Is there any possibility of diffusing Sino-US tension? -Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan
Sino-US tension is growing to a dangerous level, what will be the consequences? Who will suffer more? And who will be benefitted? Is there any simple solution? Is anyone willing to rectify things? What will be the role of the UN and International Community, in case of an armed conflict? What will be the future of the World? Etc. Many similar questions are rising in our minds. Hope the serious thinkers and intellectuals may come out with do-able recommendations to avert any big disaster to humanity.
The US was the leader of Western Style Democracy and opposing Communism since the end of World War II. That is why, the US was siding with the ruling party – Guo Ming Dang (Nationalist Party) of China before 1949. But the Communist Party of China (CPC) won the war and gained power in China. The US was opposing the newly established CPC government in China and did every possible thing to harm CPC and end communist rule in China. Either it was sanctions, economic blockade, isolation, media war, or any other form of coercion but could not succeed.
A U-turn was witnessed in the US policy, from hostile to friendship, since 1971. “Ping-Pong Diplomacy” sign of warming relations between Washington and Beijing, China’s ping-pong team invites members of the U.S. team to China on April 6, 1971. Journalists accompanying the U.S. players are among the first Americans allowed to enter China since 1949. In July of 1971, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger makes a secret trip to China. Shortly thereafter, the United Nations recognizes the People’s Republic of China, endowing it with the permanent Security Council seat that had been held by the Chiang Kai-shek’s (Nationalist Party) Republic of China on Taiwan since 1945.
Followed by President Richard Nixon’s eight-day long visit to China in February 1972, during which he met Chairman Mao Zedong and signs the Shanghai Communiqué with Premier Zhou Enlai. In 1979, a big development was seen, when U.S. President Jimmy Carter grants China full diplomatic recognition while acknowledging mainland China’s One China principle. Chinese vice Premier Deng Xiaoping, who leads China through major economic reforms, visits the United States shortly thereafter.
However, President Regan’s era was not so friendly for Sino-US relations as his pro-Taiwan policies. Later President Reagan visited China in April 1984 and as an outcome of his visit, the U.S. government permitted Beijing to make purchases of U.S. Defense equipment. The unfortunate incident of Tian-an-Men Square happened in 1989, created more complications. Chinese crackdown on dissents was also a negative impact on Sino-US relations. The Pro-Independence President Lee Lee Teng-hui in Taiwan also affected the relations adversely. Mistakenly bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in 1999, also set-back in bilateral relation.
Since 2000, the trade was dominating Sin-US relations. President Bill Clinton signed a trade agreement with China, which boosted the trade between two nations from US Dollars 5 Billion to US Dollars 231 Billion. China officially joined WTO in 2001, open avenues of more trade, investment, and cooperation on the economic front. It facilitated the rapid development of China and China surpassed the German Economy in 2006, while the trouble started in 2010, when China became a second-largest economy after surpassing the Japanese economy. It has alerted US policymakers and there was a strong fear that China might surpass the American Economy in 2027.
The sharp rise of the Trade deficit in Chinese favor worried the policymakers in the US. President Barak Obama took few measures to address the trade imbalance but was more polite and soft. However, since President Donald Trump, became President in 2016, a visible change was seen in the US toward Sino-US relations. President Trump initiated Trade war and imposed heavy tariffs on Chinese products, banned Huawei Chinese telecommunication giant, etc. The outbreak of COVID-19 has a catalyst in creating tension to its current height where the US is the worst-hit country with the highest number of infections and the highest death toll in the world.
I was educated in China, and have served in China as Diplomat; I have lived in China for 13 years, but having interaction with China for almost 4 decades. I know the Chinese language, culture, politics, and enjoys deep penetration into Chinese society. Based on my personal assessment, China was never competing in the US or challenging the hegemony of the US as a superpower. Common people in China used to praise America and almost every Chinese especially the youth have a dream to travel to America. The common man loves America and dream to visit or live in America. The number of Chinese traveling to America are out-numbered and kept on increasing gradually. Similarly, a huge number of Americans are living or traveling into China for business, jobs, or study purposes. China was the most favorite destination for Americans for traveling, hunting jobs, business, etc. In a matter of fact, the law and order situation in China was excellent, the job market was huge, and business opportunities were unlimited, which were the major reasons to attract Americans. This was vice-versa, Chinese people love to study in America, Tourism in America, and Business in America, even migrate or settle down in America. There were no symptoms of anti-America sentiments in China.
China is a very old civilization and has been passing through several ups and downs in history. But in the last two centuries, China has been the victim of the Western world and its aggressive policies and colonization. The Suffering of Chinese during the last two centuries has taught bitter lessons and China has become a mature nation. The Centuries old wisdom and bitter lesson of two centuries made China, humble, submissive, hard-working, and united. Even more wise!
China tried its best to avoid confrontation with the US, either it was an economic war, or sanctions, or direct threat, but China acted with maximum constraint and patience. Most of the time, China ignored the American rough attitude and overlooked American behavior. Americans used impolite and non-diplomatic language, but China did not lose temper and never issued any statement below standard. Chinese lenient attitude should not be considered its weakness but should be appreciated as its maturity, responsibility, and greatness.
In fact, it was aligned with the Chinese philosophy of peace, stability, and development. China wanted to improve its economy, eradicate poverty, improve its health care system, improve its technology, modernize its Industry, and defense. China invested heavily in its education sector, the S&T sector, and wanted to focus on Innovation and Hi-tech, which any other country can desire too. China has set its own goals, like zero poverty, etc, and was religiously moving ahead to achieve its goals. There were no visible political objectives in Chinese society, and there was no intention to counter America or replace America. China was not ready for any conflict with America or with any other country. Contrarily, China was ignoring its genuine disputes with others and was focusing only on its own development. In 2017, there was a serious stand-off with India at Doklam, but China compromised and resolved amicably. China has disputes withy many other countries, but was never willing to flare-up or use force to resolve its disputes. Taiwan is a good example, where China can invade conveniently and no one can resist China, but the Chinese opted for peaceful reunification and working hard in this direction – one country two systems. China has the capability to crush the demonstrations in Hong Kong by force, yet, China observes a lot of constraints, patience, and giving unlimited space to the demonstrators to settle down.
It is visible that the US is opting for an aggressive, threatening, and coercive attitude toward China. The US is re-aligning its allies to punish China. Definitely, China will try its best to avert any misadventure, however, if a war is imposed, China deserves the right to self-defense and retaliate reciprocate. This might lead the world to a much bigger disaster. Who ill suffer? It is humankind, irrespective of American or Chinese, irrespective of Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists, or any other religion, irrespective of race, color, or ethnicity, it is human lives at stake. Can we think at this level, respect human lives, human lives are the most precious thing in this unive5rsrse, all lives matter.
I am sure, many of my readers might differ from my views, but hopefully, it will open debate for policymakers and decision-makers. The scholars, intellectuals, think tanks, and individuals with human consciousness may come up with some kind of recommendations or solutions to avert any big disaster. Please do educate me!
Author: Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan, Sinologist (ex-Diplomat), Editor, Analyst, Non-Resident Fellow of CCG (Center for China and Globalization), National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Islamabad, Pakistan.