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Monday, February 6, 2023

Halloween Special: China’s Geopolitical and Economic Challenge to the West

US-led Western foreign policy toward China is mired in contradictions. Are fears of a Chinese global takeover exaggerated?

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Jon Kofas
Jon Kofas
Retired university professor, lecturer, speaker, and published author, covering global issues, international relations, and diplomatic affairs

UNITED STATES: US-led Western foreign policy toward China is mired in contradictions. The United States and its allies are fully integrated with the world, also with the Chinese economy. However, they are bothered by China’s global economic rise, which is the result of their respective global integration. Therefore, the United States and its allies are turning to diplomatic and military mechanisms to stop China. But aren’t fears of a Chinese global takeover exaggerated?

Not only is global economic growth highly dependent on Chinese growth, but the US also relies on China to hold US government bonds that keep the dollar strong as a reserve currency, especially now that debt is headed much higher.

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The contradiction in the policy of the United States and the West hurts not so much China but the United States and its partners, who are faced with the reality that the capitalist class demands even closer integration. Because China is the world’s growth engine and needed to counter structural economic contractions, such as the one in 2008 that began in the US, China is the catalyst to mitigate recessions with its massive stimulating fiscal and monetary policy.

Despite this recognition, President Joe Biden and a host of other world leaders closely allied with the United States have opted for a global campaign to contain China by military means to curb its global economic ascendancy with geopolitical consequences.

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In 2000, Senator Joe Biden supported Clinton’s administration policy of normalizing trade relations with China by allowing it to join the World Trade Organization (WTO). Once elected president, Biden expanded on former President Trump’s antagonistic policy toward China.

In March 2021, Biden held talks with the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) that included Japan, Australia, and India as a counterweight to China. Invoking the imperialist open-door policy of William McKinley of 1899, the United States declared that it wanted Asia to be “free, open, inclusive, healthy, anchored in democratic values, and unconstrained by coercion,” a statement that cast China as a threat to Asia.

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In September 2021, the United States attacked a highly controversial nuclear submarine contract with France, upsetting the French government more than China as the target of Australia’s decision to acquire a nuclear force. The continued escalation in the South China Sea with a western naval presence was met with a firm Chinese response to countermeasures and announcements that Beijing will not accept the schemes of the United States and the West to use Taiwan as a pretext to instigate a conflict. Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen warned on October 4, 2021, that if the island nation falls under the control of Beijing, it will be catastrophic.

The statement came after some 150 Chinese aircraft flew over Taiwan airspace in response to the periodic US, Australian, and European naval presence in the South China Sea. A day after Taiwan’s warning about Chinese aggression, Biden and Xi Jinping agreed that the United States would abide by the Taiwan agreement. At the same time, Biden assured Taiwan that the United States remains committed to supporting its national sovereignty.

Tensions between Taipei and Beijing had reached dangerous levels in large part due to Biden’s escalation into a new Cold War in the South China Sea. Adopting the “one-China policy”, according to which the US officially recognizes Beijing instead of Taipei, as well as the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, which makes it clear that the US decision.

To establish diplomatic relations with Beijing instead of Taiwan based on the expectation that Taiwan’s future will be determined by peaceful means, Biden has finally withdrawn from the supposed collision course with China. As he raises the debt ceiling, Biden will need China to back the dollar by buying US Treasuries. However, China, as a nuclear power, cannot be intimidated by the military maneuvers of the United States and its allies in the South China Sea or by using Taiwan to provoke China.

Focused on global economic integration rather than military expansionism, China has repeatedly argued that reviving Cold War militarism is destabilizing for all parties involved. Under Biden, Trump, and Obama, the United States revived a version of William McKinley’s “Open Door Policy” by which the United States asserts its right to have power in both the Pacific and the Atlantic. The fundamental difference between 1899, when McKinley was president, and 2021 America under Biden is China’s rapid movement toward global economic ascent while the Pax American era is in twilight mode.

The central theme of the rivalry between the United States and the West with China is not the latter’s aggression towards Taiwan and naval expansion in the South China Sea, but the relative shift of the core of the world capitalist system from the United States to China and the Asian orbit. Thus, the geopolitical agenda is driven by overriding economic concerns, especially given the intense competition in high-tech, artificial intelligence, and biotechnology, as well as global competition for rare earth minerals and global markets that China dominates. Because the US-backed strategic bloc has nuclear weapons and the US spends ten times more on defense than the next ten competing countries combined, the geopolitical threat that China poses to the West is nothing more than a thin veil camouflaging the reality that within this decade it will outperform the US in nominal GDP; just as it currently surpasses the US as the world’s largest economy measured by PPP value.

Fearing the economic and political consequences of China’s rise to globalism, the United States is leading a coalition to stop China and force it to adopt Western neo-liberal policies in place of the quasi-statist that have contributed to its economic rise.

Western multinational corporations and finance companies continue to invest in China, undermining Western geopolitical policies. Despite the collision course and the divergence between China and the Western geopolitical containment strategy and economic expansion in mutual economic interdependence, the United States cannot free itself from the Cold War.

As a Cold War politician, Biden has shown that China is the next target. Perhaps, only to strengthen the military-industrial complex and maintain the glory of the Pax Americana. To achieve this goal, the United States has the support of both the Quad and NATO.

Since the disintegration of the Soviet bloc, the United States and the EU have clung to the historic transatlantic relationship through NATO. Common economic and geopolitical expansionist goals were at the core of this collaboration.

The rise of China to globalism has complicated the transatlantic alliance. The US nuclear submarine deal with Australia adds another layer to many in the anachronistic relationship rooted in the early Cold War that seeks enemies from jihadist terrorists to Russia and China.

The US snatched the Australian nuclear submarine contract from the French in September 2021, proving that the US is using the containment of China as a geopolitical problem to secure economic benefits for US-based corporations.

After this move, will the European Union be as cooperative as Biden hopes? Could the EU go its way because it also has an interdependent relationship with China?

EU foreign investment flows to China and the bilateral economic expansion between China and individual EU countries point to Europe moving away from the US.

The European Union is dependent on Russian energy and economically integrated with China. As the US focuses on containing China and Russia to curb Chinese global economic hegemony and the Russian role in determining the balance of power in Eurasia and the Middle East, it is not clear that the EU will always follow the example of the United States.

The United States and China will continue in contradictions as Biden and the presidents before him have demonstrated their inability to lead meaningful negotiations that could prevent the countries from further horror and destruction.

In the meantime, Wall Street will keep demanding higher profits which will reduce integration with China. Also, those focused on economic nationalism, militarism, and imperialism will require confrontational policy towards Beijing and will use every pretext from Taiwan and North Korea to human rights and naval operations in the South China Sea.

In the end, every citizen, regardless of nationality or origin, will ask ourselves: is it worth focusing so much on destruction rather than implementing half the efforts and means to maintain relative global peace?


  • Jon Kofas

    Retired university professor, lecturer, speaker, and published author, covering global issues, international relations, and diplomatic affairs

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