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Western countries must treat China as their equal

By Tom Fowdy | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-11-13 10:34

The global business environment has changed. With a population of about 1.4 billion and a rapidly growing consumer base, China has effectively become one of the largest markets in the world. This has brought lucrative rewards for companies in the United States. This has been bigger and better than anything the US itself can offer the competition.

China has effectively become a global business power which has inadvertently been taken as diluting US unilateral hegemony, thus providing a de facto challenge to the standard US position that it has undisputed right to universalize its values, even if that means challenging outright the sovereignty of another nation state. As a result, many US citizens have become surprised that many businesses are willing to accept China's connotation of sovereignty and in turn, are accusing Beijing of self-censorship.

These claims, however, are misleading. China is not interfering in US politics. Rather, it is requesting that US businesses do not interfere in its own politics, particularly those concerning sensitivities over sovereignty.

China is not suppressing free speech in the US. However, it is standing up for what it deems to be its own sovereignty and territorial integrity. This has been a consistent position since the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949.

China's stance on what can be described as "issues of national sovereignty" has not shifted since 1949. Having evolved out of the legacy of Western powers exploiting and dividing the country, modern China is driven by a belief that its sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity must be treated as urgent priority.

In today's world, many Western countries still refuse to treat China as an equal, believing that it is a subordinate which must be "shaped" to suit their ideological and political vision of what they think it should be.

Because of this, the issue of Hong Kong has proved sensitive, especially when protesters are holding US and British flags in rallies. Because the West, especially the US, universalizes its ideology as a rule applicable to the entire world, it believes it has a moral right to encourage the success of protesters in the city of China who seek to drive out the presence of the Chinese mainland entirely.

In turn, the movement has gained support among US politicians who have strived to weaponize it as a means to an end in their broader anti-China agenda, which explains why some politicians are ignoring repeated violence of protesters in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, such as stabbing a lawmaker in the chest on Nov 6, beating ordinary citizens with different opinions, and pouring flammable liquid on a resident and setting him on fire on Nov 11.

In the eyes of Beijing, the moves by US politicians are seen as effectively empowering separatism and disrespecting national sovereignty. Therefore, it has set clear limits on the issue.

Yet, China has not stopped US businesses or organizations from taking a stance on any domestic or exclusively US political issue. In this field, it remains impartial.

Thus, a better way of describing this situation is that from the mindset of its own dominance of the international system; some in the US are refusing to accept that China can exist equally and thus hold sway on its own terms, rather than being subordinate and unequal to the terms by which the US has set for it.

The US regularly forces countries around the world to obligate to unilateral sanctions and other stipulations which are exclusively in Washington's own interests and hold no international legitimacy. However, it seems unwilling to understand the fact that China seeks to defend what it deems as its own sovereignty from foreign powers. All China asks is that the US simply respects this position. Regardless, China will not change its consistently held emphasis on defending its territorial integrity.

The US must be willing to pragmatically understand China's position on this issue and treat it as an equal.

The author is a British political analyst, writer and columnist. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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