On October 4, 2018, at the headquarters of the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC, Vice President of the United States Mike Pence delivered a speech on the current US administration`s policy toward China.
The remarks, presented in a very condescending way in the tone of a typical Christian missionary, were filled with a whole range of fake and grapevine information about China`s actions and second-guessing about the intentions of China in its engagement with the world, such as China`s Belt and Road Initiative, Chinese international media, Chinese students studying in the US, and so on.
Sloppy research leading to poor intelligence
Such information and second-guessing are wrongfully deemed as "intelligence" on the basis of which a new and more confrontational China policy is made and publicized. The reason is that such information is likely to have been gathered from or provided by a few so-called "China hands" such as Michael Pillsbury and Peter Navarro whose knowledge about China is not only outdated and skewed, but also esoteric and unsystematic.
Moreover, such knowledge about China is not based on theoretically and methodologically rigorous training on contemporary China studies, area studies, and international/global studies. Most unacceptably, such research queries about China carry both deeply racial biases against China and an ideological agenda on China.
The China policy Pence advocates in this speech is aggressively anti-China in nature. It not only runs the risk of escalating the US-China trade conflict into an all-out collision, but also risks sinking the entire world into new despair.
Wolf crying wolf
Pence first tirelessly attempts to conjure up China as "an aggressor," "a predator" and "a meddler" in both the domestic affairs of the US and global affairs. For the first time in the entire history of the US, except the American Revolution, the Trump administration is playing the victim and prey in the name of the American people in front of the entire world audience.
By doing so he has created a rhetorical setup on which the vice president proposes the isolation of China or decoupling, far beyond a trade war between the US and China, and presents the Indo-Pacific Strategy as an alternative to China`s Belt and Road Initiative which is likely to be more military than economic in nature.
The result of the anti-China policy intended by Pence is clearly to tame and shape China in the US` preferred trajectory and restore the American hegemonic role in the world – the role of the real aggressor. It is common knowledge that the US started an average of almost one war per year during its entire history of 242 years. That is why the US is nicknamed the "world police," exerting its aggression and invasions against all peoples on all continents and waters with close to 200 military bases still in operation on all corners of the globe.
It is also a master meddler of political elections in many countries around the world, with a record of 81 cases of such meddling from 1946 to 2000, as documented by Dov H. Levin, a Carnegie Mellon scholar. With this in mind, one can easily see that Pence`s speech sounds like the wolf crying wolf or the thief calling "stop the thief"!
Playing the China card
Upon further analysis, the rhetorical structure of Pence`s speech belies the narrative structure of a typical Hollywood blockbuster movie: A villain emerges and his vices are all exposed; a savior, a hero, or a superhero emerges to fight against and defeat the villain.
In this case, Pence paints China as the “villain” while styling the US as the "superhero." Such a black vs. white narrative reveals a simplistic thinking style rooted in modern Western dualistic thinking which most modernists often criticize. However, most Americans are more independent thinkers than the typical fans of President Trump`s "Apprentice" shows or followers of Vice President Pence`s sermons.
What is the goal of his remarks then? His remarks are intended to arouse and raise the level of the alertness of the American public toward China as a threat to be constrained and contained on all fronts. He tries to create a rhetorical situation which legitimizes his rationale for his call for a tougher approach to China.
If Washington is in a state of anxiety about the future of the US and its future role in the world affairs, the White House and its advisers on China are obsessed with China as the biggest threat toward the "America First" policy and falling deep into both groupthink and frenzy.
As Ryan Haas from the Brookings Institution wrote, even though a small Trump base supports a tougher approach toward China, the American public is less enthusiastic of a tougher approach over a long period of time and more and more disapprove of their administration`s self-defeating strategy of a trade war with China. As the November midterm elections inch closer, the current US administration is playing the China card harder and harder to win more votes to eventually win the elections.
The 21st century must be steered into one of multilaterism and collaboration, a century of progress characterized by the construction of the community of mankind with a shared future. This is what China has been doing and fighting for many decades with the increasing support of many countries around the world, both developed ones and developing ones.
What should China do in response? I personally do not advocate the strategy of "Aggression meets aggression." In conflict, when one party is in a state of frenzy, it is especially crucial that the other party remain cool-headed.
I believe that it is China`s policy to create a future of peace and prosperity shared by both the US and China. Rescind the attacks on China, reverse the anti-China policy, and the US will join China in equal measure in carving out this shared future.
Editor`s note: Wenshan Jia is a professor at Chapman University and a research fellow at the National Academy for Development and Strategy, Renmin University of China. The article reflects the author`s opinion, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.