China | Fanning fear-mongering rhetoric is not doing us any favors

Fanning fear-mongering rhetoric is not doing us any favors

Ken Moak March 28, 2017 1:41 PM (UTC+8)
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The demonization by media and vested-interest groups in the US, Britain, Canada and Australia of countries with a different ideology and governance architecture is harming their own economies and national security. Opposing investments on ideological grounds has robbed industries of much-needed capital for the development of new business opportunities.

Beating war drums and pushing governments to be “tough” on nations such as China, Russia and Iran that don’t toe the Anglo-American liberal-democracy line have triggered an arms race, endangering the lives of everyone on Earth.

The economic impact

Staunch anti-communists in the US Congress routinely proliferate anti-China and anti-Russia rhetoric. US Senator John McCain portrays Russian President Vladimir Putin as “evil”, out to destabilize or even conquer Europe. Marco Rubio leads the anti-China charge in the Senate, introducing legislation to ban any mainland or Hong Kong officials from entering the US if they are seen as harming Hong Kong democracy.

A Republican congressman successfully got the House of Representatives to pass a law barring Chinese researchers or astronauts from the International Space Station or working at the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa). Congress established the US-China Security and Economics Commission to vet Chinese investments on whether they pose a national-security threat.

In Canada and Australia, anti-communist groups have successfully banned some investment from China, citing national security and human-rights abuses.

The loud cry against a Chinese state-owned company taking over Canadian energy company Nexen forced the Conservative government of that time to drag its feet on reaching a bilateral investment agreement with China. That decision slowed or stopped further Chinese in vestment (except in real estate by private individuals wanting to hide their money) in Canada.

Australian anti-China groups successfully lobbied their government to block the sales of a large agricultural farm and an energy company, again for national-security reasons. Yet Australia is highly dependent on China, its biggest export market and a major source of investment, tourists and foreign students.

The geopolitical and security impacts

Though done in the name of national security, the proliferation of  military assets in Asia and Eastern Europe have in fact made the world a more dangerous place. China and North Korea are accelerating their military research and development programs, producing large quantities of weapons of mass destruction for defense or to neutralize US missile systems such as the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) system. Russia is producing and deploying increasingly deadly and sophisticated missiles along its western border.

Siding with the US and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato)  in Asia and Europe has not only destabilized the Asia-Pacific region and Eastern Europe, but has also resulted in huge economic costs to those countries. The money they spend on weapons would go a long way toward spurring economic growth or relieving poverty.

Besides, the quality and quantity of weapons procurement have not improved those countries’ security calculus. On the contrary, buying second-hand weapons has only made those regions more dangerous, because China and Russia have responded in kind. In the event of a conflict, US/Nato allies in Eastern Europe and US allies in Asia would  likely be the first to be targeted. If such regional or proxy wars were to escalate, the Earth could become uninhabitable from the radiation of thousands of nuclear explosions.

Meanwhile in an effort to combat terrorism, bombing or barring immigration from designated Muslim countries said to harbor followers of the Islamic state (ISIS) group may in fact have increased the number of terrorist acts around the world. The rising death tolls and increasing  hopelessness and marginalization among young Muslims have radicalized many.

To be sure, terrorist acts are evil and barbaric, but the motives should be examined as to why these people were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to kill innocent people. Painting them as evil might be an oversimplification, denying that Western foreign policies had anything to do with the creation of ISIS.

The merits of anti-China/Russia/Islam rhetoric

Those who fan the rhetoric against China, Russia and Islam are often highly educated and accomplished scholars, analysts and journalists, well aware that the information they have propagated is either exaggerated, half-true or totally fabricated. They must also have understood the consequences of starting a war for the wrong reasons. Yet they continue to push their agendas: Putin is behind a cyberattack on the United States, China’s building of a military base in Djibouti is to challenge US global dominance, the list goes on. Some even suggest the “One Belt, One Road” trade initiative is a Chinese “Trojan horse” whose real intention is to conquer the world.

However, vested-interest groups are increasingly being discredited because their rhetoric is just that. Indeed, their accusations are based on speculations and half-truths or even fabrications.

Territorial disputes between China and its neighbors occurred long before the People’s Republic of China existed, going back to the Ming Dynasty if not earlier. Indeed, the Nine-Dash Line was drafted by the Nationalist government in 1947. It was drawn on the historical record of Chinese settlement in the region for more than a thousand years. The Diaoyu or Senkaku Islands were given back to China under the Cairo and Potsdam Declarations of which the US was a major architect and signatory.

Many scholars would argue that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was pushed by the US and Japan to erase China’s historical territorial claims. Moreover, extending a country’s exclusive economic zone to 200 nautical miles would legitimize Japan’s claim on the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands and the United States’ holding of Guam and other Pacific islands.

According to American political scientist John Mearsheimer, the US initiated the Ukraine crisis. Nato was formed to block Soviet expansion. Since that is no longer a threat, the US-led Atlantic alliance had to find a new excuse for its relevance. Moreover, let’s not forget the infamous telephone conversation between Victoria Nuland, then US assistant secretary of state, with the US ambassador to Ukraine.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has claimed that terrorism is a US export. It might also be that the bombing by the US and its allies of civilian targets in the Middle East, killing millions of innocent people and destroying cities or entire countries, prompted many to join ISIS. It might also be that the marginalization of young Muslims born in the West has been responsible for “home-grown” terrorists.

It is perhaps for these reasons that increasing numbers of people in Asia view siding with the US and Japan as harming their economic and security interests, which explains why countries such as the Philippines, Malaysia and Australia are opting for an independent foreign policy. Even in the US, the majority of people (more than 50% according to a  Pew Poll) view China positively, implying that decreasing numbers of Americans are not buying into the anti-China rhetoric.

Ken Moak
Ken Moak taught economic theory, public policy and globalization at university level for 33 years. He co-authored a book titled China's Economic Rise and Its Global Impact (Palgrave McMillan, 2015). His latest book is titled, Developed Nations and the Impact of Globalization and it will be published by Palgrave McMillan Springer in 2017.
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