China's America Bashing
By Todd Crowell
Global Beat Syndicate
SEATTLE - What has gotten into the Chinese these days? At a time when America's politicians usually indulge in a little China bashing, Beijing's political elite is doing some bashing of its own. First came the strangely timed anti-American diatribe supposedly penned by former Foreign Minister Qian Qichen on the eve of the U.S. Presidential election. Now comes another lecture from the deputy governor of the People's Bank of China.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Li Ruogu scolded Washington for blaming its fiscal problems, particularly the burgeoning trade deficit, on other countries. "China's custom is that we never blame others for our own problems," he said. "The United States has the reverse attitude. Whenever they have a problem, they blame others."
It may be a mark of China's growing economic confidence, not to mention more than $500 billion in foreign currency reserves, that Li can offer such blunt advice. He insisted that the appreciation of China's currency would not solve America's fiscal problems. Noting that while China does have a small overall trade deficit, "we certainly do not want to run into the U.S. situation of having a deficit of 6 percent of GDP."
Earlier, in an essay in the People's Daily, later reprinted in the English-language China Daily, Qian Qichen wrote a piece entitled "U.S. Strategy Seriously Flawed." On one level it could be read as a standard Chinese attack on U.S. hegemony in the aftermath of the Cold War--a common theme in many official pronouncements over the last decade.
Two things made Qian's article remarkable: first was the timing, coming just a day before the election. That timing is a mystery, because it is hard to believe that anyone in Beijing thought they might influence our presidential election. Indeed, the article was hardly reported at all in the United States. The Foreign Ministry later issued a "non-denial denial," saying Qian had not been interviewed by the newspaper, but adding he did not claim he had not made the comments.
Beijing usually shows a little more tact in such matters. Moreover, China's leaders had no special reason to wish Bush's defeat. Beijing has generally tilted toward Republicans ever since Richard Nixon led the way to restoring normal relations. Chinese leaders liked President George H.W. Bush, who had served there as ambassador and later sent his national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft, to Beijing shortly after the June 4, 1989 crackdown in Tiananmen Square.
Moreover, China was scarcely mentioned in our presidential campaign. Neither candidate made references to dictators, nor reference to strategic competitors, nor were there any real complaints about the trade deficit. Democratic candidate John Kerry occasionally blasted outsourcing of manufacturing to China, but that was about all.
The second thing that made Qian's attack notable was its unusually harsh tone. Part of Qian's essay was simply a kind of tour d'horizon of political and strategic developments up through the current war in Iraq, which he noted had made the United States even more unpopular in the world community than the Vietnam War. Nothing really remarkable about that.
But he went on to say, " The troubles and disasters the United States has met do not stem from threats by others, but from its own cocksureness and arrogance. The 21 st Century is not the 'American Century.' That does not mean that the United States does not want to dream. Rather it is incapable of realizing the goal."
Ouch and double ouch.
Qian is retired, but remains one of the recognized experts on international relations in the Chinese Communist Party. As foreign minister he maneuvered skillfully to try to win back China's international prestige following the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown. As a vice premier, he continued to direct foreign relations even after stepping down as foreign minister.
For the most part, Sino-U.S. relations have been on a pretty even keel in recent years, aside from the occasional U.S.sniping about China's overvalued currency. That makes the recent comments all the more mysterious. If Qian alone had commented, the issue might be passed over a curiosity. But two such criticisms in one month from top level officials indicate something is afoot.