Distinguishing between US Strategic Goals and Tactical Motivations toward China



Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He held in-depth talks during the 2023 Word Economic Forum meeting in Davos. At a University of Chicago event on Jan. 20, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is due to visit China, said that tensions between the U.S. and China had eased.*

At present and for the foreseeable future, the U.S.’ main task is to direct and collaborate with NATO and other allies to defeat Russia. Therefore, American strategy regarding China is one of emphasizing fierce competition and avoiding confrontation. The U.S. strategic objective regarding China remains unchanged, namely, to spare no effort to comprehensively contain the rise of our country so American can maintain worldwide hegemony. All the U.S. has done is to adjust its tactical motivations.

In concrete terms, American tactical motivations regarding China are threefold.

The first aspect of America’s tactics is the wholesale suppression of China in the military and high-tech fields while retaining a certain degree of interaction with China in the areas of economic, cultural and people-to-people exchange.

The three cornerstones of global American hegemony are military, financial and high-tech. As the U.S. has not yet made any attempt to decouple from China in terms of general trade, and because our U.S. dollar reserves need to buy the American government’s ever-growing debt, the U.S. has so far maintained financial ties with China. In contrast, in the military and high-tech sectors, the U.S. wants not only to decouple from us but also to suppress us. Therefore, even if in the financial sector, the U.S. has restricted or banned outright the listing of our state-owned enterprises on its stock markets, especially those involved in the military and advanced technology, it is not in any way seeking to bring about a China-U.S. economic decoupling.

Don’t Be Misled by US Rhetoric

The second aspect of America’s tactics is that of suppressing our economic development on all fronts while simultaneously expecting our economy to remain stable and not adversely affect the American economy.

Our country is the second-largest economy in the world and has been the largest contributor to global economic growth in recent times, and the economic ties between China and the U.S. are deeply ingrained in the fabric of both economies. Washington has no tolerance for our economy’s catching up with its own in scale, yet it wants us to help the U.S. overcome its economic difficulties. In 2022, the Biden administration’s Treasury and Commerce secretaries said that the U.S. should lift in part the special tariffs imposed by Donald Trump on Chinese imports to the U.S. to help alleviate high inflation in the U.S., and Joe Biden himself publicly endorsed this recommendation. However, the Biden administration has thus far maintained all the tariffs that the Trump administration imposed on our imports to the U.S., and this is incontrovertible proof that the United States’ strategic goals with respect to China far outweigh its tactical motivations.

The third aspect of America’s tactics is the emphasis on avoiding confrontation with China while simultaneously making every effort to encourage U.S. allies to step up their confrontations with us.

The most recent and prominent example of this took place when Biden received Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on his visit to the U.S. Biden publicly defended Japan’s intention to revise its post-war “peace constitution” and expand its military preparations, pointing the finger instead at China.

On Jan. 20, Blinken claimed that China-U.S. relations had eased while at the same time attacking China’s so-called attempts to change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. On the Taiwan issue, Washington’s strategic goal is to engineer infighting between the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait because “when two people quarrel, the third rejoices.”

Once we understand the difference between the United States’ strategic objectives and its tactics with regard to our nation, the implications of the Biden administration’s control over China-U.S. relations become clear: The U.S. only adopts measures in its own interest to achieve its strategic goals with China.

China has led the China-U.S. trial of strength to a place of strategic stalemate; we are hoisting the U.S. by its own petard. The U.S. is willing to maintain communication with us; we are going along with that. It wishes to engage with us in the general areas of trade and investment; we are willing to oblige. It wants our economy to remain stable so that it does not negatively affect the U.S. economy; we have no objections. However, China is neither afraid of American suppression and containment nor will it be fooled by American rhetoric. That is why in this article I refer to American tactics as nothing more than “motivations.”

The author is a senior commentator, Ph.D.

*Editor’s Note: Blinken canceled his trip to China on Feb. 3 following publication of this article and after the U.S. detected what it determined was a Chinese surveillance balloon in U.S. airspace.

About this publication

About Matthew McKay 110 Articles
Matthew is a British citizen who grew up and is based in Switzerland. He received his honors degree in Chinese Studies from the University of Oxford and, after 15 years in the private sector, went on to earn an MA in Chinese Languages, Literature and Civilization from the University of Geneva. He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists and an associate of both the UK's Institute of Translation and Interpreting and the Swiss Association of Translation, Terminology and Interpreting. Apart from Switzerland, he has lived in the UK, Taiwan and Germany, and his translation specialties include arts & culture, international cooperation, and neurodivergence.

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