The US trade sanctions against China are one of the recent hallmarks of the new world order, as it moves from the ‘unipolar’ moment enjoyed by the US since the end of the Cold War to a multipolar system where developing economies around the world are increasingly gaining ground with alternative solutions to flaws in the status-quo. These sanctions do not reflect antagonism against China per se, but could be seen through a wider lens where the US is trying to limit the capabilities of rising powers from challenging its hegemony. As the world is becoming increasingly interdependent, it may be hard to render such containment measures effective. This is evident in the resilience that the Chinese economy has shown in the face of three years of sanctions. This essay reviews the US sanctions, their impact, limitations, and validity, given China’s economic situation.
US Containment of Emerging Countries
History has proved that China is not the first target of containment by the United States. In addition to the Soviet Union, Japan, as an ally of the United States, is not exempt from the United States containment policy. After the Second World War, Japan’s economy developed rapidly. In the 1980s, Japan surpassed the Soviet Union and became the world’s second largest economy. When Japan’s GDP reached 70% of US GDP and threatened its status as the number one economic power, the United States decisively adjusted its policy direction. Support for Japan turned to containment. The United States, together with Britain, France, Germany and other countries, successfully used the "Three Accords" ("Plaza Accord", "Louvre Accord" and "Basel Accord") and technological monopoly to push the Japanese economy into a trap.
In fact, sanctions cannot solve the problem, and the determination of emerging countries to seek development is firm. On September 21, 2018, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov stated that the sanctions against Russia announced by the United States on the 20th were the 60th since 2011. The United States has imposed 60 sanctions on Russia in less than ten years, but Russia has not been deterred and is still active in the international political arena. Russia turned to Asian partners, opened full cooperation with Asian partners, and began to decouple from the financial order built by the United States. China has now been Russia’s largest trading partner for 11 consecutive years.
The world is diverse, not monolithic. It is reflected in the increasingly obvious multipolarity of the world and the continuous advancement of cultural diversity. The American scholar Samuel Huntington’s theory of a "Clash of Civilizations" is obviously an "admission of guilt." We recognize that contradictions are universal, but China upholds that "civilizations can coexist in harmony", cherishes friendship with different civilizations of the world, and strives to cooperate with countries in the world, including the United States.
Irreversible Historical Trends
First, the trend of the times toward peace and development is irreversible. Two months ago, I participated in the World Peace Forum held by Tsinghua University. During the period, the former Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand Suratjee and Singapore’s former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong made it clear that they did not want to choose sides between China and the United States. Both criticized the "small circle" of the Cold War and expressed that they neither want to give up the results of cooperation with the United States, nor do they want to lose the dividends of cooperation with China. The Former President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai also repeatedly emphasized that he hopes that Afghanistan will become the center of cooperation on the Eurasian continent, not the center of war.
Second, the trend of globalization is irreversible. At present, the world economic structure is undergoing a new round of changes. The most direct manifestation is that the "supply chain" and "purchasing chain" in the international industrial chain are undergoing a new round of "decoupling" and "reorganization." As the world’s second largest consumer market, the second largest economy and the world’s factory, China is the "engine" of global economic circulation, driving the global trade "supply chain" and "purchasing chain" cycles. According to data released by the General Administration of Customs of China on September 8, China’s top three trading partners in the first eight months of 2019 were the European Union, ASEAN, and the United States. China’s exports to them increased by 11.8%, 15.7%, and -3.7%, respectively. They increased by 6.7%, 6.9%, -23.5%, and the surplus expanded by 22.9%, 65.4%, and 7.7%. Obviously, in the context of the trade war, the US’s position in China’s foreign trade has declined, and the two major Eurasian economies, ASEAN and the European Union, have quickly realized their "supply chain" supplements for China.
China is ready for cooperation
China and the United States are the largest developing country and the largest developed country, respectively. Whether China and the United States can manage their relationship well will be decisive for the future of the world. Sino-US cooperation will benefit both countries and the world; Sino-US confrontation will bring disasters to both countries and to the world.
Since the "ice-breaking" of bilateral relations in 1971, China and the United States have worked together to bring tangible benefits to all countries. At present, the international community is facing many common problems. China and the United States should look at the big picture, shoulder great responsibilities, show strategic courage and political courage, and push Sino-US relations back on to the right track of stable development as soon as possible. It will better benefit the people of the two countries and the people of all countries in the world.
On September 10, 2021, Chinese President Xi Jinping had a phone call with US President Biden. Xi Jinping expounded China’s position on climate change and other issues, emphasizing that China prioritizes the environment and a green, low-carbon development path, and has always taken the initiative to assume international responsibilities consistent with its own national conditions. On the basis of respecting each other’s core concerns and properly managing differences, the relevant agencies of the two countries can continue to engage in dialogue to advance coordination and cooperation on climate change, epidemic prevention, economic recovery, and major international and regional issues, while exploring more cooperation, adding more positive factors to the relationship between the two countries.
In short, considering that the world is diverse, unilateral trade sanctions cannot solve international problems. As a world power, China upholds a responsible attitude and has always carried out mutually beneficial cooperation with countries around the world with a cooperative attitude; as a sovereign country, China will also have the courage to face various provocations.