March 1, 2021 Special Dispatch No. 9201

Chinese Scholar An Gang: The U.S. Has No Choice But 'To Actively Adjust To China's Successful Rise'

March 1, 2021
China | Special Dispatch No. 9201

The global COVID-19 pandemic has tilted the strategic balance to weaken the U.S. and strengthen China, according to a Tsinghua University strategist. An Gang, researcher at the university's Center for International Strategy and at World Knowledge magazine, calls the pandemic a gift of "providence" for China. In his article, which appeared on February 17, 2021 on the "China-U.S. Focus" WeChat account, An argues that the Trump administration's "America First" policy diminished the U.S.'s world standing during China's rise, with the pandemic enabling China to make itself a global peer competitor. The Biden administration cannot reverse this, An says: "Even in the 'post-Trump era,' it is impossible for the U.S. to take the initiative to pull back and restore the reputation it once had. In the world system, China-U.S. relations are transforming from a periphery-hub relationship to a dual-hub relationship." Problems will last "until the United States truly psychologically accepts China's key role as a global power in the world system."

Below is An's article:[1]


'Trump Administration Had No Strategy' Toward China

"The administration of Donald Trump, with which many Chinese are fed up, is out. For four years, Donald Trump's 'America First' policy and his personal unscrupulous actions have caused great damage to China-U.S. relations while dragging the U.S. into the abyss of internal turmoil.

"In the face of China's forceful counterattack and the 'providence' of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Trump administration has failed to contain China's rise. Instead, it dismantled all the self-satisfied advantages the United States had long enjoyed in its complex relationship with China, which is a serious strategic setback for the United States.

"It now appears that the Trump administration had no strategy, let alone the expertise to deal with specific issues. Its foreign policy design, based entirely on personal intuition and right-wing sentiment, serves the self-interest of a small group of politicians and is bound to fall apart in the face of the larger laws of history.

"However, the Trump administration has left some 'legacies' to China-U.S. relations. The central content of these legacies is to end the engagement and transformation approach that has been part of America's China policy for many years, and bring it to the track of great power competition.

"One of the legacies is that China has been forced to respond to the provocations of the Trump administration, accumulating experience, enriching means, building confidence, building internal consensus and forming a new strategic vision in the fierce struggle.

"Whether U.S. policy researchers and policymakers admit it or not, with the end of the 'Trump era,' China-U.S. relations have taken on a brand new look.

China Is Now A Peer Competitor With The U.S.

"This 'new' refers to the historic change in the comparison of the advantages and disadvantages between China and the United States, that is to say, China has acquired the ability to compete with the United States for the global leading position in some fields, and has the reliable strength to fight against the United States' various behaviors that harm China's interests and dignity in overall strategy and on specific issues. China-U.S. relations have changed from a weak-to-strong relationship to a strong-to-strong relationship.

"This 'new' also refers to China's striding into the center of the world stage and conforming to the general trend of maintaining multilateralism, resisting protectionism, reforming global governance and promoting regional cooperation.

"Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, China's pivotal role in the global supply chain has risen instead of fallen, and China has become one of the out-and-out protagonists in the global system.

"However, the U.S. chose to give up part of its global leadership responsibilities at that time. Therefore, even in the 'post-Trump era,' it is impossible for the U.S. to take the initiative to pull back and restore the reputation it once had. In the world system, China-U.S. relations are transforming from a periphery-hub relationship to a dual-hub relationship.

"This 'new' also refers to, in a vast middle ground between the two great powers, the great majority of other nations and groups of countries that refuse to choose sides. They either bet on both sides (such as Japan and Singapore), or seek 'strategic autonomy' (such as the European Union and India), or try to play the role of balancer (such as ASEAN and Russia).

"The features of 'two powers + multi-polarization' in world politics and economic 'regional globalization' are becoming more and more obvious, which will be the basic stage for the game between China and the United States for a long time in the future.

China Is Now Better Positioned To 'Influence The Policy Orientation Of The U.S.;' Biden 'Lacks The Means And Will To Contain China'

"On the new strength benchmark and background platform, China's shaping force for China-U.S. relations has been an unprecedented multiplier, which can not only influence the policy orientation of the U.S. side by taking positive actions in bilateral agenda, but also enhance the game chips and trading leverage, expand the autonomy in the interaction of China and the United States through precise strategic layout in the vast middle zone. It can even be said that the time has come for China to take the initiative to choose the future state of its relations with the United States.

"America's discussion of its China policy will continue to deepen. Whatever the differences and disagreements between the Joe Biden and Trump administrations, they are America's domestic contradictions. The Biden administration will inevitably have to think about foreign policy amid the enormous inertia left by the Trump administration. In addition to a greater awareness in the U.S. strategic community of the irrepressibility of China, the unavoidable question is whether and how the U.S. needs to actively adjust to China's successful rise.

"Such thinking is already underway in the U.S. A typical finished product is the report entitled Competing with China: A Strategic Framework released by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), an American think tank, in August 2020. In that report, the evolution of the U.S. mindset towards the competitive relationship with China is divided into five stages: denial, anger, frustration, bargaining and final acceptance, and the second stage (anger) is believed to be in the latter period of Trump administration. Soon, we will witness the American's mentality slip into the junction of stage two and stage three.

"The adjustment of the U.S. will generally choose between two directions. The first is to continue the tough policies of the Trump administration and highlight the tone of repression and containment. The second is to come down off its high horse, rein in its extreme attitude, compete with China on a limited basis, engage in practical cooperation and give China the respect it deserves as a global power.

"At present, the Biden administration lacks the means and will to contain China in an all-round way, and needs to focus on domestic healing and governance, so it is more likely to adjust itself in the latter direction.

"However, due to the characteristics of American political system and strategic culture, its handling of specific issues at the micro level has always played a huge role in the adjustment and stereotype of the U.S. foreign policy, and even played a major role in certain specific periods. So, in a clash of ideas and reality, there is still some chance that the Biden administration will fall in favor of the first option.

China Must Make Three Adjustments To The New Strategic Reality; Biden Administration 'May Be A Window Of Opportunity'

"Adjustment cannot be one-way. For China, three aspects need to be adjusted urgently:

"First, we need to align our words and deeds with the new benchmark of strength, and make them truly be consistent with our identity and positioning as a global power.

"Second, even when the trend of 'Oriental power up and Western power down' is obvious, we must objectively analyze the changes of American strength, calmly recognize our own ability limits, and properly arrange the fields and space for competition and cooperation between the two countries. We should not only respond to the direction of great power competition chosen by the United States, but also avoid being trapped in the thinking limitations of great power competition.

"Third, we need to adapt our policy toward the United States to the more introverted, divided and antagonistic realities of the United States. We need to enrich our 'toolbox' and make the objects and means of our work more diverse, stereoscopic and multivariant, and make our overall operations more strategic.

"With the Biden administration in power, there may be a window of opportunity for China-U.S. relations to take a breather. To this end, China's strategic community has put out feelers through public statements, official and civilian dual-track dialogues, semi-official and semi-civilian dialogues, and published articles, sending signals that China is ready to establish a new framework for relations through active dialogue, effective management, and pragmatic cooperation.

"The window of opportunity will be narrower and more limited than one might expect, and the Biden administration's China policy may be more of continuity of, than a rupture with, the Trump administration.

'China Still Has The Space And Ability To Push The U.S. … To Accept And Adapt To The Reality Of China's Rise'

"China needs to seize the time, arrange as many bilateral dialogues and cooperation as possible. It needs to show the intention of strategic collaboration and interest coordination with the United States, strive to get rid of the bubble of mutual cognition between the two sides, reduce the interference of ideological factors and sudden events between the two countries. At the same time it needs to dare to confront the new actions that the United States may take to harm China's interests, and establish a new boundary of bilateral relations in an active game.

"America's strategy on China has targeted the keywords 'competition.' This is a fait accompli that China cannot change by its own will. However, through its own initiatives, China still has the space and ability to push the U.S. to further adjust its strategic thinking on China and to accept and adapt to the reality of China's rise. But it can take a long time and be a very tortuous process.

"Anxiety and anger of the United States will last and even continue to dominate the handling of specific issues until the United States truly psychologically accepts China's key role as a global power in the world system.

"In any case, the U.S. and its relationship with China that Biden inherits from Trump are not the same ones that Trump inherited from Obama in 2016, and Biden needs to seriously consider the direction and path of adjustment. The relationship between China and the United States has gone through many changes in history, such as the survival alliance in the 1940s, strategic proximity in the 1970s, and mutual integration in the 1990s. In almost every case, changes in the overall global strategic environment have driven the two countries' respective adjustments.

"This time, the fundamental driving force behind the change in China-U.S. relations is the change in China's own strength and the corresponding diplomatic transformation. After the failure of the Trump administration to suppress China, the adjustment of the U.S. side will occur passively sooner or later, if not actively."


%E8%AF%8D%E4%B8%AD%E7%BE%8E%E5%85%B3%E7%B3%BB20%E5%A6%82%E4%BD%95%E6%BC%94%E7%BB%8E, February 17, 2021.

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