In the last third of April, the US Congress once again marked itself with a series of anti-Chinese actions. We are talking about, above all (but not only), the bill with the telling title of Strategic Competition Act 2021, prepared by representatives of both parties in the US Senate, the highest legislative body.
Let us note in advance the destructive role of Congress in recent US foreign policy. Let us refer, for example, to a series of previous (and forthcoming) legislative acts, one way or another, affecting the Taiwan problem, which dramatically complicate US-Chinese relations.
Let us also point out the educational work done by the House Foreign Relations Committee “among” Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the eve of his trip to Anchorage to meet with his Chinese counterparts. Not surprisingly, on the first day of negotiations, he behaved in an extremely incongruous manner. So, too, was his government colleague Lloyd Austin in US-friendly India, who unpleasantly surprised his hosts by bringing up the same (not in his specialty) “human rights” issue in the talks.
And yet Congress is not at all a gathering of the country’s political monsters. Its activities reflect to a significant extent the public mood, whose level of primitiveness and mythologizing in the United States is hardly higher than in other countries. Everywhere and always, the average citizen mass is ready to attribute the source of their own problems to “external forces”.
Sometimes a “signal from above” is enough. What did the previous administration say was the cause of the catastrophic development of the coronavirus pandemic in the US? — That it was “the Chinese virus,” for the spread of which Beijing must pay a real price. It is not surprising that groups of “politically ignorant” people in the United States have engaged in acts of mayhem directed against Chinese communities.
Often confusing them with representatives of other Asian ethnic groups. In Los Angeles, a 44-year-old Japanese teacher at a local high school, a longtime resident of the city, was exposed to such an act. Some “unknown person” hit her on the head with something in the street, damaging her facial bones and knocking out two of her teeth. Apparently, she has been confused with a Chinese woman, because Japan and the Japanese in the US are viewed very positively (up to 84%, according to a recent poll). Note, by the way, that the level of affection Americans have for the Japanese is much higher than the latter have for the former. Of which we can (if the occasion arises) talk about separately.
So what has the US Congress (in this case, its Senate) “designed” this time with regard to the PRC? — A great deal. Almost every major aspect of Washington’s foreign policy, subtitled “Addressed to the People’s Republic of China,” is touched upon in nearly 300 pages of the document submitted for approval. It also spells out its binding provisions in relation to the main geopolitical opponent in the form of Beijing. Only a sequential list of chapters, paragraphs, and clauses takes several pages.
In the most general terms, the significance of this legislative initiative was outlined by one of its authors, Democratic Senator Robert Menendez. By the way, he comes from a family of Cuban immigrants, which illustrates the well-known thesis that there are no bigger chauvinists than former “oppressed foreigners“. Robert Menendez believes that his proposed legislation would be the first in a series that would follow. Together, they will aim to provide a legal framework for “responding to China’s challenge” in all areas of interstate relations, such as “politics, diplomacy, economics, innovation, defense, and even culture.”
In fact, this last phrase is the first fundamental thesis of the entire document, which now accuses the main geopolitical opponent in the use of all these areas in order to achieve a competitive “almost equal” status with the United States. Of course, the American elite cannot forgive such “insolence”. For this reason, there was expressed the intent to oppose such a prospect in every possible way.
The process of discussing the draft of this piece of legislation had some notable side effects. In particular, the senators were again concerned about how to spoil the future celebration in Beijing in connection with the next Winter Olympics, scheduled for February next year, which should be held just in China. The notorious “Uighur genocide” in Xinjiang, about which Washington is waging an anti-Chinese propaganda war together with Brussels, was seen as a suitable excuse.
Note, however, that the current US executive branch is still trying to leave itself some leeway outside of the domestic political anti-Chinese paranoia that is widespread, again, not only among the ruling elite. In particular, on the issue of participation in the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, as early as February of this year there were signals from the new administration that it disagreed with the initiative of a number of its own and Canadian parliamentarians to boycott it. On April 6, the State Department denied rumors that such a boycott was being discussed with allies.
But all this does not diminish the anti-Chinese activity in the United States. On April 21, the so-called “Commission on International Religious Freedom” (created as an “independent” organization in the late 1990s by the same Congress) appealed to US administration officials not to travel to the opening ceremony of Winter Olympic Games 2022.
Note also that this office had “spoiled much blood” of American foreign policy planners. In particular, this applies to the Indian direction, which is highly relevant to Washington. Apparently, after receiving the aforementioned “recommendation,” someone in the administration was rather generous with their strong statements (not too loud, of course, that would be dangerous) about the book and its authors.
But the political opponents of the Democrats in power did not miss the opportunity to give them another jab. At the Strategic Competition Act 2021 hearings, Republican Senator Mitt Romney offered an amendment that would have carried a “diplomatic boycott” of the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics, but would have allowed “our young athletes” to attend.
Commenting on the initiative, State Department spokesman Ned Price said that his office would certainly consider it. Pointing out, however, that it was born in the same “Commission on International Religious Freedom,” whose status is “unclear”.
Against the backdrop of all these domestic American political games, the continuous positive signals to Washington coming from the Chinese leadership attract attention. Moreover, (and it is also important to note this) the Chinese leaders have recently been expressing their readiness to meet a confrontation with their main geopolitical opponent in the style of the traditional Chinese principle of “edge against edge”.
But the speeches made by the Chinese President at the recent Boao Forum (the Asian equivalent of the Davos Forum) and at the just-concluded “climate summit” contained quite positive signals. Also noteworthy was the speech of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the April 23 video conference organized by the Council on Foreign Relations, also an “independent,” but very authoritative American organization.
The main point of the speech was to outline five principles that, according to Wang Yi, will allow the US to succeed in its relations with the PRC. In the author’s opinion, they are perfectly acceptable principles. Provided, of course, that Washington’s plans really include building a constructive relationship with the Second World Power.
Meanwhile, we should note that China’s potential success in achieving the aforementioned “almost equality” with the United States will deprive the American elite of the claim (which has always been present, but especially noticeable under the new administration) to teach the rest of the world the rules of good international tone. Washington cannot allow that to happen (at least not yet), and the legislative act of Congress under discussion is aimed at parrying such a prospect.
Although it is already clear today that the moralistic posture outlined above is taken by those it suits least of all. As it has, in fact, always been the case in history.
Vladimir Terekhov, expert on the issues of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook“.