharpest beaks think everything China does is threatening. They think the moves are threatening, from physical aggression in the South China Sea to intellectual property theft on a breathtaking scale. They get the idea that China is working on a strategy of global conquest by listening to influential Chinese officials and academics talk about their strategy of global conquest.
American policy in the coming decades will not be built upon some unreasonable hypercompetitive cowboy desire to be seen as the biggest player on the planet for reasons of pure ego. The American economy faces profound challenges, both internal and external. Some of the external challenges are deliberate assaults, attempts to mutate the global economy in a way that will cause our internal stresses to explode—for example, by disrupting industries that will be needed to provide both jobs for the next generation, and an independent source of goods we can rely upon if certain global relationships with aggressive authoritarian powers turn sour.
The constructively competitive “win-win” environment China always talks about would be ideal, to be sure. Constructive competition requires playing by the rules.