“The unprecedented global challenges that the United States faces today—climate change, pandemics, nuclear proliferation, massive economic inequality, terrorism, corruption, authoritarianism—are shared global challenges. They cannot be solved by any one country acting alone. They require increased international cooperation—including with China, the most populous country on earth.” ~ Sen. Bernie Sanders, June 18, 2021
Readers have likely noticed recent Republican reference to “Communist China.” They seek to create a bogeyman to scare the electorate–one more trick in their fear-mongering bag used to dominate low-knowledge voters.
In a recent article on the Portside website, Sen. Sanders laid out how relations with China have changed, why they remain important, and require further change despite challenges.
“It is distressing and dangerous, therefore, that a fast-growing consensus is emerging in Washington that views the U.S.-Chinese relationship as a zero-sum economic and military struggle,” Sanders wrote. “The prevalence of this view will create a political environment in which the cooperation that the world desperately needs will be increasingly difficult to achieve.”
As far as a military struggle goes, the claim that China challenges the U.S. militarily is exaggerated.
It’s important to begin any assessment of the challenge from China by noting that the United States currently outpaces it militarily by a large margin. The U.S. has a more modern air force, a more capable navy and a far larger nuclear arsenal than China, and it spends roughly three times as much on its military. The spending gap widens considerably when U.S. allies in NATO, Australia, Japan, and South Korea are taken into account.
The nuclear gap is especially stark – the United States’ active nuclear stockpile is 11 times the size of China’s and deployed U.S. warheads are five times what China possesses. The gap between the U.S. and Chinese militaries is documented in detail in a recent analysis by the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation.William Hartung, Forbes Magazine, June 22, 2021
As recently as 2000, the consensus in the United States was that China should be granted “permanent normal trade relations” status or PNTR, according to Sanders. It may be familiar to hear that to compete in a global economy, U.S. companies require access to Chinese markets.
“At that time, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the corporate media, and virtually every establishment foreign policy pundit in Washington insisted that PNTR was necessary to keep U.S. companies competitive by giving them access to China’s growing market, and that the liberalization of China’s economy would be accompanied by the liberalization of China’s government with regard to democracy and human rights,” wrote Sanders.
This approach was wrong according to Sanders, as is the current approach of casting China as villainous. “For the American people to thrive,” Sanders wrote. “Others around the world need to believe that the United States is their ally and that their successes are our successes.” He supports President Biden’s approach toward relations with China.
To learn more about the change in Republican views toward China, and why it is important to coming elections, I recommend reading the two linked articles. I also recommend we don’t let Republican scare tactics divide us.