If there was ever any doubt about where things stand right now with the most important major power relationship of this century, the recent meeting between senior Chinese officials and top Biden administration foreign policy officials in Anchorage should have cleared that up right away. China’s director of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs, Yang Jiechi, delivered a scathing indictment of the status of democracy in America and its claim to any exceptionalism in world leadership that left no mystery about China’s growing confidence that it has the strategic advantage over an America in decline.
And there is also no confusion about the message that is being conveyed by word and deed to American business interests–if you want to do business in China, it must be on China’s terms without any interference in what the Chinese consider their sovereign internal affairs.
Former deputy White House national security advisor Matt Pottinger has written a good analysis on this latter point that is consistent with Mr. Yang’s comments as well as those of General Secretary Xi Jinping in a 2013 speech only recently released, in which he makes clear that the ideological dimension of U. S.-Chinese competition is “inescapable, even central”, as follows: “Facts have repeatedly told us that Marx and Engel’s analysis of the basic contradictions in capitalist society is not outdated, nor is the historical- materialist view that capitalism is bound to die out and socialism is bound to win.”
This will be a century-long marathon grounded in opposing world views that are miles apart and there are a number of reasons to believe that escalation might be upon us as a test as to how the new Biden administration will respond. So how are Biden and company doing so far? In my view, not too bad in terms of the rhetoric coming from him and his team. They seem to get it, they know now that the American people have come to realize the true nature of this adversary, and so far there have been no significant reversals of Trump’s policy initiatives there. The looming big question is what happens when the inevitable confrontation comes, whether it be in Taiwan, the South China Sea, Hong Kong, human rights issues, or you name it.
I have a lot of respect for the opinion and judgment of former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Jack Keane, who has definitive views on this question. His major concern is that currently the U. S. is woefully outgunned in quantitative military strength, not qualitative mind you because we have the most capable military in world history (if the new Pentagon leadership doesn’t undermine it with goofy “wokeisms” and social engineering) but the hardware gap numbers in favor of the Chinese are significant, we are in serious need of rebuilding our military capabilities, and he has doubts about our sense of political urgency in meeting this need. His second concern is the question of whether or not we have the necessary resolve. Obama/Biden did not. China was convinced that Trump did. Does Biden/Harris?
Back to Pottinger, he has some suggestions for American CEOs. First and foremost, they should come to grips with how much the reality of this relationship has changed over the past several years, because they will find it increasingly difficult to please both Washington and Beijing, and their boards and investors must decide which side they want to help win. Frankly, right now it’s difficult to know.