Mel Daniels has served the United States for nearly twenty years. Mel is new to writing. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group or person.
National Security Situation: With the pending departure of U.S. President Donald Trump, it remains to be seen how the administration of President Joseph Biden views the People’s Republic of China.
Date Originally Written: November, 24, 2020.
Date Originally Published: January 18, 2021.
Author and / or Article Point of View: The idea that the U.S. should support the responsible rise of China has failed. Any future foreign policies that support this idea will also fail. This failure is due to the U.S. not understanding China’s strategic ambitions. Further, continuing this foreign policy harms U.S. national security and ignores thirty years’ worth of evidence. The author believes the risk that China poses to U.S. interests can be mitigated by adopting an incentive-based approach which offers China a choice between harmony and conflict.
Background: There is an effort in the U.S. to return to a welcoming policy towards China. In this policy, the U.S. accepts and encourages China’s rise and seeks to influence China through diplomacy. In theory, this strategy will shape China into a global partner. This theory is predicated on nearly thirty years of efforts, dating back to the early 1980s. This theory assumes that China will adopt fair practices, reduce regional belligerence, and respect human rights.
Significance: Foreign policies that welcome China’s rise will result in continued threats to regional allies, violations of human rights, and continued harm to U.S. interests. These foreign policies allow for unchecked and continued Chinese hostility. Continuing to appease China via these policies, hoping China will alter its behavior, is unrealistic. These policies harm the U.S. significantly because they send the message that U.S. policy, in general, is one of appeasement.
Option #1: The U.S. adopts incentive-based policies towards China by linking China’s undesirable behaviors with U.S. commerce. First, the incoming administration would publicly declare China a threat to U.S. national security and the global order. This declaration would be followed by briefing the entire U.S. Congress regarding the true security situation with China and a proposed path forward. Following this, the incoming administration would take actions within the Executive Branch and submit legislative proposals to Congress that would link all commerce between the U.S. and China to China’s human rights record, and its behavior towards U.S. regional allies in Asia, including Taiwan. By linking U.S.-China commerce to China’s undesirable behaviors, China would have to make many hard choices.
Risk: U.S. actions in Option #1 could cause additional tension and infuriate China and likely incur reprisals. Further, Option #1 would likely harm the U.S. economy as it is linked to Chinese imports. This option would likely worry regional allies in the Indo-Pacific region, forcing some to potentially distance themselves from the U.S. and seek to reassure China of their neutrality, thereby emboldening China to adopt further anti-U.S. policies. Lastly, should the Congress reject the legislative proposals, this rejection would serve to illustrate the limited options the incoming administration has and provide China additional exploitable fissures in the U.S. political system.
Gain: Option #1 offers a firm approach and stops the failed policies of the last several decades. This option brings to the forefront the realities of the U.S. situation with China. Option #1 forces U.S. law makers to act or abdicate on the issue, with action or inaction being publicly available for all to see . Further, this option officially links U.S. security, the security of U.S. allies, and the security of the international order, to Chinese policies. This option also reaffirms the U.S. as an advocator for democracy and champion of freedom, valuing human rights, U.S. interests, and the security of U.S. partners and allies, over the positive impact China has on the U.S. economy. This option forces China to be a positive member of the global order or lose U.S. commerce and access.
With regards to the multiple risks associated with Option #1, the majority have either already occurred or are occurring. It is intellectually dishonest to advocate continued appeasement to China in the hope that China alters its actions by ignoring the long history of Chinese actions that threaten U.S. interests. Regarding the risk of angering China, the gain brings an unpleasant truth to the forefront; China is a global competitor and threat to U.S. interests. Linking human rights and destabilization to trade is not a belligerent act. China’s theft of data and intellectual property, gross human rights violations, and threats of war against U.S. regional allies however, are belligerent actions. Option #1 does harm the U.S. economy, initially, but offers the U.S. the option to alternatively source imports from nations who align with democratic principles and values human rights. Option #1 also allows the U.S. to further relations with India, which can offer the U.S. the majority of imports currently found in China, at a competitive price.
Option #2: The U.S. returns to the approach of welcoming China’s rise and seeks to increase access to Chinese markets, in order to influence China long-term through its populace. Concurrently, the U.S. seeks to influence China internationally through the United Nations on significant security and human right issues.
Risk: A significant risk associated with Option #2 is that the U.S. will not alter Chinese actions and China will continue to threaten U.S. national interests without penalty. Further, Option #2 continues to excuse and ignore Chinese hostility, gross human rights violations, and detrimental actions to U.S. security. Lastly, this option continues to hope that China has an intent of peaceful co-existence with other nations and the interests of other nations are respected.
Gain: The U.S. retains diplomatic options by having commerce with China and tolerates Chinese actions and threats concerning security and human rights violations. Option #2 improves bilateral ties with China. Further, the U.S. reduces the chances of major conflict and reinforces China’s global influence.
Other Comments: The U.S. policy of welcoming China’s rise has undeniably failed to produce results sought. This policy failed when the Tiananmen Square massacre occurred. This policy failed during the 1996 Taiwanese Straight crises. Most recently, this Policy failed when it became known that China violated the rights of nearly one million Muslim Uighur citizens with impunity.
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