As November’s U.S. presidential election draws nearer, the Trump administration’s use of anti-China rhetoric is becoming increasingly evident. From the administration’s denouncement of the Chinese Government’s response to COVID-19 to its targeting of Chinese companies with executive orders and its slandering of Chinese diplomats, it is clear that anti-China rhetoric has become central to Trump’s campaign strategy.
Some U.S. Government officials and experts on U.S.-China relations are concerned the strategy will hurt both Chinese companies operating in the U.S., and American businesses operating in China, further pushing U.S.-China relations beyond a point of no return.
“Leaders of the United States use the kind of language that they do because it riles up extremism,” said Jeffrey Sachs, an international relations expert and professor at Columbia University, referring to the strategy the Trump administration has used to weaponize U.S.-China relations to cover up his lack of leadership during the pandemic and win votes ahead of the election.
Max Baucus, former U.S. ambassador to China under the Obama Administration attributed the rising tension to America’s lack of “a long-term strategic plan,” referring to foreign relations with China. “It's very hard to put one together, especially in a representative democracy with congressional elections every two years. We have to do our very best to develop a longer-term strategic plan.”
Chinese tech companies, including ByteDance, Tencent and Huawei, have faced the strongest headwind in the current political climate. TikTok, owned by ByteDance, a Chinese technology company, has been forced to sell its U.S. operation to avoid being banned in the U.S. market, where the short-video app has 60 million active users. On September 15, ByteDance announced a plan partner with American tech multinational, Oracle to satisfy President Trump’s national security concerns without selling its U.S. operation outright. While Chinese companies aspire to enter the U.S. market, they also struggle to identify and navigate current political trends.
“Macroeconomics, trade and geopolitics have never been more intertwined than they are now. You can no longer separate those things,” said Craig Stronberg, China analysis leader of PwC Intelligence.
Sachs described the new national security program as doomed, calling it “a paradox that says China cannot have the same technology we have.”
In recent reports by the American Chamber of Commerce in China (AmCham) and its Chinese counterpart- China General Chamber of Commerce (CGCC), both Chinese companies in the U.S. and American businesses in China have stuck to their original investments in the respective countries, and were committed to serving the local markets despite the deterioration of relations and the pandemic.
Stronberg, who led the CGCC report, added that “Regardless of what's happening at the policy level the fact is that, at the very least, when it comes to the business communities from these economies, they do want to be in one of those marketplaces and they do have a voice.”
Despite the overall optimistic outlook, a recent survey by AmCham China indicated that the most adverse impact of bilateral trade tensions on American companies is lost sales arising from U.S. policies restricting the sale of certain products and services to Chinese companies. Companies caught in the middle are working hard to anticipate political and policy changes over the coming months, especially in what has been dubbed a post-election world.
Sachs compared U.S.-China relations to the U.S.-Japan rivalry back in the 1990s. The U.S. salvaged the Japanese economy, which showed strong momentum to pass the U.S. back then.
“China's success is a global success. A great civilization that has escaped from poverty and developed advanced technologies is a great benefit for the world, not a curse for the world,” Sachs added.
Both Sachs and Baucus are setting their eyes on the more distant future. “U.S.-China relations should not be based on the meetings of two presidents,” Sachs said. “The stronger bond resides in business exchanges in the private sector, cultural and educational exchanges at the civilian level, and cooperation in academia.”
“China is going to have an economy larger than the U.S. and not too many years from now,” Baucus added. Based on the current sizes of the two countries’ economies and current growth rates, some economists forecast that China’s GDP will surpass that of U.S. by 2030.
Baucus anticipated more “accommodation and agreements” on developing the latest technology, such as 5G, which will shape this world’s future mode of production and daily life. “That's a positive effort that we can undertake rather than just being critical of each other,” he said.
Copyedited by Garth Wilson
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