Jonathan D. Pollack is a non-resident senior researcher at the John Thornton China Center and the Brookings Institution’s East Asia Policy Center. Chen Yuxuan, a student reporter who is informed about monitoring by the United States and China, recently conducted a Zoom interview with Pollack, and the record is as follows.
On July 23rd, Secretary of State Pompeo gave a speech entitled "Communist China and the Future of the Free World" at the Nixon Presidential Library. What do you think of this speech and the Trump administration's China policy?
Pollack: Pompeo’s speech was very political. What I mean is that he thinks this will be in line with the political agenda he subscribes to, and many other Republican agendas will do the same.
In his speech, he repeatedly used the term "communist China". We have never heard Americans say it. It has been officially used for at least half a century, at least since the Nixon era. He and other Trump administration officials have also mentioned the "CCP" many times now, in some way hoping to make the party the main villain of the story. This was a signal when Nixon began to call China the "People's Republic of China". Pompeo's use of the term "communist China" is also a sign. For the Nixon Library, his speech was very interesting. He tried to imply that Nixon first tried to open the door to China, and now Pompeo is trying to close it.
The "free world" mentioned in the speech was a statement used during the Cold War. The label of "free world" is related to a belief that the world is bipolar, and it is the Soviet Union versus the United States. The irony is that China and the Soviet Union began their own ideological struggle as early as the 1950s. Therefore, the alliance relationship between China and the Soviet Union was under tremendous pressure, if not immediately, for a few years. For a long time, China was neither part of the "Soviet camp" nor part of the "American camp." In other words, even in the late 1950s, the world did not seem to be polarized.
The speech also revealed Pompeo's personal ambitions. Regardless of whether Trump wins the election or not, Pompeo can almost certainly become the 2024 presidential candidate. Compared with all other possible Republican candidates, Pompeo has a closer relationship with Trump. Therefore, if Trump fails in November, Pompeo will have to find a way to reposition himself. However, I think Pompeo’s sentiments are very opposed to China, partly because he does not want to be "suppressed" by other conservative competitors.
For almost all Republicans, China has become a "fist". No one wants to have a soft spot for "China." To some extent, this reflects the Trump administration’s efforts to describe China as a major threat to the United States. The irony is that for years, Chinese officials have accused the United States of having a "cold war" mentality, although I have always thought that this accusation is a bit exaggerated. After all, before the establishment of the Trump administration and since Richard Nixon, every president has more or less comparable views in the pursuit of improving relations with China. Sometimes for national security reasons. However, since China's accession to the WTO, Republicans and Democrats have basically shared the goals of American companies and broader and more positive American thinking on China. This is no longer the case. Both sides are increasingly critical of China, but the Republicans’ criticism is more motivated by ideology, while many Democrats accuse China of not fulfilling its WTO commitments and severely criticize China’s human rights policies and policies. Be more confident in foreign policy. China strongly opposes these criticisms, but if Biden is elected, we should expect more attention to these issues. In other words, the Democrats are stressing that they believe that China has not fulfilled its responsibilities as an increasingly powerful and important country.
Some scholars believe that the United States has now become the main driving force of globalization. Do you expect that if the Democratic government returns to power, the United States will embrace globalization again? Does President Trump's view of globalization generally represent all Republicans?
Polk: Non-globalization is one of the issues that helped elect Trump. As for the operation of the international economy, he not only has a strict view of China, but also of himself. More than 30 years ago, when Trump first began to express strong opinions on international issues, he focused on Japan because of the booming Japanese economy, especially in the automotive and consumer electronics sectors, and the US's trade deficit with Japan was increasing. expand. At that time, the trade between the United States and China was very limited, so I didn't know that he paid special attention to China in those years. But Trump is a mercantilist. He believes that a country’s export volume should be greater than its import volume. Therefore, if any country with a trade surplus favors that country rather than the United States, he believes this is unacceptable. This shows his basic objections to China, and China is now a major trading country in the world and its trade relationship with the United States is very unbalanced.
However, most economists regard the British economist David Riccardo's view of comparative advantage as a trade between the two countries. In certain commodities, China, as a developing economy, can be much cheaper and produce more efficiently than the United States. At the same time, some products and technologies have made the United States more advanced. It remains the main source of global innovation. Let us take the iPhone as an example. When buying an iPhone, the box will say "designed in California, assembled in China". However, even if China is designated as the country of origin, mobile phones are not really made in China. The company operating a very modern iPhone assembly plant (Foxcon) is located in Taiwan. The protective glass on the iPhone is made in South Korea, which is a major participant in the regional supply chain. When the finished product enters the United States, even if it is an export product from China, Apple makes a considerable profit from the sale of the iPhone. But it has long been thought that all parties will benefit from this arrangement.
This is a theory, but it also has a very negative impact on these arrangements. Although American consumers have benefited a lot from buying consumer products at lower prices, in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and other states, the old industrial economy has suffered a lot. In these places, many factories have closed and many workers have lost their high-paying jobs. These states voted for Trump in 2016 and helped ensure his election as president. But even if Trump relies on tariffs and sanctions on China and other countries, the US global trade deficit continues to increase. In July, the U.S. trade deficit reached 63.6 billion U.S. dollars, the highest level in twelve years, reflecting record imports from the United States.
At the same time, many American manufacturers and American farmers have achieved success including exporting products to China. As long as the terms of globalization are considered reasonable, fair and open, they are interested in globalization. According to WTO rules, market access is an obligation and requires two-way reciprocity. But many American companies complained that because the various sectors of the Chinese economy are still protected, they cannot fully and fully compete in the Chinese domestic market.
China has also benefited a lot from enrolling thousands of Chinese students. American universities and universities. This is a big business in the United States. Due to COVID-19 and major changes in US visa policies, many schools are now worried about the loss of income for international students. American companies including Silicon Valley do not want to lose the creativity of talented young scientists and engineers, especially from China and India. This is another whole of globalization. But the Trump administration has defined China as a comprehensive national security threat and has used this definition to impose more restrictions on China's policies.
But who played a decisive role in the US-China policy? You would intuitively think that the President of the United States made these decisions, but many powerful government bureaucracies play a vital role in this process. Of course, Trump is particularly interested in trade, which is most important to him. But Trump views the world from a very personal perspective. He worried that he might not win re-election. His failure to control the flu pandemic has had a very serious impact on the US economy, and the racial unrest in the US is also fierce. He found that it is easier to blame China for many such problems than to admit that his own president has failed. Therefore, he attributed the first appearance of the coronavirus in Wuhan to the decline in public support, severe recession and unemployment, and to China. He claimed that China should be able to stop its spread quickly.
If Biden is elected, we will have a more positive attitude towards globalization, but this is likely to be another model of his. Globalization. Biden talked about rebuilding some hard-hit U.S. industries and talked about developing new opportunities for American workers in innovative fields such as clean energy. He does not want the United States to remain dependent on foreign products. He is trying to solve America’s own problems, not just blaming them on other countries. However, Biden is largely considered an internationalist. He believes in international institutions and multilateral agreements.
According to a poll recently released by the Pew Research Center he did not try to speak like Trump. He knew that to solve the US problem, he must find villains at home, not abroad. In the coronavirus, more and more Americans have a negative view of China. How does public opinion usually play a role in bilateral relations and in the specific circumstances of current US-China relations?
Polk: . In 2000, China's economy ranked sixth in the world. In 2015, China became the second largest economy. Many Americans are surprised and admired by this extraordinary rapid growth. However, in the past few years, people have become more vigilant about China’s rapid development and have ensured a level playing field in long-term economic competition. Part of the reason is that China has moved upstream in the value chain, which means it can compete in areas of the global economy, such as telecommunications, that it was unable to compete in. Trump emphasized all these issues when he was running for president. According to the advice of Peter Navarro and other trade and technology advisers, efforts to restrict China’s access to advanced American technology now dominate many US actions, most of which are economic nationalists.
When Americans were asked whether China has done well or badly in response to the coronavirus, a large number of them claimed that China's performance was poor. However, given the differences between our political systems and the "independent" thinking of many Americans, China has dealt with this virus in a way that is impossible for the United States, even if they are unwilling to be told what to do to make society as a whole Benefit. Not only in China, but East Asian countries have done much better than the United States in controlling the spread of the virus. In contrast, the United States has performed poorly, not only at the federal government level, but also in the irresponsible behavior of many Americans. Trump has now paid a severe price for this, because public opinion has declined. Generally speaking, any president who has major problems during the presidency will be held accountable to them. Trump now blames China and other countries for his mistakes, but the virus is not a member of the Democratic Party or the Chinese government.
When political sentiment changes so quickly and decisively in one direction or another, I always feel uneasy. Many resentments against China are more of an acknowledgment of America's failure. At the end of World War II, the United States was the world's largest power, controlling more than 25% of global GDP. The United States is still the most powerful country in the world today, and it is very advanced in many fields of science and technology. But many Americans seem to believe that its advantages are disappearing.
I don’t want to say that this is like the Cold War, because China is very different from the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union is a powerful military power, but it is not a major economic actor, while China is a big country with dual capabilities. This is the main reason why the rise of China has attracted great attention from the US policy circles. After China joined the WTO, in the era of rapid development, the United States spent trillions of dollars on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Great turmoil has occurred in the Middle East, and now, we let Trump repeatedly complain that the Germans and other US allies are not paying their due share.
These factors all show that the United States is very unhappy. Trump is using these emotions. He claimed that other countries are mocking and using the United States. Prior to 2017, Pew's research showed a greater proportion of pros and cons against China. Now, 73% of the population has a negative attitude towards China. This tells us that public opinion is very malleable and variable. The government can convey coordinated messages that influence public opinion. For example, terrorism was the main threat after the 9/11 attacks 20 years ago. However, when voting, economic conditions are usually the main factor in determining voters' decisions. Now, public opinion is focused on Covid-19, and Trump is doing all he can to blame. He is still trying to find ways to retain core supporters who focus on complaints against others in the United States and abroad. This is a very dark scene outside. Except for his core supporters, his method did not work effectively, so he fell into a deep political loophole. It is also important to emphasize that Trump has no power to postpone the election. This is against the law. It has never happened before in American history.
How does the deteriorating Sino-US relations affect China's position in the Asia-Pacific region? Do you envision that North Korea will more or less help China deal with the United States?
Pollack: Most East Asian countries do not want to be caught between the United States and China, nor do they want to be forced to make decisions in another way. The United States sometimes believes that it should be able to force others to make choices. However, countries such as South Korea and Japan know that unless allies see a serious threat to their national security, it is completely unrealistic to make an absolute choice. At the same time, these countries do not want to be forced by China to make choices. Throughout East Asia, people recognize the growth of China's economic, political, and military power. These are facts. However, every neighboring country seeks assurance of China's long-term intentions. They do not want to be forced by China to make decisions that are not in their own interests. If states believe that they can effectively cooperate with the United States, then they will have more confidence in their ability to effectively deal with China. All of them hope to have confidence in the United States "holding its own position."
However, Trump often views the alliance as a burden and obstacle to his foreign policy goals. The question is, what will the states do if Trump is re-elected? By the end of his second term, the United States’ commitment to its allies had been severely undermined. We can take South Korea as an example. If South Korea no longer has confidence in its relationship with the United States, it will not only change its strategic calculations for China, but also its strategic calculations for Japan and other countries. The alliance reflects values, interests, views on security, etc. Contrary to Trump, Biden believes in alliances. If East Asian countries have predictable and stable relations with the United States, they will be more willing to seek to improve relations with China.
The fact that Biden was elected president does not guarantee relations between the regions. The United States and China will remain stable. For example, some people question whether the United States will pay full attention to the core interests of regional countries, including China. Take the newly deployed ballistic missile as an example. The United States can ask whether Japan and South Korea are ready to accept the deployment of new ballistic missiles on their territories. But no one seems to be particularly eager to pursue this possibility, and the United States cannot simply order them to do so. Throughout East Asia, more militarized competition between the United States and China is not welcome. Others want to be able to protect their own national security without turning into fierce military competition with China or anyone else.
What do you think of the expected decoupling process between the United States and China? Is this manageable? What is the risk of this disengagement?
Pollack: How does the US government accommodate US companies and consumers during the decoupling process? Trump has always been an unpredictable leader. Although decoupling may continue to a certain extent, US companies and institutions want to retain existing partnerships and explore new or expanded partnerships. No matter what role the government plays, people strongly hope to preserve social and interpersonal relationships. At the company level, this is very true. But this must be a two-way road. It cannot be unilaterally advantageous. For example, almost all American companies operating in China are profitable. Although few people want to leave, they need to know that their participation is welcome and will be protected. Maybe some of them will start to move part of their business to low-paying countries. This is the phenomenon of comparative advantage. However, many of them have made huge commitments to long-term participation in China, as long as these relationships benefit both China and the United States.
The current problem is that Trump is openly hostile to many fundamentals of bilateral trade and the premise of the global order. He is skeptical of foreign entities and is very an economic nationalist. The entire government has cast a dark shadow over China. Whoever becomes the next president will face great challenges in overcoming these huge differences.
Although the Trump administration has been propagating that China is a major country threatening the national security of the United States, some others have stated that internal problems such as the rise of populism and the democratic defects exposed by Covid-19 are the real United States The key issue. Do you think the domestic/internal problems in the United States are a greater threat to the welfare of the entire country, or are the external problems more serious?
Pollack: Broadly speaking, I think this is a domestic problem and they are accumulating. Even though Americans may be worried about threats from the outside world, they are fundamentally more worried about how to live a better life and have more confidence in their future. Many Americans worry about the national debt accumulated by the United States and what kind of world and society they and their children live in. These issues are now increasingly being raised by Americans.
In many cases, major threats often appear suddenly, such as the attack on September 11. But I believe that the challenge the United States faces today is not the result of some major threats from abroad. These are caused by the changes and problems accumulated over time in the United States. Trump did not work hard to solve these problems. Biden claimed that the election was about the "American Soul." I think I understand what he meant. This is a very powerful image, and I believe this is the master that has caused a lot of thinking.
Moreover, 13.5 million American workers are still unemployed. This is where political and economic changes must begin. If we can achieve better development at home, I think this may help build healthier relations with foreign countries. For Covid-19, we should not blame the outside world, but should look for ways to work with others to treat COVID as a global crisis, not just an American crisis. This is not the first time we have encountered a pandemic, and the only way for us to overcome all these diseases is through collaboration. How to control the virus and how we begin to fully reopen the international economy will not happen overnight.
In your distinguished career, you have worked for the RAND Corporation, the Naval War College and the Naval Academy. Brookings Institution. What do you think of the role of US think tanks in US-China relations?
Pollack: believes that think tanks vary in shape and scale and are not real research institutions, but we can call them advocate organizations. For me, think tanks should be a place where you don't know what conclusions will be drawn before conducting research, and for many think tanks, even if you don't read the research report, you will often know what they will say.
] Think tank research must be based on independence, objectivity, and serious attention to issues that the government may be unwilling or unwilling to raise. A true think tank must be prepared to ask these questions, make judgments honestly, and collect the evidence needed to confirm these judgments. It is true that think tanks have been extensively developed in the United States, but now they have become a global phenomenon.
Think tanks should be a place to encourage innovative thinking and prepare to ask uncomfortable questions. Most think tanks are located in the capitals of the United States or other countries. But you must be able to tell the government what you might not want to hear. I will continue to work with Chinese colleagues who can maintain an open mind, even if we live and work in a very different society. I am not particularly interested in abstract theory. All of us make judgments based on certain assumptions about how the world works, but this is just where we need to start. Here, we must begin to understand the problems faced by societies and the challenges that are more international or transnational in nature. This is an arduous and arduous task.