Containment, but in friendship


Andy Wong / Reuters

In late August, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo made a four-day visit to China. The trip continued a series of voyages of high-ranking U.S. officials. It should be recalled that U.S. Secretary of State Blinken, U.S. Treasury Secretary Yellen, and Special Representative for Climate Change Kerry visited Beijing not long ago.

The intensity of these contacts (with the U.S. side taking the initiative) indicates an attempt by Washington to change its confrontational attitude to a more constructive one. We can only guess what the reason for this is, but most likely it is just a tactical maneuver. At this stage, neither from the domestic political point of view, nor from the geopolitical aspect, is Washington ready to continue confrontation with China, especially on the eve of future U.S. presidential elections. On the other hand, anti-Chinese sentiments prevail in the American elite, which still sees China as its main geostrategic rival. Despite the sound voices of politicians and experts in the U.S. that China does not seek world domination, the U.S. establishment still sees China as the main threat to its dominance.

However, the trade turnover of the two countries exceeds the gigantic sum of $750 billion, American companies have huge commercial interests in China, the factories of major companies such as Tesla and Apple are located there. Large American businesses not related to the military-industrial complex are not interested in breaking off relations.

This ambivalence was the original basis of Raimondo’s trip. On the one hand, she (like Secretary of State Blinken) did everything to soften confrontation and build mutual trust. In particular, Raimondo and her Chinese counterpart, Wang Wentao, agreed to strengthen channels of communication across ministries and to establish several bilateral commissions to address current problems. The agreement on annual meetings at the ministerial level can be considered important.

The Americans have expressed concern about China’s trade restrictions, particularly on exports of gallium and germanium. The Chinese reasonably responded by pointing to a package of sanctions against Chinese businesses, including bans on microchip supplies and investments in their development, as well as a whole list of trade duties imposed by President Trump which are still in effect. It was officially announced. But what kind of bargaining went on behind closed doors, we can only guess. A summary of that conversation was issued by Raimondo herself: «It’s a complicated relationship, it’s not an easy relationship. Of course we will disagree on some issues, but I believe that we can make progress if we are direct, open and practical».

As Xinhua news agency reported, Wang Wentao, for his part, drew attention to the fact that the U.S. side has repeatedly stated that it does not seek to break relations with China, but does not back up these statements with concrete actions. It is worth remembering that Raimondo and her Chinese counterpart Wang have already met in Washington this year, but the meeting did not lead to a radical improvement in trade relations and the U.S. administration’s rejection of the policy of «containment of China».

It is true that Raimondo visited the Chinese representative office of Boeing and at the same time it was announced about the resumption of deliveries of airplanes of this firm to China. Isn’t that a concrete matter? However, the Chinese, of course, are talking about something else — the global abandonment of the U.S. protectionist policy and the lifting of all trade restrictions. Raimondo promised to lift sanctions on some Chinese companies, and one can assume that this will be done at the working level. In China, on the eve of Raimondo’s visit, information leaked to the press about the creation of secret factories of the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, which will produce the most productive microchips, including bypassing U.S. sanctions. Not a bad move to show that Washington’s sanctions policy is failing and only leads to the creation in China of its own production facilities in critical areas.

It is interesting to look at the background of this visit, which was created by the Western media. About a month before Raimondo’s trip, they were actively talking about the so-called difficulties in the Chinese economy, almost about the end of the Chinese economic miracle, the end of rapid growth. In some publications, without much thought, this was directly linked to the policy of containment pursued by the United States. On the one hand, the public was made to realize that President Biden is an effective and successful politician, and on the other hand, that China is almost lying at the feet of the United States, no longer a serious competitor. And accordingly, it is possible to deal with it, and even necessary according to American traditions to give a chance to the dying. Thus, the Democrats were anticipating possible accusations from the Republicans that they are going towards the strongest rival and surrendering America. And at the same time they were undermining the reputation of the Chinese leadership and of the great country as a whole.

The Western press was so immersed in this anti-China frenzy that there were even articles with the opposite content. In them, the authors warned of a strategic miscalculation regarding China. Here, for example, is what the UK Morning Star wrote in an article headlined «The news is full of headlines about ‘China’s economic collapse’ — ignore them»: «Over the past four years covering the period of the Сovid pandemic, China’s economy has grown two-and-a-half times as fast as the US, 15 times as fast as France, 23 times as fast as Japan, 45 times as fast as Germany and 480 times as fast as Britain. China’s per capita GDP grew three times as fast as the US, five times as fast as Italy, 44 times as fast as Japan or France, and 260 times as fast as Britain, while per capita GDP fell in Germany and Canada.»

For those who are not convinced by the macroeconomic figures, here is data on the wallets of citizens based on a study by the International Labor Organization. According to the ILO, inflation-adjusted real wage growth (i.e. real income) in China has averaged 5 percent in recent years. That compares with 0.1 percent in the UK, 0.3 percent in the US, minus 0.4 percent in France, minus 0.7 percent in Germany and minus 1.3 percent in India. That is, while real incomes were declining in most of the world’s leading economies, they were, on the contrary, rising in China. And what kind of crisis is this?

It is hard to imagine that the U.S. administration does not know these figures and has no real information about the situation in China. So they are vacillating between cooperation with China and a policy of containment.