On February 28, a new committee of the House of Representatives of Congress with an unusual symbolic name, the Special Committee on Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party, held its first meeting. The committee was created on the initiative of Republican congressmen who insist that it is an authoritarian communist China that poses the most significant challenge to the United States for the foreseeable future. Committee chairman Mike Gallagher defined the challenge this way: “This is an existential struggle for what our life will be like in the 21st century. In this struggle, the most fundamental freedoms are at stake.”Taiwan could be a source of conflict”
Official Beijing clearly did not like the thesis of an existential struggle. A spokeswoman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs chided US lawmakers: “We demand that the relevant US institutions give up ideological bias and the Cold War mentality … they must stop vilifying the Chinese Communist Party.”
About what American legislators mean by the concept of “existential struggle” and whether the object of such a struggle poses an existential threat, I asked Professor Wang:
“There is a near unanimous consensus in Washington that China poses a threat to the United States, some even talk about an existential threat from China,” says Ming Wang .. – I personally do not agree with this. I would say that China is challenging the US because it has its own interests, its own, different from the American, idea of the world order, which it is trying to assert in different parts of the world. But today’s China is not the country that stood up to the United States during the Cold War, viewing America as an enemy. I would say that the real danger is the confrontation between the US and China in the Asia-Pacific region. The United States is playing the role of the dominant force there, taking into account the closest relations with Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and allied obligations towards these countries. Taiwan could become a source of conflict because the United States is ready to defend Taiwan and China considers it part of its territory.
– But when they talk about the existential threat from China, they mean the prospect of China becoming the dominant economic power in the world and, figuratively speaking, the dictate of the authoritarian regime in international relations with all the ensuing consequences for the democratic world. Do you see this scenario as realistic?I don’t think China will replace the US as the world’s leading power in the foreseeable future.
“I don’t think China will replace the US as the world’s leading power in the foreseeable future.” If we talk about the economic potential, specifically about the gross domestic product, then if current trends continue, the Chinese economy may become the largest in the world in a decade, but this is far from guaranteed, given the significant structural problems of the Chinese economy, the first decline in the country’s population in many decades, one of the lowest birth rates in the world. According to the Chinese leadership, China is not trying to take the place of the United States in the world. His goals are much more modest. He is trying to increase trade relations to help grow his economy, he is trying to secure access to natural resources. At the same time, he increases defense spending, because he believes that the United States may pose a threat in the future. From the American point of view, Beijing’s goal is to make China the dominant power in the world, and this cannot be allowed to happen. I believe the truth lies in the middle. In reality, China, due to its growing economic potential and military power, has been inclined to behave more decisively in recent years – take at least its expansion in the South China Sea, which causes tension in its relations with neighboring countries. The Chinese justify this by saying that they were oppressed for a long time, and now they are only returning and protecting what was rightfully theirs. in recent years, it has been inclined to behave more decisively – take at least its expansion in the South China Sea, which causes tension in its relations with neighboring countries. The Chinese justify this by saying that they were oppressed for a long time, and now they are only returning and protecting what was rightfully theirs. in recent years, it has been inclined to behave more decisively – take at least its expansion in the South China Sea, which causes tension in its relations with neighboring countries. The Chinese justify this by saying that they were oppressed for a long time, and now they are only returning and protecting what was rightfully theirs.
– Is it possible today to predict what the American strategy of containment of China might look like in practice? The Biden administration is known to have picked up on the Trump administration’s strategy of supporting customs duties on Chinese products, stimulating domestic production and the withdrawal of American manufacturers from China. Washington is urging Europe to get away from Chinese communications technology. Some lawmakers are talking about an economic “divorce” from China.
– Judging by the actions of the White House, the main goal of the United States is to prevent the development of the high-tech sector in China, to frustrate Beijing’s bet on turning China into the largest producer of semiconductor chips. Whether this goal will be achieved is too early to say, but in Congress there is complete agreement between Democrats and Republicans on this issue, which promises extremely tense relations with China, which, of course, does not like all this, especially after several decades of the United States being completely open to China and betting on its involvement in the global economic process. It will also be very difficult for the United States to “diverge” economically from China because of the close partnership that has developed over these decades. For example, despite various customs duties, the volume of US-China trade grew last year. By the way, it is four times more than the volume of Russian-Chinese trade. So it will be difficult for us to disperse, but the process will continue in the field of high technologies and strategic industries.
– How might a Russian invasion of Ukraine affect these relations? The US has welcomed Beijing’s statement about the unacceptability of Russia’s use of nuclear weapons, on the other hand, in the last week, Washington has been persistently warning about China’s intention to transfer weapons to Russia, which China denies.The Chinese leadership fully accepts the explanations Putin gave to justify the invasion
“We have no reason not to trust the findings of American intelligence, despite the fact that Beijing denies such intentions. It can be assumed that there is a debate in the Chinese leadership on this matter, which has become known to American intelligence, and Washington is applying political pressure to prevent such a turn of events. Of course, this is an extremely negative factor in US-China relations. In general, the war in Ukraine has put China in a difficult position. Despite the fact that he adheres to neutrality, his sympathies are quite obvious, they are on the side of Russia. The Chinese leadership fully accepts the explanations Putin has given to justify the invasion. China does not want to see the defeat of Russia, which is its most important strategic partner. Moreover, Beijing is probably afraid of potential instability in a neighboring country, which may be the result of Russia’s military defeat. On the other hand, he had good relations with Ukraine. By openly supporting Russia, China risks sanctions from the European Union, which takes a pro-Ukrainian position, it is one of China’s three largest trading partners, that is, Beijing is forced to maneuver. That being said, I don’t think Xi Jinping is capable of having a real impact on Putin’s stance on the war in Ukraine. In my opinion, the perception that Russia has become a kind of junior partner of China does not correspond to reality. The Chinese leadership has respect for Russia, they believe that it will always be a great power. which takes a pro-Ukrainian position, it is one of the three largest trading partners of China, that is, Beijing is forced to maneuver. That being said, I don’t think Xi Jinping is capable of having a real impact on Putin’s stance on the war in Ukraine. In my opinion, the perception that Russia has become a kind of junior partner of China does not correspond to reality. The Chinese leadership has respect for Russia, they believe that it will always be a great power. which takes a pro-Ukrainian position, it is one of the three largest trading partners of China, that is, Beijing is forced to maneuver. That being said, I don’t think Xi Jinping is capable of having a real impact on Putin’s stance on the war in Ukraine. In my opinion, the perception that Russia has become a kind of junior partner of China does not correspond to reality. The Chinese leadership has respect for Russia, they believe that it will always be a great power.
– So you do not agree with those who believe that a prolonged war in Ukraine is in the interests of China, since it essentially turns Russia into a client state of Beijing?
– Is Russia becoming more dependent on China as a result of this conflict? Without a doubt, if only because China has become the main market and source of goods for Russia. But I do not think that she was completely dependent on her neighbor. Moreover, as I said, the continuation of the war is contrary to the economic and political interests of China, since trade ties with Europe and the United States are much more important for it than ties with Russia. Based on my understanding of the Chinese mentality, I cannot imagine that China perceives Russia as a client state. This would be a tragic mistake.
– In connection with the war in Ukraine, the attention of analysts was drawn to Taiwan. Many American commentators write that a victory over Russia is necessary to warn China that it will be extremely costly to attempt an attack on Taiwan. Do you think there is a high probability of a conflict over Taiwan now?In such a situation, any incident can lead to an armed conflict.
– The Taiwan issue is the most dangerous issue in US-China relations. The situation is becoming more and more dangerous, because both the US and China are escalating tension, in such a situation, any incident can lead to an armed conflict. On the other hand, Beijing usually acts logically, and I don’t see a logical justification for trying to take over Taiwan right now. Why would they invade Taiwan now? In this sense, I am more optimistic than some of my colleagues. I don’t think it will happen in the near future, says Ming Wang.
– Vitaly Kozyrev, it must be emphasized that the congressmen do not call China an existential threat, they mean the existential struggle against the authoritarian system symbolized by the Chinese Communist Party, but still, the question inevitably looms in the background of whether the United States is trying to neutralize a growing competitor that has grown in many ways thanks to the United States. As one of the participants in the congressional hearing said, the United States has nurtured the dragon.This is a struggle between two technologically, economically and even militarily equal rivals.
“Ever since the reign of George W. Bush, Republicans and a large number of Democrats have advocated the continuation of the policy of economic involvement of China in the liberal world order and China’s accession to the system of rules and norms that were composed and edited by the United States,” says Vitaly Kozyrev. – As a result, China has become the world’s largest producer, the largest trading power, and the Chinese decided to jump ahead and take over those areas in which the West and the United States were monopolists. Therefore, especially after the economic crisis in 2008, voices began to be heard in the United States that we probably gave too much indulgence to China, so we need to start taking it seriously somehow. The Obama administration found a way to change the trade regime by signing a Pacific trade agreement that did not include China, and it could not join this agreement for the next 15 years and open its way to the markets of the United States and all other 11 countries parties to this agreement. Trump comes, abandons this agreement and declares a trade war on China, urging them to change their domestic economic policies. As a result, the Chinese just got angry, all those groups that were in favor of cooperation with the United States were gradually purged or became silent, so the United States got the current situation as a result. You correctly noted that this is an existential struggle, that is, it is a struggle between two, one might say, technologically, economically and even already militarily equal rivals, which, probably, will form the future bipolar world order.
– Eric Shiryaev, the idea of China as, shall we say, an existential challenge, has become a part of American political life in recent years. Now, for example, opponents of unlimited aid to Ukraine say that China is the real problem for the United States, not Russia, so it is unwise to throw away huge funds to support Ukraine. Do you agree with the thesis that the confrontation with China is really an existential challenge for the United States?
– A bit of history, – says Eric Shiryaev . – In the 1960s and 1970s, America was fighting an existential enemy – the Soviet Union. All the power of the economy and politics, ideology was directed against this monster of the Soviet Union. Then suddenly a Japanese monster appeared, like a monster that emerges from the ocean. For a decade in America, fears: Japan is taking over America, the end of us all, because the Japanese are efficient, very smart, they are literate, they are rich.
– Yes, in the early 90s, the Clinton administration, I remember, forced Japan to import American cars, threatening a trade war. Fright at the sight of Japanese power was great.
– Certainly. Buying Rockefeller Center in New York – that’s it, the end of the American dream, the Japanese are everywhere. Then Islamic terrorism: everything, we lost, we all overslept. Now the China wave is starting. Yesterday I literally discussed with experts in Congress, with my colleagues: can the Chinese model be strong, sustainable? The answer is maybe yes, maybe no. Chinese policy that worked for decades is now stalling, we see clear signs of this.
– Vitaly Kozyrev, could the slipping that our interlocutor is talking about actually be a sign of the beginning of the end of the Chinese miracle? The other day there was sensational news about the first decline in the population of China in many decades, a record low birth rate, and cheap labor is exactly what allowed China to make a leap, much is written about the structural problems of the Chinese economy, Beijing, apparently, has no funds to realize what they called the project of the century, the new silk road.The Chinese have grown into the Western system, they have learned to benefit from being in it. This is their main problem.
– Yes, there are a lot of internal problems, they always pay attention to it. In principle, they believe that it is too early to directly challenge the United States. According to their ideas, somewhere else it will take 10-15 years to become a superpower. As for the population, yes, indeed. The strength of China was precisely associated with inclusion in the liberal world order with access to the very sweet markets of Western countries. Now the big dilemma for him is how, without exposing his economic system to danger, at least reduce his dependence on these markets. The crux of the problem is that China has become too dependent on a global structure dominated by the West and the United States. Not only from exports, from technologies, but also from investments. Why is it said to be an existential struggle? Because, that the Chinese have successfully incorporated themselves into this global system. They began to buy large buildings in New York, hotels, enter Silicon Valley, there are hundreds of companies with Chinese participation. The Chinese have grown into the Western system, they have learned to benefit from being in it. This is their main problem. They are too dependent on this system to directly challenge the US in the way that Russia did.
– Vitaly, what do you think the American strategy of containment of China, which is being discussed in Washington, might look like? It is clear that it will include various export restrictions, customs tariffs in order to stimulate domestic semiconductor production, transfer of production from China to other countries. What else?
– I believe that the only way to implement this containment is to introduce some kind of mechanism to restrict the access of China, various Chinese structures to modern technologies in the first place. Plus, of course, to fight for markets in third countries so that especially high-tech goods from China do not enter and compete with Western goods or those supplied by the United States and its allies. The second way is to strengthen the military presence in the Asian region, this is the strengthening of Japan. Agreements were recently reached with the Japanese, and a month ago high-ranking representatives of the United States, including the Minister of Defense, traveled to Japan. Therefore, now the Chinese feel that they are starting to be pressed down from the military point of view both in the South China Sea, and from the south and east. The third part is, of course, attempts to reduce the role of the yuan in world trade so that the most high-tech industries are not transferred to China. And the last point, of course, is the ideological struggle.
– Eric Shiryaev, speaking about the pressure on China, because the Russian-Ukrainian war poses a considerable danger to China. Washington threatens Beijing with sanctions for supporting Russia with weapons if this happens. As Ming Wang says, China risks turning against itself the pro-Ukrainian Europeans. What do you think is really on the mind of the Chinese leadership? On the one hand, it condemned the nuclear rhetoric of the Kremlin, declared the inviolability of the borders of states, on the other hand, with its soul and even in words, it seems, it is on the side of Russia.I am 90 percent sure that there will be no arms supplies to Russia
There are so many variables that we don’t know. It is very difficult to judge this. It is clear that China is trying to get out of this big game, at least not the loser. I think the war highlighted three big problems facing China. The first is the rising cost of Chinese labor. The attractiveness of China, which was 15-20 years ago, is decreasing, they understand that they need to take care that businesses do not leave China. Bad relations with the US do not help. Russia’s support could trigger sanctions from Europe. The second point is economic and technological. It has always been believed that China is on horseback because they have sources of rare metals, such as cobalt. And it is the main component in electronic batteries in today’s world. Now it turns out that there are other sources of these metals and China does not have a monopoly on them. Third, of courseis soft power. The perception of China in the world will largely depend on its attitude towards Ukraine. Objectively speaking, the majority of the population in the West is on the side of Ukraine. China, supporting Putin and Russia, undermines this soft power, which was not strong anyway. And Beijing must understand this.
– Will the United States still impose sanctions against China if it starts supplying arms to Russia?
– There will be no such sanctions, I am simply convinced of this. Because China understands what the consequences could be. Washington and Beijing will agree that there will be no such sanctions, because there will be no support from Russia. At least, I am 90 percent sure that there will be no such deliveries.
– Vitaly Kozyrev, there are comments in the American press that in reality Beijing is the beneficiary of this war, because it has finally turned Russia into an economic appendage of China, that, contrary to its public neutral statements, it supports the Kremlin in this war and is not averse to it dragged on, because it is beneficial to him: he became the only market for Russia and the only source of goods.
– Firstly, it is impossible to build relations with Russia, recognizing the position of Russia as an appendix or an appendage of China, the Russians will immediately reject this. Therefore, the Chinese understand perfectly well that it is necessary to respect the face and save the face of the partner. But in terms of respect for Russia, I read the press, Chinese analysts, they are delighted that Russia has been so brave and challenged American hegemony that the Chinese cannot afford. From the very beginning, China has sided with Russia’s position on Ukraine on two points. The first is that in 2014 there was a coup d’etat, that there is Moscow’s version. And the second point is that Ukraine, in fact, by 2021 has become a puppet state in the hands of the United States. It is necessary here to understand how the Chinese interpret the situation. For example, China supports the position that it was not Russia that first violated the sovereignty of Ukraine, but the United States, having its employees on every floor of every Ukrainian ministry, in fact violated the sovereignty of Ukraine. This interpretation allowed Putin to somehow persuade Xi at the very beginning not to object to this military operation, which dragged on and turned into a large-scale war. From the point of view of the question that the war between Russia and Ukraine is beneficial to China, this is utter nonsense. This puts China in a very difficult position. He must navigate between supporting his strategic partner and trying not to quarrel with the United States and the Europeans. China has a very difficult choice. But in the eyes of China, this war has turned into a proxy war between the United States and Russia, so I think China will side with Russia,
– What do you think about the possibility of supplying Chinese weapons to Russia? Does the CIA report that such a possibility is being discussed in Beijing seem plausible to you?China will do everything to keep the regime in Russia
– The CIA most likely has reason to believe that such conversations are taking place. I believe there will be deliveries. For China, the defeat of Russia is the end. For China, fragmentation or some kind of social processes, revolutions and other protests in Russia is a nightmare. Therefore, China will do everything to ensure that the regime stays in Russia, China will do everything to ensure that it is not defeated. This is an existential threat to China in this case. In the end, he does not care about Western markets, especially since Western countries themselves will suffer more from the cessation of Chinese supplies and will start supplying weapons, if the United States crosses the line, for example, they supply aircraft, then the Chinese will definitely begin to supply their resources.
– Eric, if our interlocutor is right and China decides to supply weapons to Russia, then the prospect of a conflict of a completely different scale looms.
– The Chinese leadership is wise enough, for them the most important thing is the stability of the country, they care about their power and, most importantly, to keep power. I don’t think he will take such steps. And those young leaders who stand behind the backs of the current leadership, they understand that their future is in a stable, reliable and peaceful China. They, I hope, understand that China has a bright future if they drop this policy of “hawks” who are in power, 70-year-old “hawks”, unfortunately, age matters in politics.
– Vitaly, Eric is counting on the wisdom of the Chinese leadership, but Xi Jinping is not a traditional Chinese leader, he has deprived Hong Kong of a significant part of the autonomy guaranteed by his predecessors, he, unlike his predecessors, is talking about the possibility of joining Taiwan by force. Can the war in Ukraine cause, roughly speaking, global complications?
– It is very difficult to answer this question, because a lot depends on how the United States reacts to it. If the United States escalates, then there will be a conflict somewhere, most likely in the Asia-Pacific region, as part of the overall conflict between the United States and China. Because we have to really look at all these processes against the backdrop of the bigger picture. The big picture is the growing confrontation between the US and China, everything else is rather derivative. In this system of coordinates, military support for Ukraine by the West and NATO is seen by China as pressure on Russia, as an existential threat. They will take steps to support and preserve Russia.