The Chinese state Global Times newspaper published an opinion piece Wednesday sharply deviating from its typical belligerence against the United States, warning that “China is not ready” for competition with the U.S. and that Beijing “must learn from the U.S.” how to grow its economy.
Author Ai Jun’s article, “Is China ready to face direct competition with US?” responds to the title question with a resounding, “No.”
“It is time for China to start deliberating how to face up to direct competition with the US,” Ai advises. “Frankly speaking, China is not ready, since all it has been doing is focusing on its own development and its own growth.”
“Chinese people believe that although the country has become the world’s second-largest economy, a great gap still exists in regard to technology, military, education etc.,” the author notes.
The piece argues that the Chinese government was preparing for a direct challenge from the United States further in the future, when it had properly prepared for confrontation. Now, however, thanks to President Donald Trump, China will have to confront the threat without having the upper hand economically or politically. The United States, it continues, is “disappointed in itself” and the Trump administration is seeking an economic resurgence to boost national morale.
The article notably argues that China needs the United States to advance its economy. “[I]f Beijing wants to become self-sufficient in core technologies like artificial intelligence and electric automobiles and compete with Washington, it must first of all learn from the US.”
It also suggests that Trump’s “America First” policy is as nationalist as China’s policies. “Trump stresses America First doctrine and will not sacrifice US competence when interacting with China. The same goes for Beijing,” it notes.
“Hence China has some hard thinking to do over how to get stronger when the US deems it a major competitor,” the column concludes.
Ai’s assessment echoes, in part, a statement by China’s Ministry of Commerce on Thursday, urging the United States not to compete directly with China.
“Abandoning the Cold War mentality and hegemony, the world’s two largest economies would maintain win-win cooperation and mutual development, and together could push prosperity in the global economy,” Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said, according to the Global Times.
“China has never engaged in, and will never pursue so-called economic aggression policies,” Gao claimed.
President Trump’s National Security Strategy (NSS), published Monday, directly accuses China of such aggression. Calling China a “strategic competitor,” the document accuses China of, among other things, stealing “hundreds of billions of dollars” in American intellectual property; flooding America’s pharmaceutical markets with the deadly opioid fentanyl; using predatory lending practices to establish dominance over developing countries; and targeting its investing abroad to diminish American influence.
In noting that China must learn how to advance technologically from the United States, Ai’s Global Times piece appears to concede that China needs America’s intellectual property to compete on the world stage.
Another article in Chinese state-controlled media appears to take the same conciliary tone as Ai’s, though without conceding that China would lose any direct competition with America. “Nowadays, countries face common challenges and all people aspire to peace, which means the era of settling disputes through conflict has long passed,” writes Curtis Stone. Stone insists that evidence of China’s colonialist push across Asia and Africa exists only in the imagination of those influenced by the “ruthless history of the West and its long-standing goal to run the world.”
“Building a clean and beautiful community of shared future for humankind featuring enduring peace, universal security, common prosperity, and openness and inclusiveness is where the future lies,” the piece notes.
When the Trump NSS first came out on Monday, Chinese government media took a much more strident line, calling the strategy “unbelievable.” Stone, the People’s Daily columnist, declared it “a big joke.”
These newspapers were even more aggressive under President Barack Obama. The Global Times at one point even declared that “war is inevitable” between China and the United States.