The recent publication of the notorious “Kremlin list” that is to become the basis of yet another round of anti-Russian punitive measures planned by the White House, was empowered by the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. This law proclaims Russia to be an official enemy of Washington, along with North Korea and Iran.
However, various political figures in Washington are declaring China yet another “enemy” of the United States, in addition to the above mentioned three states. Additionally, this notion can be found in the latest revision of the National Security Strategy (NSS) that was signed by President Donald Trump at the end of the last year. In this paper, China is accused of using allegedly predatory economic practices and bellicose actions in the South China Sea designed as a means of intimidation of its neighbors. Curiously enough, Washington is convinced or at least pretends to be convinced that Russia and China are “revisionist” states seeking to challenge the existing status quo that suits American interests, as stated in the NSS.
Similar notions were voiced by Trump during his annual State of the Union Address, in which he would describe both Russia and China as rivals who “challenge” the interests and values of the United States.
The Director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo was even more straightforward in his assessments, highlighting the fact that the People’s Republic of China is the principal threat to the US within the international arena. Perhaps Pompeo’s straightforwardness was prompted by the recent detention of a Chinese American, Jerry Chun Shing Lee who was employed by the CIA until 2007. The CIA believes that Lee could be responsible for numerous disappearances and murders of US agents in China in 2010-2012 and could expose the entire American intelligence networks in China and Russia to their respective governments.
Therefore, the ongoing investigation by the US Congress and the FBI has a clear goal of representing China’s posture in the world as dangerous, as this country can be characterized by its constantly growing wealth and power, as it’s been noted by The Washington Post. It’s been noted that a joint group of US intelligence agencies are studying China’s activities in the world in a bid to establish its actions beyond traditional espionage and can be described as unconventional secret operations aimed at spreading Beijing’s influence in the world.
It’s clear that the Chinese boogeyman is now an integral part of Trump’s policies he’s planning to abuse in clear hopes of staying in office until the very end of his term, and, quite possibly to try to prepare voters for his future re-election in 2020.
Today, the confrontation between Washington and Beijing can be observed across all continents. Even in Latin America, the US president will find it difficult to persuade states to align with Washigton instead of Beijing if he doesn’t stop describing local states as “shit holes”.
China’s influence in Latin America, which US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and a number of his colleagues describe as pivotal for the United States is growing steadily. In 2000, the share of US imports to Latin American was reaching 50% out of all the good imported, now it barely reaches 33%. According to a study conducted by the Inter-American Development Bank, China’s share in Latin American imports rose from 3% to 18% over the same period of time.
In his recent speech on Washington’s policies in Latin America, Rex Tillerson tried to accuse China of attempts to drag the region into the orbit of its influence, adding that Latin America was in no need of new imperial powers. What Tillerson failed to mention was the fact that Trump was responsible for the deterioration of US-Latin American relations. According to a recent poll conducted by Latinobarómetro, Trump’s popularity rating in the region on a scale of 0 to 10 reached a record low of 2.7 points.
As La Nacion Argentina notes, while Trump insults Latin America, China is seeking ways to please local political forces. Over the past four years, President Xi Jinping has visited the continent three times, while Trump is yet to pay his first visit to Latin America. China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has made tours across South America twice in the last 15 months, and Rex Tillerson was to arrive to the region for the first time as State Secretary in early February. So if the US really wants to establish relations with Latin America, it needs to start promoting a positive agenda, instead of insulting its population. Against this backdrop, it’s hardly surprising that Latin American countries are willingly accepting the prospect of cooperation with the constantly smiling Chinese.
After officially declaring Beijing a threat to its interests, the White House has started preparations aimed at countering China’s influence around the world. Clearly, sanctions are on the cards, as Washington is going to try to use the scenario it has been using against Russia. It’s no secret that Washington releases reports on the observance of human rights in certain countries annually, in which China is constantly criticized. However, Beijing publishes its own reports on human rights challenges in the US, in which human rights violations are carefully observed and listed. Such criticism, as well as condemnation of China’s actions in the South China Sea, can already serve as a basis for personalized American sanctions against certain members of the Chinese establishment, along with sanctions against those Chinese companies that are interested in investing in the American market.
In fact, those have been in place already, even though they haven’t been officially announced. Washington has repeatedly criticized Chinese telecommunications companies such as Huawei and China Mobile, which were interested in expanding into the US market. Washington has simply prohibited US-based companies from cooperating with their Chinese counterparts. There’s been propositions to punish Chinese investors for their attempts to invest in port infrastructure across the United States voiced in Washington.
America’s ties with China are too tight to be broken overnight, as the trade turnout between the two states reaches 600 billion dollars. But it’s unlikely that this little fact will stop the Trump administration, as it prefers to take a triggerhappy approach over the tactics of discussions and negotiation.
Martin Berger is a freelance journalist and geopolitical analyst, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”