The US has accused China of an array of “malign behaviors,” such as “genocide” and forced labor, economic coercion, bullying smaller nations, eroding human rights and democracy, and a host of other “sins.” The US has used such unsubstantiated claims to impose sanctions, trade wars and other measures to “punish” China – while recruiting other countries to do the same.
Results of US anti-China policies
However, US policies have backfired spectacularly, hurting its own and its allies’ interests. For example, US tariffs on Chinese goods increased production costs and consumer prices, undermining recovery from a declining economy made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic. Australia, the first to support the US anti-China crusade, lost considerable exports to the Chinese market.
The US has had little support for its anti-China campaign. As of the end 0f 2021, only eight countries have banned some or all Huawei equipment from their 5G (fifth-generation telecom) rollouts. And most of the nations that did so were forced into the situation. For example, the US threatened to exclude the UK from the Five Eyes intelligence alliance if it didn’t comply with a Huawei ban.
It must also be embarrassing for the US that only three countries – Australia, the UK and Canada – followed it into a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. Whether the three “cousins” were threatened into doing so is unclear, but David Cohen, the US ambassador to Canada, explicitly said that he “expected” Ottawa to follow Washington’s lead.
Why US policies failed
So what happened? There might be three possible answers.
First, China might not have committed the “sins” that it is accused of. How can a government commit genocide when the targeted people’s population growth is higher than that of the majority? Does the “forced labor” charge make sense when the relevant industries are automated? Clever use of semantics such as redefining the word “genocide” as “planned social destruction” will not change the narrative.
Second, conflicts based on “subjective facts” can end up costing the perpetrator more than the targeted regime. The Vietnam War, which was initially based on fake news that an American warship was fired on in the Gulf of Tonkin, cost more than 50,000 American lives and billions of dollars without anything to show for it.
Third, the US was putting its allies at economic and security risk. Australia, arguably the most willing partner, lost significant exports to the Chinese market. By siding with the US, the country is risking an attack from China should a US-China war break out.
Worse, accusing China of genocide is taking hypocrisy to a new height. The US itself committed genocide, killing millions of native Americans in the 17th to 19th centuries, while Canada sent indigenous children to residential schools in the 19th and 20th centuries. And both countries banned those who survived to God-forsaken regions known as reservations or reserves, prolonging misery and poverty – a tragedy that continues to this day.
Furthermore, in recent times, the US-led Western alliance bombed countries in the Middle East, killing millions of innocent civilians, creating a refugee crisis, and fomenting terrorism. Muslim refugees from such conflagrations, for the most part, were greeted with disdain and unemployment in the host countries, sometimes resorting to violence.
Communist-ruled China may be an authoritarian state, but it has never invaded or bombed any country. On the contrary, the “evil Commies” have actually helped the world. China has invested vast sums into building developing countries’ infrastructures, allowing them to develop their economies. It sent more Covid-19 vaccines and medical equipment to the developing world than the US and Europe combined.
Accusing China of setting up “debt traps” and predatory economic practices only brought ridicule from the majority of the world’s countries. Indeed, more and more countries are joining China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
Perhaps realizing that nothing seemed to working, the anti-Beijing crowd began sowing “subjective disinformation” to manipulate public opinion. A case in point is the UK’s Uyghur Tribunal, which claims to be independent, but might be anything but.
The Uyghur Tribunal was established at the behest of the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), an organization based in Germany whose goal is to turn Xinjiang into an independent nation as East Turkestan. Its major source of funding was the US-based National Endowment for Democracy, according to Wikipedia.
The NED was the US non-government organization that has been accused of instigating the violent “pro-democracy” protests in Hong Kong and “color revolutions” in other places around the world.
In finding China guilty of genocide, the tribunal was said to have interviewed more than 30 organizations, as well as scholars and other individuals. But all of these “reliable information sources” were vested interest groups with an ax to grind with China. None of the interviewees were from China or other places holding a different view. And anyone presenting an opposing view was dismissed as a “Commie stooge.”
The Uyghur Tribunal incorporated a report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) that indicated that “genocide” was being committed in Xinjiang. The ASPI report was, in part, based on “leaked documents” showing that Chinese officials, including President Xi Jinping, ordered forced birth control. How the documents were “leaked” was never revealed.
Clearly, whether or not the Chinese government has committed genocide in Xinjiang depends on whom one talks to or how one defines genocide. There is no doubt that Washington and some of its allies have concluded that Beijing has committed crimes against humanity. But others are not so sure.
The Canadian Oxford Dictionary defines genocide as “massive extermination of human lives, especially on a particular race or nation.” But the Uighur population has increased by some 25% over the past decade, according to Chinese government statistics.
Some “genocide theorists,” on the other hand, redefined genocide as “planned social destruction” and not necessary physical annihilation. Thus the UK panel clearly changed the definition to fit its own narrative.
China helping rather than hurting the world
Through its Belt and Road Initiative, China has invested hundreds of billions of dollars in more than 140 countries’ infrastructures and industries, spurring economic development and growth. Two-way trade between China and the BRI participating countries has accumulated to more than US$10 trillion since 2013, according to China’s Ministry of Commerce.
China donated or sold more Covid-19 vaccines and medical equipment to the world than the US and its allies combined. President Xi Jinping has announced that China will provide an additional billion vaccine doses by the end of the year.
The hypocrisy goes beyond the “genocide” narrative. The first example coming to mind is “unfair trade practices.” It was the US, the European Union and Japan that were instrumental in drafting non-tariff barriers such as “national security” and “anti-dumping” measures to restrict imports from nations that possessed a comparative advantage in producing a good.
A case in point was the US barring Chinese technology products from its market on “national security” grounds. The fact that US companies had been using Huawei products for years without any indication of the Chinese government using them to steal US secrets did not matter.
Indeed, those countries that banned Chinese equipment paid a very high price without necessarily improve their national security. First, alternative sources such as Samsung, Ericsson and Nokia themselves used Chinese technologies and parts in their equipment.
Second, the relevant governments had to pay billions of dollars to companies to dismantle Chinese equipment.
Third, Huawei owned many 5G patents, suggesting foreign firms must pay royalties to the Chinese company in perpetuity.
Fourth, US technology firms lost a big chunk of their business because China was their biggest customer.
And finally, blacklisting Huawei and other Chinese technology companies will delay 5G rollout for a year or longer, according to the countries that banned the equipment.
Time for US to rethink its China policy
US containment policies against China have proved counterproductive because they were based on lame excuses and disinformation, resulting in hurting US national interests and increasing the number of nations turning their backs on America. US President Joe Biden’s continuation and escalation of his predecessor Donald Trump’s flawed policies will only exacerbate America’s economic and social woes.
China has not shown any willingness to change its “socialism with Chinese characteristics” development and governance architectures. Why should it? China’s only crime is that its policies have proved remarkably successful.
No one is certain whether the US or China will win their economic conflict, or a military one, if it comes to that. Working with China, on the other hand, would help the US and its allies address many of the issues they face, including climate change, economic recovery, the Covid-19 pandemic, and global security.
Ken Moak taught economic theory, public policy and globalization at university level for 33 years. He co-authored a book titled China’s Economic Rise and Its Global Impact in 2015. His second book, Developed Nations and the Economic Impact of Globalization, was published by Palgrave McMillan Springer.