In international relations, stories matter, and China has been busy telling a story of American treachery that is patently false.
In the acronym to exchange between US and Chinese diplomats on March 18 in Anchorage, Alaska, Chinese Communist Party (CPC) Foreign Chief Yang Jiechi asked, “So haven’t the Chinese people suffered enough in the past?” from foreign countries?
This statement reflects China story of victimization summarized in what the CCP calls the Century of humiliation, that China’s setbacks since 1839 were due to foreign depredations, not the failures of China’s own rulers.
From the history of the century of humiliation, Chinese President Xi Jinping built his concept of the Chinese dream. Unlike his American counterpart, Jinping’s China Dream is not based on self-fulfillment and freedom, but focuses on rejuvenating China’s national power and prestige in the face of what he perceives to be the Western and, in particular, American efforts to keep China down.
But it is wrong and dangerous to portray the United States as a traditional tout of China. At decisive moments, the United States has helped preserve China’s independence and promote China’s economic development.
Foreigners have plundered China. In the first opium war from 1839 to 1842, British gunboats forced China to open its country to the sale of dangerous narcotics and to sign unequal treaties it undermined Chinese sovereignty.
The United States has made its own unequal treaty with China in 1844, but with American characteristics. The American treaty protected the rights of American missionaries to spread Christianity and allowed Americans to study the Chinese language, which China had banned. He also accepted China’s legal power to prosecute Americans caught in the act of opium.
As a weakened Manchu dynasty faltered, foreign powers prepared to slice up China like a melon, as the Chinese often say. But, in 1899 and 1900, US Secretary of State John Hay published theOpen door notes, urging foreign powers to respect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The open door notes slowed European and Japanese encroachment on China.
Chinese representations of the victory over Japan in World War II leaves one thing aside: it was largely the United States and Chinese nationalists who defeated Japan. The CCP played a relatively small role. After the war, a victorious America gave up any special rights or territorial claims over China.
The United States and China came to blows when North Korea invaded South Korea and American forces pushed north to the Chinese border. Chinese volunteers joined the fray alongside the Korean Communist leader Kim il-sung. Rather than using its nuclear advantage to deliver a final blow to the fledgling People’s Republic of China (PRC), the United States opposed. President Truman fired his best general rather than risk a larger war with China.
When China and the Soviet Union engaged during border clashes in the late 1960s, the United States again came to the aid of China, dismissing Soviet probes regarding a preemptive attack on Chinese nuclear facilities and engaging in a broad opening to China that effectively opposed Soviet hegemony in the East.
When China emerged from its self-imposed chaos of the Cultural Revolution in 1976, the United States joined with others in injecting foreign direct investment into the country, contributing to China’s rise. economic power.
Most importantly, the United States championed a rules-based trading system that expanded China’s access to foreign markets. The United States included China in the World Trade Organization in 2001 and opened its markets to Chinese products. China gladly accepted these opportunities and at the same time widely violated US intellectual property rights in what FBI Director Christopher Wray said. characterized as one of the most important transfers of wealth in human history.
As China sought to learn from the West, the United States welcomed hundreds of thousands of Chinese students to top universities in the Americas. Jinping sent his only child to study at Harvard.
And the U.S. Seventh Fleet kept the peace in East Asia, further facilitating China’s development. At every step, the United States pursued its own interests, but it did so in a way that also benefited China.
Beijing’s one-sided portrayal of the United States as determined to undermine China threatens to become a self-fulfilling prophecy, as Americans read China’s narrative as unfounded hostility to the United States. control.
A new cold war between the United States and China is not inevitable. But false accounts from the PRC about the US behavior towards China will only contribute to further deterioration of relations.
The United States needs to take a critical look at the stories it tells itself about its own past. But China must also compare its account of the role of the Americas in the Age of Humiliation with the facts.
Just as Mao Zedong admired the Chinese writer Lu Xun, Jinping too. Famous work of Xuns Ah Q’s true story, highlights the foreign abuses of an unhappy China. While it is tempting for the Chinese leadership to portray the United States as a hangman of China, this characterization is patently false.
Jinping’s true story should reflect the more complex realities of US-China relations, for the sake of both China and the United States
Mark C. Storella is Professor of Diplomacy Practice at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University and previously served as a US diplomat for three decades.
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