It’s all propaganda, but it shows that China’s regime is counting on the United States to backtrack into old habits.
On Tuesday, the New York Times published an opinion piece written by Fu Ying.
Now, for most people, that name probably doesn’t ring a bell. But, Fu is a pretty prominent person in China’s regime. She’s a former vice foreign minister, and now serves as vice chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the 13th National People’s Congress.
She’s a power player, is what you should know.
Anyway, Fu wrote an op-ed for the Gray Lady all about how after four years of strained relations between the United States and China, the two countries can have a reset once President-elect Joe Biden takes office. After all, it is not in anybody’s best interest if the world’s two most powerful nations are fighting, right?
You don’t have to be a China expert to know that most of what Fu writes is, to be frank, a bunch of nonsense. While the New York Times opinion page ran Fu’s piece on Tuesday, on Monday it ran with a headline in the news section that really sums up what the regime’s game plan is: China Says It Remains Open to the World, but Wants to Dictate Terms.
On the whole, Fu’s op-ed is misleading propaganda. But there were a handful of sections in particular that are such nonsense, we wanted to call it out, in descending order of ridiculousness:
5. “China has proposed the Belt and Road Initiative as a global public good to promote more growth and greater connectivity, but America interprets the project as a strategy for geopolitical dominance.”
We don’t talk about China’s Belt and Road Initiative often, but it’s a big deal. The massive infrastructure project aims to restore trade routes throughout Asia and into Europe – a new version of the ancient “Silk Road.” Hundreds of billions of dollars is spent on the project every year, and 70 countries are now involved.
Now, what do you think is more likely: That China is overseeing this historic initiative out of the goodness of its heart, or to grow and assert its influence in a key part of the world? Take this into consideration: Many of the countries involved go into massive debt to China to pay for their infrastructure projects; according to the Council on Foreign Relations, “overall debt to China has soared since 2013, surpassing 20 percent of GDP in some countries.”
But that’s just China promoting the “global public good.”
4. “In the fields of economics and technology, rules and laws must prevail.”
Rules and laws are good! Too bad China doesn’t follow them. Ever since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, it repeatedly has broken a whole host of international trade laws.
China heavily subsidizes its critical industries, part of its overall plan to use its state-owned companies to drive competition out of business; China frequently misaligns its currency to gain a competitive advantage; China regularly steals the intellectual property of western companies, and uses it to further its own interests (and drive the companies it stole from out of business). That’s just three examples! There are so many others, including industrial overcapacity, lax labor and environmental laws, and even tax policy.
3. “Washington, for its part, should ensure a level playing field for Chinese enterprises to operate in the United States.”
I nearly spit out my coffee when I read this line, given that American workers are usually the ones calling for a “level playing field.” But what Fu is referring to specifically here are companies like Huawei and Tik Tok, which have faced heavy scrutiny from the Trump administration. Eighty-nine companies were recently cited by the administration has having ties to China’s military and could soon face restrictions.
This isn’t actually about a level playing field; It’s about protecting America’s economic and national security. There’s now growing bipartisan support to make sure firms with ties to China’s government, military, and communist party aren’t given free rein to operate in the United States. The incoming Biden administration should continue to scrutinize these firms, considering they very well may threaten the United States.
2. “Washington’s so-called national security argument against Chinese companies seems hypocritical to the Chinese, considering that China, over the course of four decades or more of reform and opening up, welcomed all kinds of Western technologies and American companies into China — all the while maintaining its own national security.”
Fu offers a response to the national security argument by arguing that there’s actually nothing to fear, since China has welcomed U.S. and other western firms into its economy with open arms.
Instead, China has put up incredible roadblocks for American companies. Everyone from small manufacturers to big Hollywood studios have run into problems.
1. “China finds it offensive when the United States points a finger at the Chinese system or takes action against Beijing for its policies on domestic matters. But China also needs to be more proactive in providing the rest of the world firsthand information about what the country stands for and why it is doing what it is doing.”
This is written pretty vaguely, so it may be difficult to ascertain what Fu is trying to say here. But what she’s likely referring to is international criticism of things like China’s crackdown (and eventual takeover) of Hong Kong, in which it broke an international promise to let the city self-govern until 2047. Or perhaps Fu doesn’t like it when the U.S. brings up the cultural genocide of the Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. You know, how China’s regime has forced millions of people from their homes and put them into detention camps, with some forced to work in factories and others undergoing forced sterilization and abortions?
But we agree: China probably should be a bit more proactive in telling the rest of the world “why it is doing what it is doing.”
All of this begs the question: If so much of what Fu wrote is such obvious propaganda, why did China bother trying to convince everyone in the first place?
Because China’s regime is smart.
China knows that most of America’s elite class – you know, the type of people who read the New York Times opinion page — is exhausted after four years of Donald Trump. Thought leaders and policy wonks are seeking calmer waters, where things are more predictable.
China also knows that Biden is aiming to create a less chaotic world. Biden wants to bring people together. While much of that work will be focused domestically, he’s also aiming to restore a lot of international norms that Trump destroyed.
Love him or hate him, Donald Trump completely altered America’s relationship with China. It was largely disjointed and at times ineffective – Trump’s “Phase 1” trade deal, for example, was a total bust – but Trump rightly recognized that ever since China entered the WTO, it had taken advantage of much of the world’s desire for nonconfrontation. Trump even got tough in order to bring China’s leaders to the negotiating table, something that didn’t happen during prior administrations, Republican or Democratic.
Before Trump, China repeatedly broke the rules, and when it got called out, it apologized and promised to do better. It never did.
The pre-Trump status quo worked well for China, and the regime almost certainly would love to go back to it.
Which brings us to Biden. While Biden almost certainly will approach China differently than Trump did, we hope that the incoming president recognizes what China is actually doing here, and doesn’t fall for China’s slight of hand.
Instead, Biden must do what Trump failed to do – work with U.S. allies and apply real pressure on China to finally address its continued trade cheating (state-owned enterprises, industrial subsidies, currency misalignment) and human rights violations (the cultural genocide of the Uyghurs). China often gets its way in one-on-one confrontations, but it would be much harder if the U.S. and other countries put up a united effort.
It will not be easy, and it won’t happen overnight – but going back to how things were can’t be an option, either.