US-China Conflict

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    The Facts

    • History: After centuries as the world's largest economy, China fell behind in industrialization and lost wars, territory and concessions to Western and Japanese colonial powers starting in the 1800s, the so-called "century of humiliation." The US supported China against Japan in WW2, but when the 1949 Chinese communist revolution made the US-backed government flee to Taiwan, the US recognized it rather than the newly formed People's Republic of China (PRC) as the legitimate government of the Chinese state.

    • Diplomacy: After the Sino-Soviet split, Nixon visited China in 1972, starting a PRC-US detente. By 1979, diplomatic relations were normalized and Washington let Beijing rather than Taiwan represent China at the UN. The US supported China's 2001 admission to the World Trade Organization, but during the Obama admin., the US pivoted toward the Asia-Pacific region to counter China's growing clout. The Trump admin. launched genocide accusations as well as tariffs on Chinese goods. Both have been maintained by the Biden admin., which deepened ties with Australia, India, and Japan, forming "the Quad" to curb China's rise.

    The Spin

    Anti-China narrative

    The Chinese communist party has crushed Hong Kong's democracy, created Orwellian surveillance and perpetrated human rights abuses including Uyghur genocide. The PRC is a security threat to every democratic, freedom-loving country: it seeks to dominate the world through military aggression, economic and technological espionage, and corruption of foreign politicians to spread its dystopian authoritarian model across the globe. The US must counter these threats and contain China.

    Pro-China narrative

    The US is trying harm China's economy, discredit it and draw it into regional conflicts. US talk of democracy and human rights are mere excuses for this, since it supports many non-democratic governments. The real reason is that Washington fears losing its hegemony and wants to distract from domestic problems by scapegoating China. Chinese weakness let Western colonialists humiliate it in the 1800s, and China won't make that mistake again.

    Cynical narrative

    All this talk about defeating China is irrelevant, as a conflict wouldn't benefit either side. In fact, US policies to counter the PRC increasingly expose the fact that the American political establishment is seeking to follow the Chinese model, not promote US values.

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