For several decades the United States and China enjoyed relatively good relations. The two nations linked themselves together through trade and investment, forming an economic partnership known as “Chinamerica.”
But Chinamerica is heading toward divorce. China’s explosive economic growth has put it on a course to overtake the U.S. in the near future to become the world’s largest economy. And China’s increasing wealth has been accompanied by a rapid expansion of its diplomatic and military influence. Contrary to the hopes and expectations of many observers, China’s rise to a major world power has not led to political reform. Instead, China’s government has become increasingly authoritarian at home and more aggressive abroad. China increasingly threatens and intimidates its neighbors — some of whom are American allies. And then Covid-19 entered the picture. This disease emerged in China and spread to America, inflaming the pre-existing tensions in U.S.-China relations.
As Hershey resident Robert Naeye will explain in a Hershey Public Library Zoom webinar on August 23 at 2:00 p.m., China’s aggressive behavior has deep historical roots. For much of world history, China was the pre-eminent power in Asia. But China often fell into prolonged periods of internal disunity and government collapse, which made it easy prey for foreign domination. For China’s communist party, the message is clear: It must assert total authority over its territory. China has cracked down on its Tibetan and Muslim minorities, denying them even the most basic of human rights. It has reneged on treaty obligations to preserve Hong Kong’s special status. By militarizing small islands and reefs in the South China Sea, China threatens the independence of Taiwan, which the Chinese government views as a renegade province. And on a global stage, China is extending its political and economic influence through the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Belt and Road Initiative.
As China rises, the U.S. has been declining in relative power and influence, beset with deep internal divisions and contradictions. History offers numerous examples of what happens when rising powers come into contact with declining powers: war. But a U.S.-China war would be counterproductive for both nations, and perhaps cataclysmic. Can the U.S. and China avoid this fate? How can the United States respond to China’s rise and defend its interests and values but without provoking a devastating war? Naeye will give possible answers to these urgent questions.
Robert Naeye is an award-winning freelance journalist based in Derry Township. He has visited China and Hong Kong and is an avid reader of world history and current affairs. He is a member of the Foreign Policy Association of Harrisburg. His website is www.robertnaeye.com.