Fri, 08 Dec 2023

Guest Opinion: Sinophobia is un-American

25 Jan 2023, 22:44 GMT+10

© Provided by Xinhua

In recent decades, China has been widely regarded as a partner and friend of the United States, not because China wants to follow in the footsteps of the United States and become a global hegemon, but because China wants to develop its economy and its country and take its rightful place as a leader on the world stage alongside the United States.

by Josh Selig

WASHINGTON, Jan. 25 (Xinhua) -- I love America. I love China. There, I said it.

Although I live in New York City, I have spent the past 30 years working in educational children's TV in China and around the world. My first trip to China was back in the 90s when I worked on Zhima Jie, the China/U.S. co-production of Sesame Street. In those days, we had an educational curriculum that focused on mutual respect and I find it ironic -- and unfortunate -- that mutual respect is often what's missing today in U.S. relations with China.

When meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in July 2022 in Bali, Wang Yi, China's then foreign minister, observed that many believe the United States is suffering from a growing "Chinaphobia." Yes, serious and, in some cases, chronic.

Case in point, former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo once claimed on Fox News that the Communist Party of China "will stop at nothing to undermine the very way of life we have here in America and in the West."

Comparisons between such bellicose anti-China rhetoric and McCarthyism are becoming unavoidable. "Today we are engaged in a final, all-out battle between communistic atheism and Christianity," said Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1950. Although one would hope that we Americans might learn from our own history, it looks increasingly like we are doomed to repeat it.

However, for a nation like ours which grew up on Hollywood notions of good versus evil, there is simply no evidence that China is trying to undermine our way of life. So, why do politicians on both sides of the aisle, as well as most of the U.S. media outlets, trumpet that China is challenging our very existence? And why did the United States suddenly turn against China when, just a decade ago, then President Barack Obama said that "I absolutely believe that China's peaceful rise is good for the world, and it's good for America?"

The primary cause, if you believe the dominant narrative in the United States, is that sometime during the Donald Trump administration, China, our longtime friend and trade partner, suddenly became "aggressive."

The supposed proof of China's new aggressive stance has been the steady build-up of its military capabilities in the South China Sea. Now, as anyone who knows even a little about Chinese history will tell you, China had repeatedly been attacked from the South China Sea by foreign forces.

In most of these wars, China was not able to fend off foreign military assaults, resulting in what the Chinese often refer to as their "Century of Humiliation."

Given China's history and the United States' own recent military expansion in China's backyard, calling China "aggressive" for its military build-up in the South China Sea is like calling a kid who has been bullied for years "aggressive" for finally taking some long overdue self-defense classes.

So, what is the true cause of America's U-turn on China? The dominant view among academics in the United States is that the change took place during the Trump administration when the U.S. foreign policy establishment -- a loose amalgam of think tanks, politicians, and defense contractors sometimes referred to in Washington as "The Blob" -- determined that China was simply becoming too economically and technologically successful to leave unchecked.

© Provided by Xinhua

Our U.S. policy, which has continued unabated during the Joe Biden administration, flipped from being one of engagement with China to one of containment of China. Our goal was -- and still is -- to stop, or at least slow down China's rise before it surpasses the United States in wealth and, possibly, influence.

No one made any secret of this. In fact, in March of 2021, shortly after he became president, Biden said that "China has an overall goal ... to become the leading country in the world, the wealthiest country in the world, and the most powerful country in the world ... That's not going to happen on my watch."

In other words, it became U.S. policy that no country except the United States could become a leader on the world stage.

What followed Biden's 2021 speech has been an ongoing and concerted effort by the United States to malign and contain China using every tool that the United States has at its disposal, starting with a full-court press to try and turn U.S. public opinion against China. And what better way to get Americans to dislike China than to convince us that China is now a "threat" to our country?

"Threat inflation is our business," said John Mearshiemer, a professor with the University of Chicago. "There's nobody better at threat inflation than the American foreign policy establishment." And he went on to say, "What the United States has is it has this whole stable of spin doctors who come out and justify all of our cold and calculating behavior in very idealistic rhetoric which the American people gobble up because we all want to believe that we're the good guys and everyone else is the bad guys." And this is what we are all now experiencing in the United States: an orchestrated effort to portray China as America's newest bad guy.

These thoughts are echoed by Chas Freeman, the U.S. diplomat and China expert who was former U.S. President Richard Nixon's translator during his historic talks with Mao Zedong in the 1970s.

Freeman's take on China relations today is worth repeating here: "There's not much evidence of China wanting to replace us. They are displacing us in some spheres because they're big and growing and successful. Do they want to take on our global dominion and hegemony role? No, but we assert that they do. We posit that China thinks and behaves like us: 'We had Manifest Destiny and it took us across the Pacific to the Philippines. Therefore, China must have a Monroe Doctrine and Manifest Destiny in mind.' This is wrong. Things don't work like that ... If we have sound policies, we can out-compete anyone. But we're not looking at sound policies; we're looking at pulling down our competitor."

Given all of our U.S. efforts to "pull down" China, it would be prudent for Americans to take with a grain of salt any and all accusations made by our U.S. leaders against China and Chinese companies.

It is true that China and the United States have some divergences. However, one must be careful to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to such criticisms, lest we fall prey to the sort of political witch-hunts that gripped the United States during the McCarthy era.

In recent decades, China has been widely regarded as a partner and friend of the United States, not because China wants to follow in the footsteps of the United States and become a global hegemon, but because China wants to develop its economy and its country and take its rightful place as a leader on the world stage alongside the United States.

As scholar Edward Tse has written, "The Pacific Ocean is large enough to accommodate two major powers." China believes that its rejuvenation can best be achieved by continuing to work peacefully with other countries on trade, infrastructure projects and cultural exchanges, all of which, most will agree, have been a net positive for the world since China's opening-up in 1978.

On Sesame Street and other children's shows I've worked on, we would often stress to kids that mutual respect begins with really getting to know someone. Talking to them. Listening to them. Becoming friends. In our current political climate, my hope is that more Americans will get to know both China and the Chinese people first hand.

By doing so, I believe they will discover -- as I have -- a great nation with a rich history that does not have malevolent intentions toward the United States. In the words of Noam Chomsky, "The great powers will either find a way to cooperate, to work together in confronting imminent global threats, or the future will be too grim to contemplate."

(Editor's note: Josh Selig is the founder and president of China Bridge Content. The article does not necessarily reflect the views of Xinhua News Agency)

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