Friday, November 27, 2020

US policies for China and the Asia Pacific Region in future


Yubaraj Sangroula


Some years ago, Max Boot, a senior researcher from the Council for Foreign Relations, the political elites-led non-governmental but crucial foreign policy institution to shape the US foreign policy, had opined that the US has unfailing responsibility to guarantee the security of the world and keep the sea-lines free from anyone’s control. According to him, the security of the US and its allies across the world is a matter of prime concern to the US foreign policy that has dedicatedly been pursued by America after the World War II, particularly in view of the cold war, and recently, he writes, China’s policy of pursuing arms race and weakening the security of the US and its allies across the world. This opinion categorically represents mistaken attitude of the politico-economic elites of the United Sates that has succeeded to gain full control over the US politics and governance, including the foreign policy.

In the United States, the political elites nostalgically view the course of China’s communist revolution and rising socialist system as something utterly unwanted events causing its loss of China from its hands, as if, in words of Noam Chomsky, China were a purse in its pocket. Obviously, the US policies to China are fundamentally driven by its obsessive desire of controlling Asia—it is not a threat per se from China but the constraints posed by China’s economic rise, flourished trade and increased roles in international affairs are posing deeply agonizing concerns for the US. In fact, no threat to the international peace and prosperity comes from China’s rise; its rise is firmly peaceful and has encouraged and prompted the notion of multilateralism, along with the rise of some other countries as growing economic giants, in global political and development affairs. Particularly, Chinese president Xi Jinping’s innovative concept of theshared future put forth by the “Belt and Road Initiative” is seen by the US policy makers as a serious challenge to their notion of ‘exceptionalism’ that always seeks to maintain a special position or status for the United States in the global affairs. The exceptionalism is hegemonic for its missionary objectives or intentions.

The US concerns regarding its domineering role in the global affairs are simmering in view of its constantly declining structures of democracy and economic system.

The US concerns regarding its domineering role in the global affairs are simmering in view of its constantly declining structures of democracy and economic system. While the constant decline of liberal democratic values, if not decay, is a general phenomenon observed across the world, the situation in the United States is seen deeply penetrative and impacting. In words of Christopher Hedge, a Pulitzer Prize winner correspondent of the New Yorks Times and US citizen, the United States has arrived at a point of Javon Paradox—a situation in which vitality and resources of the institutions of the democratic structure have been exhausted, and are marred by the lack of functional effectiveness. It means that they are no longer able to offer required response to the socio-economic problems facing the American society.

In his view, the US capitalism has turned to be an apocalyptic capitalism; it has been fully distorted and subdued by atiny group of corporatists, such as the bankers, financers and industrialists. The nation’s wealth has been stolen by the club of rich peoples, thus creating an unprecedented inequality in wealth, income and jobs. This situation is utterly bizarre and disruptive in all senses. Prof. Richard Wolff, one of the prominent US economists, concludes that the US capitalism is undemocratic and virtually unable to cater for the needs of general people. His opinion is apparently confirmed by the unimaginable impacts of COVID-19 fallen on general people of the United States. The situation is so grotesque that it has led the masses of workers, farmers, professionals, students and general people into a quagmire of frustration, agony and deeply felt melancholy.

The present situation socio-economic quagmire has two fundamental reasons behind it. The Western liberalism began to starkly decline from 1980s, particularly from the time of Reagan administration who meticulously prompted the ideas of ‘unlimited free market (freeing capitalism as unchecked and unregulated)’ and ‘suppression of notion of populism in politics.’ The so-called free market concept was theorized in the form of a vile doctrine of ‘neo-liberalism’ in favor of the monopoly capitalism by Milton Freedman and his disciples. The intention behind the neoliberal drive, in words of Naomi Klein, was to fully destroy the Keynesian social development theory which preached for State’s obligation to protect marginalized population.

Broadly speaking, the intention of the neo-liberalism was to eradicate all possibilities of social development and socialist modalities of development. Another vile doctrine was articulated by the phrase of ‘Excess of Democracy.’ This doctrine adamantly argued a view that the ‘American politics,’ could not offer to be driven by the thrust of populism or popular participation of people in determining the nation’s fundamental interests and policies. Ending the influence of general people in politics was the main design behind this doctrine.

The Trilateral Commission, an intellectual brand-group comprising social scientists from the US, Europe and Japan dedicated to define and defend the liberal democracy, led by Prof. Samuel Huntington concluded suggesting in 1970s that the state’s affairs ought to necessarily be run by a tiny group of experts but not by popular whim or will of the mediocre masses. Deceptively, this doctrine stole from common Americans their right to render the government accountable to them. The principle that ‘people are the master of country’ was hereby deliberately destroyed. Apparently, this principle destroyed the ‘concept of popular sovereignty’ on which the liberal democracy is supposed to be founded on. This doctrine, in view of Noam Chomsky and others, removed the obstacles in favor of the corporatist capitalists to obtain full control over State’s politics and treasury.

The scathing neo-liberalist economic doctrine propagated a view that the politics should not control the economy; in contrary, the economy must control the politics. This is how Reagan administration with firm actions began to destroy the social security and welfare schemes dedicated to the service of the general people, thus pushing the economically marginalized black population, indigenous Americans, women, and minorities into a trap of increasing inequality of wealth and poverty. The neo-liberalist economic drive pushed millions of American middle class families into a trap of poverty—over 8 million peoples being homeless and 40 million jobless, in accordance with statistics published.

The neo-liberalist economic drive pushed millions of American middle class families into a trap of poverty.

In the course of this political and economic downsizing of the general population, the American politics saw aggressive rise of ‘a rightist nationalist’ brand of thoughts reinvigorating the ‘long cherished nationalism based on the ‘pseudo-pride of exceptionalism’—this pride preached that America is an exceptional nation with its puritan social values, democratic ideals free from European traditionalism and blessed by superb knowledge of science and technology. The missionary zeal of the exceptionalism led the US political elites to seek America’s mentorship over the world, and, after the end of the cold-war era, it sought to assert a role of international police. The corporatist capitalists, anti-communist ideologues, anti-socialist, including development or democratic socialist, propagandists had been deceptively but widely successful to capture the US state power, and had been, thus, able to bring American domination over the global resources, politics and international affairs, as rightly explained by Christopher Hedge in best-seller books US Imperialism and Death of the US Liberal Class.

Once the US popular politics declined and the rightist nationalist elements firmly appeared in rife, along with full control over the State system, they reinvented the ‘quest of American domination over the world’—beginning from Reagan administration it culminated to ‘America First’ policy during the Trump Administration in our time. The 2017 National Defense Strategy of the Trump administration plainly defined that ‘diplomacy and economic interests’ form the defense interests of the US security strategies. The seed of this policy of Trump administration was sowed in 1990s through infamous expression of Fukuyama that ‘the history has come to an end,’ implying that ‘the Western values—the neoliberal capitalism and Western liberal political values—are universal, and thus uncontested. The goal of securing unilateral leverage of the US and its allies over the world became the prime thrust of the American foreign policy subsequently, which obtained stark expression in the 2017 national defense strategy which defines Russia and China as the rival nations but India, Japan and South East Asian nations as the allies. The world, therefore, got starkly divided, with aggressive anti-China policies to contain its rise. The BRI was selected as a target of destroy.

In 1990s and even afterwards, a misconception swayed the minds of intellectuals from the Western as well as the rest that ‘with demise of Soviet Union the socialism had demised either.’ This misconception, however, short lived. The People’s Republic of China emerged as a powerful driving force in the rise of the world economy with its rigorous economic growth along with its unprecedented success in lifting the 800 million poor peoples from poverty. The socialism thrived in China with its unique characteristics. China had been able to connect its historical principles with Marxism, thus building a unique system of socialism with Chinese characteristics. The Western attempt to destabilize China through Tiananmen Square ploy was defeated butthe incident inspired China to carry out added reforms and opening-up, which really paid off smartly. Hence, China got developed economically and became able to preserve socialism with its unique characteristics, thus proving vitality of its outstanding civilization and socialist political structure.

The People’s Republic of China emerged as a powerful driving force in the rise of the world economy with its rigorous economic growth.

The rise of China also inspired other developing countries to stir growth in their economies, thus leading to the emergence and rise of a new prospect of globalization based on ‘multilateralism and inclusivity,’ which ultimately found a structured shape in the form of BRICS. Apparently, the consolidation of the multilateralism as a ‘new structure’ as well as the driving force brought two current of thoughts in lime light globally. The thought that believed on need of ‘multilateral cooperation’ to build a new world order’ called for ‘the shared vision and future’ as the fundamental guiding principle of the future global affairs. This call was, however, rejected by the Western capitalism, the US in particular.

As rightly pointed out by, Kishor Mahbubani in his seminal book (Has the West Lost It?), the West failed to accommodate with new trends of global affairs and developments, particularly heralded in developing countries. The US government and its intellectuals, instead of accommodating with the rise of China as a significant stakeholder in the global affairs, defined China’s rise as a threat to the global peace. The US preferred to pursue its ‘unilateralist’ posture and claimed its dominance as a privilege being powerful nation. The present world’s division is therefore not divided between China and America; rather, it has been divided between ‘China’s call for multilateralism and the US claim for unilateral dominance over the world.’

By desperate failure to accommodate with the need of pursuing the policy of multilateralism in global affairs, the US quest for unilateral dominance calls for its (a) uncontested leverage over the global politics; (b) unlimited and unconstrained access to global natural resources, under domination of its wealthy corporations; and (c) full or unquestioned control over international affairs, along with privileges to set aside the role of the UN asserting the right to use the preventive force against other nations, in contradiction of the principle of collective security under the UN Charter.

The US policy for its unilateral dominance is adamant even today. Apparently, the US defines China’s presence in the South China Sea, which is its coastal sea, is a threat to the security of America and its allies. As pertinently argued by Chomsky, China has not gone to the Caribbean Sea to pose a threat to the American security. Instead, America, with its allies, with ships, accompanied by hundreds of stealth fighters and missiles, has gone to the coast of China.

The US defines China’s presence in the South China Sea, which is its coastal sea, is a threat to the security of America and its allies.

Apparently, the cause of growing tension between China and the US is not laid on China’s rise and its possible threat to the international peace; the rise of China is peaceful and driven by the norms of international diplomacy and law. The cause of growing tension is virtually and fully laid on the US interests of preserving its supremacy in defense capability, international politics and explosive exploitation of global natural resources.

The American policy to China, as I have widely discussed in my book China-South Asia Geo-economics, in the present context of escalating tension due to the US unprecedented advancement in the Asia-Pacific region, is driven by the US policy of discarding the need of accommodating to the changed world; that is to say that the US primary concern has been to contain China so as to preserve its global unilateral dominance. The US policy is thus founded on a perceived notion that Chinaposes a threat to the US security.

The US policy, in fact, is motivated by the goal of ‘zero-sum game.’ The zero-sum game against China contains mainly three strategies of the US foreign policy; categorically, (a) to universalize the Western liberal political and neo-liberalist economic principles and values, and thus, to eliminate the prospect of the rise of scientific socialism as well democraticsocialism in any parts of the globe, (b) to establish military supremacy, and {c) to preserve unconstrained access to the world market and resources. All these facts and realties manifest that the rise of China is not a problem to the international peace and security.

[caption id="attachment_14782" align="aligncenter" width="759"]us-china Image credit: CS Sasikumar[/caption]

That said, it can well be seen that the US is struggling desperately to preserve its ambition of remaining unilateral power in the global affairs, so that it could have its economic, political and military supremacy unchallenged. That is to say that the US is keen to sustain its trade hegemony as well as military supremacy. The trade has now been a part of the US defense strategy. The trade-debacle imposed on Sino-US trade is, therefore, not an issue of unfair or unbalanced trade relations posed by China; it has rather been an issue of the US defense strategy to offensively contain China’s rise. As a matter of fact, China has been declared rival not for its rise as a military power; China’s military strength is mainly defensive in nature and remains still very low in terms of military expenditure.

The US military expenditure of 700 billion USD exceeds that of China, Japan, India, and Germany collectively. The China’s avowed pursuit of ‘multilateralism and common destiny’ as the avowed policy of international cooperation, structured into the BRI framework, has been taken by the US as a major challenge to its unilateral supremacy. Apparently, the rising tension between China and America is an outcome of conflict between ‘China’s policy of multilateralism and the US policy of unilateralism; this conflict is not caused by the rise of China. As rightly argued by Kishor Mahbubabi, the tension between two countries is in fact rooted on the US failure to realize the changes in the global order, due to the rise of many countries as aspirants to play role in the global affairs, and to accommodate to that newly emerged change by way of recognizing the essentiality of multilateralism to co-exist.

The rising tension between China and America is an outcome of conflict between ‘China’s policy of multilateralism and the US policy of unilateralism.

China’s persistence economic advancement with goal of achieving its avowed target of moderately developed nation by 2050 along with outstanding history of civilization is seen by the US to be a formidable constraint to the US ambition of sustaining unilateral economic and military supremacy in the world. Apparently, the US policies in future, arguably, may be further advanced towards stringency to and rivalry against China.

The existing US strategy of containing China may be changed to a strategy of ‘aggressive or offensive containment policy,’ which will, in turn, essentially be marked by ‘China encirclement’ strategy. The encirclement strategy will be aimed at ‘disturbing China’s trade relations with South-East Asia, fueling Indo-China border disputes, thus gradually breaking the Indo-China trade cooperation, and isolating China’s smaller neighbors like Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri-Lanka and Myanmar from China. Experiences of the cold war between the US and former Soviet Union show that ‘when tension between two powers sparks, the prospect of the US influence over smaller nations in the region of the rival nation intensifies manifestly.’

Nepal is likely to be a hot-spot for the US strategy.

From this point of view, Nepal is likely to be a hot-spot for the US strategy, about which China seems still not paying heed adequately, though there are unfounded allegations being orchestrated against Nepal that it has become Chinas’ satellite state. Some evidences show that the US interests over Nepal are overarchingly intensified. As categorically stated by the 2017 report of the US Department of Defense on Indo-Pacific Strategy, the US government had held to rounds of meeting with the present government of Nepal to form a land-army to be commanded by the commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command.

Another example is the overriding pressure of the US administration to get the Millennium Challenge Compact (MCC) agreement ratified by the House of Representatives against the provisions of Nepal’sConstitution and the terms and references of the agreement itself. This agreement has a provision to nullify the f Nepalese laws if they happen to contradict with the agreement. Apparently, the agreement has stipulated its supremacy over the laws of Nepal. The MCC is enforced and regulated by the MCC Act passed by the US Congress, which defines recipient of the grant as the client nation, and thus has to necessarily follow the provisions of this Act. The agreement also stipulates that the project should be bound by the laws and policies of the US government.

This provision may have a catastrophic impact on Sino-Nepal relations, if the impending Tibet Legislation is passed by the US congress; Nepal would have an obligation to enforce the US law on Tibet. Most importantly, the MCC Act prohibits Nepal as a client country to regulate freedom of non-governmental organizations in Nepal. These instances show that Nepal may be forced to partake in the Indo-Pacific Strategy as a part of the China encirclement strategy of the US administration.

Equally significant aspect of the China encirclement strategy from the US administration relates to China’s improved relation with India.

Equally significant aspect of the China encirclement strategy from the US administration relates to China’s improved relation with India. It seems that the US strategy will probably be concentrated to bring about complete breakdown in relations between China and India. The recently erupted violent border-dispute between China and India is followed by a massive campaign for the boycott of the Chinese goods in India. This is an indicative of rising tensions between two countries.

The Indian media, which is overarchingly influenced by the Western values, is waging a kind of war against Chinese socialism and civilization, which, as described by Samuel Huntington, is a major challenge to the Western values and civilization in future. This has been an important strategy of the US administration to win the trust of India, which may, in the long run, pave the way for intensification of efforts leading to the breakdown Indo-Iran relation. The breakdown of the Indo-Iran relation is pivotal for subduing Iran. Ultimately, the strategy may aim at breakdown of the relation between India and Russia. That is how China’s avowed policy of multilateralism may be affected negatively.

Is then a war between China and the US likely in future, and is that really going to take place? Closer and deeper observation of the annals of Chinese history, it is seen that the Chinese civilization is founded on certain cardinal or seminal principles that place harmony and co-existence; the domination and colonialism have neverbeen the matters of pursuit of the Chinese civilization. The Zhou dynasty concept of Tianxia believes on a principle that everybody in the earth planet lives under the same heaven. The civilizational confrontations are always discouraged not only by few but almost all Chinese philosophers, including Confucius.

Sharing prosperity by all has always been a guiding principle founded on the principle of righteousness. These values are well engrained in the contemporary political structure of China by articulation of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, which blends Marxism with principles the Chinese civilization in history. As a matter of fact, it may be argued that China would not volunteer to launch an aggressive war against any nation. Hence, the chance of launching a war from the side of China is non-existent. But China may be pushed to the corner, thus being forced to defend its sovereignty.

But the massive presence of the US military in the South China Sea is apparently provocative, in addition to its trade embargo. It means that the conflict between China and America may ensue if America succeeded to instigate conflict between China and its neighbors. Some intellectuals have also argued that ‘the US strategy would go in vain in South East Asia because the nations in the region more or less share the same civilization with China. The conflict may occur between India and China. But in this war, the loser would be India, not China. The impact of the war, if so happens, would be bigger on the Indian economy; its economy would be forced to consume larger part of revenue for obtaining arms, to be purchased from the US and its Western allies.

In this war, the loser would be India, not China.

To conclude, the impact of the Indo-pacific strategy will eventually fall on South Asian economy; it would particularly be afflictive to smaller countries like Nepal. The larger responsibility of averting such conflict or tension falls on China, and that can be materialized by China by enhancing people to people diplomacy in South Asia. While certain section of the India intelligentsia adamantly refutes the argument that ‘China and South Asia’ are culturally deeply connected, the truth is that ‘China and South Asia’ are culturally connected for many centuries.

Particularly, the connectivity between Nepal and China is lasting and pre-eminent. Buddhism has been one of the connectors between Nepal and China, and India and China. Yet, the Chinese intelligentsia seems less interested in intellectual engagement with Nepal, particularly in the field of pursuing understanding relating to Nepal’s geopolitical situation. Most Nepalese intellectuals take Nepal’s strategic situation as a constraint posed by its location between two giant neighbors; the Nepalese intelligentsia and politicians apparently ignore to think of ‘third nation or power’ that impacts Nepal’s geopolitical situation gravely.

Events in the history show that Nepal has smartly been competent to balance its relations with China and India. Hence, their giant landscapes and populations and strengths are not formidable problems for Nepal’s existence. However, the Western power, the US in main, is equally active and influential factor impacting Nepal’s geopolitical situation. The influence brought about by the Western poweris targeted against China’s political structure and civilization and India’s culture and resources. Nepal has been a cockpit for implementing such strategies aimed at encirclement of China and appeasement of India.

The opinion of some leaders, including communist ones, that the Western Power does not have interests over Nepal is wrong or mistaken.

This “Western Factor” in Nepal’s geopolitics has been perniciously overlooked by the Nepalese intelligentsia and political leaders. China has also been overlooking the ‘Western Factor’ in Nepal’s geopolitics. The present government’s emphatic pursuit of the agendum for ratification of the highly strategic agreement like MCC is an outcome of the failure to ‘see the hidden impact of the ‘Western Factor’ in Nepal’s geopolitical situation, and the need of keeping balanced relation between two neighbors. The opinion of some leaders, including communist ones, that the Western Power does not have interests over Nepal is wrong or mistaken. The Western Factor may not have tangible interests over Nepal, but it has interests over neighbors of Nepal. This fact has never been recognized by India particularly, because Indian foreign policy attitude to Nepal has remained mistaken always. Even China has not taken the Western Factor seriously; particularly the Chinese intelligentsia seems overlooking this fact.

The writer is Executive Director and Principal at Kathmandu School of Law.

Published on 8 September 2020