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White House must stop portraying US as victim

By Jia Wenshan | China Daily | Updated: 2018-10-08 06:59
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US Vice-President Mike Pence addresses the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC, on October 4, 2018. [Photo/VCG]

On Oct 4, 2018, at the headquarters of the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC, Vice-President of the United States Mike Pence delivered a speech on the current US administration's policy toward China.

Presented in a very condescending way in the tone of a typical Christian missionary, his speech was full of fake and grapevine information about China's actions and second-guessing of its intentions in its engagement with the world, such as its Belt and Road Initiative, international media, Chinese students studying in the US, and so on.

Sloppy research leading to poor intelligence

Such suppositions were wrongfully deemed as "intelligence", on the basis of which a new and more confrontational China policy has been adopted by the United States. The reason for this is such information is likely to have been gathered from or provided by a few so-called "China hands" such as Michael Pillsbury and Peter Navarro whose knowledge of China is not only outdated and skewed, but also esoteric and unsystematic.

Moreover, their knowledge about China is not based on rigorous theoretical and methodological studying of contemporary studies, regional studies, and international/global studies. Most unacceptably, such thinking about China is characterized by both a deeply racial bias against China and an ideological agenda against China.

The China policy Pence advocated in his speech was aggressively anti-China in nature. It not only runs the risk of escalating the US-China trade conflict into an all-out collision, but also risks bringing the entire world to the brink of disaster.

Wolf crying wolf

Pence first tirelessly attempted to paint China as "an aggressor", "a predator" and "a meddler" in both the domestic affairs of the US and global affairs. For the first time in the entire history of the US, except the American Revolution, the Trump administration is playing the victim and prey in the name of the American people in front of the world audience.

By doing so, the vice-president proposed the isolation of China or decoupling, far beyond a trade war between the US and China, and put forward the Indo-Pacific Strategy of the US, which is likely to be more military than economic in nature, as an alternative to China's Belt and Road Initiative.

The aim of the anti-China policy outlined by Pence is clearly to tame and shape China within the US' preferred trajectory and retain the US hegemony-making it the real aggressor. It is common knowledge that the US has on average started almost one war per year during its entire history of 242 years. Acting in the name of being the world's police, and with close to 200 military bases still in operation on all corners of the globe, it has exerted its aggression against peoples and launched invasions of countries on all continents.

It has also been a master meddler in the elections of many countries around the world, with a record of 81 cases of such meddling from 1946 to 2000, as documented by Dov H. Levin, a Carnegie Mellon scholar. With this in mind, one can easily see that Pence's speech was merely the wolf crying wolf.

Upon further analysis, the rhetorical structure of Pence's speech belies the narrative structure of a typical Hollywood blockbuster movie: A villain emerges and his vices are all exposed; a savior, a hero, or a superhero emerges to fight against and defeat the villain.

In this case, Pence paints China as the "villain" while styling the US as the "superhero". Such a "good" versus "evil" narrative is symptomatic of the simplistic Western dualistic thinking that dominates the administration.

However, most Americans are more independent thinkers than the typical fans of President Trump's Apprentice shows or the congregation that is willing to lend an ear to Vice President Pence's sermons.

What is the goal of his remarks then? His remarks are intended to arouse and raise the level of the alertness of the American public toward China, so they consider it to be a threat that needs to be constrained and contained on all fronts. He tried to portray a situation that legitimized his call for a tougher approach toward China.

If Washington is in a state of anxiety about the future of the US and its future role in the world affairs, the White House and its advisers on China are obsessed with China as the biggest threat toward the "America First" policy.

As the November midterm elections inch closer, the current US administration is playing the China card harder and harder in a bid to win votes. But as Ryan Haas from the Brookings Institution wrote, even though a small Trump base supports a tougher approach toward China, the American public is less enthusiastic of a tougher approach over a long period of time and many disapprove of the administration's launching of a trade war with China.

What's next?

The 21st century must be steered into one of multilaterism and collaboration, a century of progress characterized by the construction of a community with a shared future for mankind. This is what China has been doing and fighting for many decades with the increasing support of many countries around the world, both developed ones and developing ones.

What should China do in response to the Trump administration's antagonism? In a conflict, when one party is in a frenzy, it is crucial that the other party remain cool-headed, so it would be inadvisable to meet aggression with aggression.

It is China's policy to create a peaceful future whose benefits are shared by the US and China, and all other countries. By rescinding its attacks on China and reversing its anti-China policy, the US can join China in realizing this shared future.

The author is a professor at Chapman University and a research fellow at the National Academy for Development and Strategy, Renmin University of China. The article first appeared on the website of CGTN.

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