Harold Isaacs was an American political scientist who wrote Scratches on our Minds: American Images of China and India in 1955. He identified six stages in American attitudes towards China.
When the United States was founded, there was respect. This was followed by contempt (18401905); benevolence (1905-1937); admiration (19371944); disenchantment (19441949); and hostility (after 1949). In 1990, historian Jonathan Spence updated the Isaacs model to include aroused curiosity (1970-1974); innocent fascination (1974-1979); and a renewed skepticism (1980s).
As we enter the third decade of the 21st century, we would call this a frightening confusion.
During the four years of the Trump administration, there seemed to be a harsh policy on China as with trade sanctions. Yet at the same time, the United States knew that in any negotiation with North Korea, China would always be a key player.
But with the new Biden administration, we may be going back to the bad old days, at least for the Philippines in 2012.
In April 2012, eight Chinese fishing vessels anchored in Panatag Bank (Scarborough). The United States negotiated a deal in which China and the Philippines promised to pull their forces off the bench. The Philippines honored the agreement and withdrew. China did not. The United States did nothing.
US diplomat John Roos wrote: Diplomacy fundamentally works with people, bringing people together to face difficult problems. American comedian and newspaper columnist Will Rogers wrote: Diplomacy is the art of saying Nice doggie to a snarling dog until you find a rock.
During his presidential campaign in 2019, candidate Joseph Biden explained why he believed fears that China could eventually overtake the United States as a global power and economic force were overblown. Is China going to eat our lunch? Come on man. I mean, you know, they’re not bad people. But guess what? They are not competition for us.
Last week, at a televised presidential town hall meeting, Biden warned that China would eat our lunch after meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping for the first time since assuming the presidency.
It’s just an American problem. It’s not (more from Biden on his conversation with Xi Jinping): And so the idea is that I’m not going to denounce what he’s doing in Hong Kong, what he’s doing with the Uyghurs in the western mountains of China, trying to end the one-China policy, making it energetic [Xi] gets it. Culturally, there are different standards that each country and its leaders must adhere to.
Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and current Secretary Antony Blinken have publicly acknowledged that China’s treatment of its Uyghur and Muslim minority populations is genocide. But apparently for the US president, Chinese policies are subject to interpretation based on the individual cultural norms of nations. And besides, Xi understands, whatever that means.
The White House said Biden had expressed concerns about China’s crackdown in Hong Kong and the treatment of Muslims. But they didn’t mention Bidens’ televised remarks that if you know anything about Chinese history it always has been, the time China fell victim to the outside world is the time they don’t. ‘have not been unified at home, adding that President Xi Jinping aims to achieve a tightly controlled China. Apparently this is a good thing.
The way it starts, it’s going to take four long years to get over the US position on China.
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