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Blame America Too for Our Ruptured Relations with the Chinese

July 4, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

BEIJING — Hanging out in China for a couple weeks is an
experience. Beijing feels a lot like a Western city: tall
buildings, horrid traffic, distinct neighborhoods, lots of money.
You come across the full range of people—funny, friendly,
officious, nervous, helpful, distant, welcoming, interesting.

Yet the political and cultural differences are also real: forced
respect for political leaders (maybe everyone really loves
President Xi Jinping, but, really, EVERYONE?); rigid hierarchy (for
a conference opening ceremony and dinner, we
“distinguished” visitors lined up like the Soviet
politburo and went to our assigned seats); deference to age (I hate
to admit it, but this one is an advantage now!).

There have been a lot of unofficial discussions outside of the
major conference I’m currently participating in. And many
topics have been of interest, including North Korea, trade, U.S.
politics, and, of course, Beijing-Washington relations. While some
of my Chinese colleagues are hopeful after the Trump-Xi meeting at
the G-20, few have any illusions about the continuing challenge our
two countries face.

Xi came in and changed
the game. But some of the fault still falls on us.

Perhaps the most important question I was asked was this: why
the recent worsening of relations? Or more bluntly: why do
Americans hate us now? The query is worth a serious think.

Richard Nixon’s 1972 decision to break the Cold War isolation of
the People’s Republic of China was long overdue. Ignoring
unpleasant regimes doesn’t make them go away. The lack of
communication channels with potential adversaries can have
catastrophic consequences, including, among them, China’s previous
entry into the Korean War.

Such a state of affairs intensified hostility between the two
nations, which remained until the 1970s. After Mao Zedong’s death,
when China embraced reform, Americans found an avid new trading
partner. Despite Beijing’s embrace of brutal authoritarianism in
Tiananmen Square, many U.S. policymakers and analysts imagined that
the PRC’s submersion in the international economic system would
encourage social, cultural, and ultimately political
liberalization. Frankly, I was among those who hoped to see such a
transformation. Some Americans even imagined that capitalism would
turn China into an Americanized version of itself—friendly
and free.

For a time, liberalization appeared to be a reality. The PRC was
no democracy, to be sure, but American culture suffused Chinese
life, especially that of the young. Social strictures of the Maoist
era disappeared: people were free to marry without official
approval. Religious liberty advanced, irregularly and
inconsistently, yes, but spaces still opened for people of faith. A
genuine private sector arose, with Chinese free to seek employment
where and how they wished. Even increasing indirect political
debate appeared possible, as restrictions over academic
cooperation, …read more

Source: OP-EDS