Opinion / Chen Weihua

Some in US obsessed with geopolitics

By Chen Weihua (China Daily) Updated: 2017-07-01 09:13

Some in US obsessed with geopolitics


That some people in Washington still see China-US relations as a zero-sum game is surprising, to say the least.

At a talk on Chinese direct investment in Latin America held at the Atlantic Council on Monday, Brazilian Ambassador to the United States Sergio Amaral spoke very highly about China's fast-growing trade with Latin America and investment in the region. Chinese investment, Amaral said in his keynote speech, has diversified rapidly into infrastructure and service sectors. A report released the same day said the same thing.

I have interviewed Amaral both in the US and Brazil. As a former chairman of Brazil-China Business Council, he is well versed in Sino-Latin American relations. No wonder his views were corroborated at the talk by Gerardo Mato, chairman of HSBC Global Banking and Markets for the Americas, and Angel Melguizo, head of the Latin American and Caribbean Unit of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Both praised China-Latin America relations.

However, in her speech, Claire Reade, assistant US trade representative for China from 2008 to 2014, expressed concern that the US' "little brothers" in Latin America might shift to China and claimed Beijing's involvement in the region was not as a selfless global leader but to fulfill its self-interests. Claiming that China's move is to influence global rules, Reade said: "China talks about win-win, but many in China have zero-sum game viewpoint."

Her words reminded me of the slanderous comments about China's role in Africa and Latin America by former US president Barack Obama and secretary of state Hillary Clinton when they visited the regions a few years ago. US politicians are often critical of China's involvement in African and Latin American countries, even though the local people seem happy with it.

Reade is right that China is indeed trying to influence global rules, but only to make them better for emerging and developing countries that did not have much say in rule making in the past.

China is not selfless either; it seeks mutually beneficial ties with Latin American countries. Besides, if China were to turn all the loans into grants, Reade might then accuse it of buying influence.

Despite the geopolitical distance, China is quickly catching up on its relationship with Latin America. And there is no reason for US politicians to see this as China's geopolitical wrestling with the US, unless they still regard Latin American countries as their "little brothers" or "backyard" according to the so-called Monroe Doctrine.

Latin America is big enough to accommodate China and the US. The region will benefit if both countries increase their trade and direct investment in the region. The same is true for the Asia-Pacific.

When the Pew Research Center released its survey showing a plummeting US global image at the Brookings Institution on Tuesday, Ely Ratner, a former Obama administration official, claimed that it matters because "the US is in an emerging geopolitical competition with China".

Also, he asserted that Asia has great confidence in US democracy despite the survey results showing that 46 percent of the people disliked the US' ideas about democracy, with only 43 percent saying they liked them.

Reade and Ratner might be deeply frustrated with US President Donald Trump's policies, but to criticize China for its active and positive engagement in Latin America and the Asia-Pacific mirrors the zero-sum mentality the Obama administration exhibited in its attitude toward the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

It is okay to criticize China, but if done without a valid reason, it will only discredit such criticisms.

The author is deputy editor of China Daily USA.


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