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Friday, September 24, 2021

China and Trump Vs China and Biden

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Graham Perry
Experienced Arbitration Lawyer | China & Chinese Business Affairs | Public Speaker/Lecturer.

There is common ground between Trump and Biden and their respective policies towards China but we look at the Presidential combatants after we have considered the more fundamental question – China v USA.

Scanning the news articles and you might be forgiven for thinking this is a matter – China v US – which has come to life because of Covid-19. “Big Mistake” as Julia Roberts exclaimed in Pretty Woman – “Huge”. In common language the coming confrontation between China and the US has “been on the cards” since 1 October 1949 when Mao Tsetung ushered in the Peoples Republic of China on the balcony of the Forbidden City in Beijing. On that day China was “the Sick Man of Asia” – ravaged, devastated, exhausted by the Civil War against the Kuomintang and the Patriotic War against Japan in WW2. One day China would rise again – it would recover its strength and its pride. It would create prosperity for its people. It would resume its place in the world. That it would take a long time was never in dispute. Many years of trial and error; of setbacks and achievements; of success and failure. The Party that had led the struggle against Chiang Kaishek and the Japanese, now needed to turn its attention from battles and war to government and rebuilding.

Strategists the world over made a number of errors in their assessments of China as it emerged from its years of pain, anguish, immense loss of life and damaged pride. Initially it was said China had so much on its plate to feed and clothe 1bn plus people that it was all they could do to survive. Then it was argued that a China led by a Communist Party wedded to the ideas of Marx and Lenin would be too inflexible to reach out to the rest of the world. A further argument was that China was State Run and centralised without commercial thrust and initiative. Then it was said that senior cadres lacked experience and creativity to bring about prosperity and stability. 

The planners got it wrong – big time. They were victims of their own prejudices and own short-sightedness. They watched the downfall of the Soviet Union and quickly predicted that China would go the same way. They were blinkered, one sided, subjective. The saw what they wanted to see and not what was happening. They made mistake after mistake – none bigger than their assumption that by allowing China to enter the World Trade Organisation, China would change. Their thinking was mechanical and based on history books. The West believed – so wrongly – that growing economic prosperity would lead to more economic rights being granted by the Party to the middle class which would lead to two inflexible conclusions –

  1. That economic rights would lead to the creation of political rights
  2. That these political rights would lead to the end of the Party as the demand for voting rights would lead to the introduction of political parties and the demise of the CPC.

So to today and China has lifted 500 m people out of poverty and offered a level of prosperity beyond the wildest dreams of the populace in 1949 who, as I have said above, were known as the Sick Man of Asia. Today travel – 137m Chinese tourists travelled the world in 2019 – and clothes and life style choices. Is it all good news? No  – poverty remains, China is only moderately prosperous, corruption is a problem, Muslim extremism in Xinjiang continues to challenge the government and the US Election has focused attention on the rights of individuals to vote for one party or another. China has plenty on its “To Do” List.

But China will become the worlds’s largest economic power in due course. It is inevitable. China rises and the US falls. China knows it but more important the US knows it and, further, the US is unsure how to deal with this new phenomenon called “Decline and Fall”. And this brings us to the present day and the dilemma for the US as it looks at China. How do we handle China? How do we curb its growth? How do we limit its influence? “Pass me the pills,” they exclaim in the White House “I feel another attack coming on”

This was never meant to be. China was never meant to succeed. China is run by the Party so how can the Party preside over the growth in the number of billionaires. It is a Marxist clique embracing billionaires and yet the Party is 87m strong and primed for the task of taking China forward to 2049 – one hundred years on.

Trump made China an election issue – he hoped to have a difference with Biden but Biden boxed clever. He stuck close to the Trump script – not necessarily because he agreed with Trump but he did not want to lose any votes be being seen to soft on China. Trump may or may not have gone, and if he has gone it is only for four years, – he is immensely strong – and Biden will have to decide between now and 2024 if China is the Number One Enemy or the Number One Competitor. Thee is a big difference. Make an enemy of China and the US will have to rely on 100% support from the rest of the world. Not possible. Make a competitor of China allows us all to breathe a little more easily but not for long because History teaches us that Superpowers do not leave the stage peacefully. Rough seas ahead

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