EYESHENZHEN  /   Opinion

Trump's hard-line approach to China will boomerang

Writer: Lin Min  |  Editor: Jane Chen  |  From: Shenzhen Daily  |  Updated: 2020-07-20

U.S. President Donald Trump did not bother to conceal his dirty work of pressuring Boris Johnson into banning Shenzhen-based tech giant Huawei from Britain's 5G network.

Instead, he has proudly claimed credit for Johnson's decision to ban Huawei, saying he convinced the U.K. that the Chinese company was "unsafe." In a press conference at the White House last week, Trump said that "I did this myself, for the most part" as he spoke of having worked to pressure nations to not use Huawei.

Even as the numbers of coronavirus cases in the United States continue to surge to new highs, the Trump administration, instead of focusing on containing the pandemic, seems to be more preoccupied by mounting a multifaceted attack on China and scapegoating China for all its own failures, particularly its messy, bungled coronavirus response.

Trump's lieutenants have also recently moved to level unsubstantiated accusations against China. U.S. Attorney General William Barr, in a speech Thursday, accused the country of "unlawful tactics," such as theft of intellectual property, in pursuit of global supremacy, and engaging in an "economic blitzkrieg."

Earlier this month, FBI Director Christopher Wray launched a similar groundless attack on China, claiming that Americans are the victims of "what amounts to Chinese theft on a scale so massive that it represents one of the largest transfers of wealth in human history," without giving credible evidence.

Wray's comments came on the heels of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's threat to ban TikTok as well as other Chinese social media apps, citing "national security concerns."

This smear campaign exacerbated the U.S.-China tensions, which had already reached toxic levels as a result of the Trump-initiated trade war and his blame game targeting China.

Why did the Trump administration launch a coordinated attack on China at a time when Americans desperately need to stand together to fight the coronavirus pandemic that has sickened more than 3.8 million people and killed at least 142,000 in the country?

Ian Johnson, a writer with The New York Times, writes in an emotional opinion piece published July 16: "Taking a hard-line approach against China today is just unavoidable realpolitik" for the ideologues in the White House. The main goal, he writes, is to "turn China into a tool to help President Trump get re-elected in the fall. ... Mr. Trump's real objective is to dupe American voters into thinking that China is responsible for the coronavirus and, by extension, for the economic depression the pandemic has caused."

Johnson characterizes Trump's China approach as a "blind confrontation," because the U.S. will get nothing from such confrontation. China will never budge in issues like Xinjiang and Hong Kong, which are internal affairs of the country.

Trump's attempt to decouple the world's two largest economies is a far more reckless act than just pointing fingers at China. Such an act will only push China to seek self-reliance on technology and will ultimately hurt American companies.

Earlier this year, China adopted a new theory called "the domestic and international dual circulation system" in response to the decoupling threat. According to the theory, China will speed up the development of a self-sufficient economy that relies on the domestic market, while making the domestic system and the international trade and investment system complementary and beneficial to each other.

The shift in strategy does not mean China is determined to retreat from the international market and adopt unilateralism. China's new reform and opening up measures, such as those concerning Hainan, are a clear indication that the country will continue to engage with the rest of the world even under the headwinds of deglobalization.

However, the domestic part of the "dual circulation system" will be shifted into overdrive if the U.S. continues to attempt to suppress China's development, and it will stimulate domestic tech development while eliminating the country's tech import from the U.S., effectively cutting off access to the huge Chinese market for the American tech industry.

Most American voters will eventually see through Trump's shenanigans. Joe Biden claims a double-digit lead over Trump in the latest national polls, as Americans are refusing to be fooled by Trump's brazen blame-China drivels, a futile attempt to cover up his administration's incompetence that has resulted in the pandemic response fiasco.

To paraphrase a Chinese expression, Trump is lifting a rock only to drop it on his own foot. Or, to say it in a more American way, he is shooting himself in his foot.

(The author is a deputy editor-in-chief of Shenzhen Daily.)