Constituent policy

The United States needs a reasonable and responsible China policy

President Joe Biden, left, speaks during his virtual meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, onscreen, from the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Nov. 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Less than two weeks after Speaker Nancy Pelosi unnecessarily infuriated Beijing — and the Biden administration — by visiting Taiwan, a second high-profile trip by US lawmakers further heightens the risk of a clash between the two global superpowers.

Last week, a congressional delegation led by Democratic Senator Ed Markey traveled to Taipei for meetings with Taiwanese officials. In retaliation, China launched a series of military drills and patrols in areas surrounding Taiwan, firing missiles over the island. The government also castigated the United States as “a disruptor and destroyer of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait”.

China’s military response follows Beijing’s recent announcement – immediately after Pelosi’s trip – that it would stop cooperating with the United States in areas including military relations, climate change and drug trafficking. .

These unnecessarily provocative actions by leading Democrats — coupled with China’s predictable aggression — reveal a dangerous truth: The United States has no reasonable and responsible China policy.

Given that relations between the United States and China may be at their lowest point since their normalization in 1979, it is absolutely crucial that the United States develop a China policy designed to ease these tensions, strengthen the security of our regional allies and encourage diplomacy rather than military action. .

Specifically, this approach must involve strengthening military ties with our Indo-Pacific allies, economic assistance to Asian nations by re-engaging in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and implementing a carrot and stick to Chinese behavior.

While defending Taiwan against Chinese aggression must be a central part of America’s China policy, Pelosi’s and Markey’s actions do nothing to improve Taiwan’s security and only increase the risk of conflict.

This was made clear last week when China boasted that its military would continue to harass Taiwan and had “erased” the median line in the strait, which has long served as an unofficial border. China has also fired ballistic missiles into waters near Japan, warning the United States’ closest regional ally not to interfere in what Beijing considers a domestic affair.

China’s militaristic actions signal a substantial paradigm shift and are intended to demonstrate to the United States and our allies that Beijing will take military action wherever and whenever it deems necessary in the Taiwan Strait.

Therefore, China’s belligerence prompts the United States to undertake a three-pronged China policy:

First, this approach must involve deepening relations with our “quadruple allies” – India, Australia and Japan – in the form of increased military capacity and contingency planning. A strengthened Quad alliance would remind Beijing of the true costs of invading Taiwan.

That being said, the United States should carefully and quietly expand its deterrent power. By doing more and saying less, China’s leaders will not feel humiliated and pressured to respond militarily.

The United States took a step in this direction by participating in the annual Garuda Shield war games with Indonesia in early August. This year’s games opened in Japan, Australia and Singapore, marking the games’ biggest release since 2009.

Second, the United States can no longer afford to allow unparalleled Chinese investment in Asian countries. Thanks to its Belt and Road project, China has become the most influential trading partner of Southeast Asian countries, while the United States has fallen behind.

This is problematic because Chinese aid often comes with unpleasant strings attached. Famously, after Sri Lanka was unable to repay Chinese loans, Beijing seized a strategic Sri Lankan port.

It is not enough for the United States to remind Asian countries of the dangers of accepting Chinese aid. America must provide economic assistance to these countries in order to expand our influence in the region, which can be accomplished by re-engaging in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

While it is true that the TPP was not perfect, former President Trump’s decision to withdraw from it was a mistake, and re-engagement in this agreement will help strengthen US ties with Asian countries. .

Designed to allow the United States to shape the rules of trade in the Asia-Pacific region, the TPP was an invaluable counterbalance to China’s influence. By withdrawing, the United States gave China carte blanche to dominate Asia-Pacific trade.

While the Biden administration has attempted to reassert our economic leadership in Asia, its Indo-Pacific economic framework unveiled in May falls short, as it fails to provide crucial economic incentives to our Asian partners who were in the original TPP.

Third, the United States should adopt a consistent carrots and sticks model of trade and economic policy. The US and Chinese economies are inexorably linked, and we should use this to our advantage.

The United States can offer “carrots” — economic incentives — that incentivize good behavior. By offering to lift sanctions on Chinese companies, encouraging private investment in China, and easing existing tariffs where necessary, the United States can positively influence China’s behavior.

At the same time, the United States must signal to China that bad behavior will be greeted with “sticks”. The United States imports more than $540 billion worth of goods from China, and the threat of tariffs or sanctions is a serious threat to a Chinese economy hobbled by a zero-COVID policy.

The Trump administration successfully rolled out this approach in 2018. By implementing increased tariffs on $60 billion of Chinese imports, Beijing was forced to announce protections for the intellectual property rights of American companies. .

Ultimately, if the United States is to remain a global superpower – and avoid a conflict between the two global superpowers – high-level elected officials must unnecessarily stop opposing China.

Instead, our leaders should pursue an approach that deepens our economic ties with Asian nations, reinforces our commitment to securing the entire Indo-Pacific region, and uses smart diplomacy to counter China.

Douglas Schoen is a longtime Democratic political consultant.