Now U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo is here, too. After Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, and Special Envoy for Climate Change John Kerry, Raimondo is the fourth senior U.S. official to make a public visit to China since mid-June.
Prior to Raimondo’s arrival in Beijing, the U.S. Commerce Department announced that 27 Chinese entities had been removed from its export control Unverified List. Some analyses have claimed that this was a goodwill gesture from the U.S., but this commentator begs to differ.
It is often said that since President Theodore Roosevelt at the beginning of the last century, the U.S. has pursued a “carrot and stick” foreign policy, which is what the Chinese call “applying an iron fist in a velvet glove,” or “slapping someone and then offering them a treat.” However, while the “stick” exists to this day, the “carrot” has turned into “be good and do as you’re told, and I won’t slap you — or I won’t slap you hard.”
The Euphemism ‘Extending Goodwill’ Is a Pretext for Demanding Exorbitant Prices
It is not unlike a kidnapper first seizing a group of innocent hostages and then letting one or two of them go, euphemistically calling it a “goodwill gesture,” so that they can be used to exact a sky-high price from negotiators. This is how things have been, from the release of Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou to the recent removal of some Chinese entities from the Unverified List, and the U.S. plays this trick so brazenly that it expects everyone else to suffer from Stockholm syndrome.
Raimondo was reportedly hesitant to make the trip because she did not know whether it would yield positive results for U.S. business. In fact, what this also illustrates, obliquely, is that U.S. officials are not ignorant of the crux of the problem. When the U.S. ignores market economy regulations, using both soft and hard tactics to force American companies to move their supply and production chains out of China on the basis of “national security” and “U.S. interests”; when it is constantly imposing restrictions on U.S. business involvement in China in terms of trade, science and technology, talent, and capital, how can these practices possibly bring positive results to U.S. enterprise?
Of course, the U.S. also excels in blaming the victim, ignoring the serial harm it does others and shifting the blame instead. Take last week’s BRICS summit in South Africa. The renewed expansion of the BRICS group has made the U.S. exceedingly nervous, with some media outlets even worrying that Washington’s most important allies in the Middle East are moving into the Chinese fold. Looking back to when the BRICS grouping was first established, the U.S., Europe and others looked on coldly — even pessimistically. Today, BRICS is seen as a counterweight to the Group of Seven, and one that spares no effort in playing up the confrontation between China and Russia on the one hand, and the West, on the other.
In point of fact, the BRICS countries represent not just emerging market economies and developing countries, but also the long-neglected Global South. These countries’ dissatisfactions do not lie merely in the geopolitical tensions brought about by the Russia-Ukraine conflict; they also stem from long-term and accumulated disappointment with the U.S.-led global system of governance. Particularly developing countries, which have gradually shed their colonial or semi-colonial status after World War II, aspire to economic development, improved livelihoods and social progress, but they have until now been paid scant attention. Emerging market economies and developing countries hope to reform the current global governance system, making it more open and pluralistic, with fewer restrictions and less subject to the influence of U.S. politics and dollar hegemony. They do not want to be restricted by ideology, nor do they want to choose sides: They want a greater say and more decision-making power in the global governance process.
US Sincerity in Doubt over Biden Administration’s Repeated Arms Sales to Taiwan
Of course, it cannot be said that the U.S. has not supported the reconstruction and development of some of these countries. South Korea and Japan for example — important U.S. allies in Asia — have now become developed countries thanks to the wave of globalization after World War II and the transfer of industrial chains from the U.S. However, we must not forget that Russia is to the north of Japan and North Korea is adjacent to South Korea, so the strategic implications are self-evident.
What is more, what did the U.S. do when Japan’s economy leaped to that of second largest in the world? The U.S.-Japan semiconductor war and the Plaza Accord brought about Japan’s “lost decade.” And then there is Taiwan, which the U.S. claims it will certainly defend, but which was treated to the unadorned truth by a careless Republican presidential candidate: Taiwan will be defended only until 2028, when the U.S. will have achieved semiconductor independence.
Shortly after the U.S. Department of Commerce’s removal of some Chinese entities from its Unverified List, the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced that the U.S. State Department had approved the latest round of arms sales to Taiwan, the 11th such round since President Joe Biden took office. It should be noted that Raimondo’s visit to China represents not only the U.S. Department of Commerce, but also the overall attitude of the U.S. government. If such is the American “carrot and stick,” then no matter how cordial Raimondo’s interactions in China, calling her sincerity into question will be inevitable.
The author is a current affairs commentator.