The China-U.S. Trade negotiations have been going on for more than a year. Ten dozen rounds of high-level negotiations and two “Xi’an special meetings” have still failed to terminate the “smoke smoke.” The first phase of the trade agreement will be signed in the near future, but this does not rule out the possibility of renewed disputes between the two countries.
What needs to be recognized is that the China-U.S. Trade war is just one dimension of the increasingly fierce China-U.S. Conflict. The structure of China-U.S. Relations has continued to change, especially in recent years. Or the US government’s criticism of China’s internal affairs. This series of symbolic events will continue to erupt in the foreseeable years, decades, and even decades, and news will continue in the coming months.
Therefore, it is necessary for us to make a comprehensive framework review of the intricate China-US relations. “Hong Kong 01” will present our core judgments on the structural transformation of China-US relations in eight articles, this is the second article.
The ancient Greek general and historian Thucydides wrote in his “History of the Peloponnesian War” that “the inevitability of the Peloponnesian war was caused by Bata ’s fear of the rise of Athens. ” This is the origin of the term “Thucydides trap”, which means that a newly emerging power must challenge the existing powers, and the existing powers must respond, making war between the two inevitably occur.
Does this assertion agree with China and the United States? People have been discussing this for years. And since Harvard professor Graham Allison published his doomed war in 2017: Can the United States and China avoid the Thucydides trap? “This argument is mentioned again in a book, and relevant discussions in the international public opinion community have followed. The “China-US trade war” officially launched in May 2018, and the China-US frictions that have gradually erupted in various fields, have helped fuel the situation. As a result, Cui Tiankai, Chinese ambassador to the United States, also specifically emphasized that “there is no such thing as the Thucydides trap in the world” in his speech at the US-China Trade Commission Annual Dinner on December 4.
The discussions on China-US relations and the “Thucydides Trap” are hotly debated. This is understandable. After all, this word is a good gimmick, and China-US relations are indeed comparable to the situation described by the “Thucydides Trap” Place.
The reason why China-US relations can be compared to the “Thucydides trap” is for two reasons.
First, the structural contradictions between China and the United States stem from the distrust and hostility of the “Boss” against the rising “Second Son”. The rise of an emerging country is bound to seek change in the existing order, and the existing big powers are the biggest beneficiaries of the existing order.
This is similar to the situation in China-US relations today. For decades, the existing international order is composed of North America, Western Europe, Japan, Australia, and other countries. The United States is the dominant political, military, trade, financial, and scientific network. China has gradually integrated into this “existing order” since the 1970s, but it has been passively involved and lacks the right to formulate and adjust rules. This is only 1% of the world ’s global economy. It is not a problem. However, when China is sitting at 15% of the global economy, it still has not been able to participate in the World Trade Organization (WTO), International Monetary Organization (IMF), or the World Bank. (World Bank) and other institutions have obtained equal rule-making power, then the existing order will inevitably gradually fail, and China will seek more right to speak.
From this perspective, China is the “foreigner” seeking change in the existing order, and it is the emerging power with a revisionist tendency.
Born of desire and fear
Second, China-US frictions are frequent, and another reason for the analogy of the “Thucydides Trap” stems from the desire of the United States to maintain its leadership and the fear of losing its leadership. This is similar to the dispute between Britain and Germany, the dispute between Britain and Spain, and the battle between Sparta and Athens. The original strategic layout, military, political, and economic interests were challenged, and the desire and fear produced friction. The ending.
“When China’s economic volume accounts for only 1% of the world, the world still does not feel problematic, but when China sits at 15% of the global economy, it still has not been able to compete in the WTO Banks (World Bank) and other institutions get equal rule-making power, then the existing order will inevitably gradually fail.”
Today’s American politics is still affected by the thinking of the game of power. Whether it is Obama’s “21st Century is the American Century” or Trump’s “Make America Great”, and their election, they have highlighted American society from top to bottom. Dedicated to his absolute global leadership, he could not accept that “the United States is not the most powerful country in the world.” This attachment to authority can easily evolve into conflicts of national hard power, including military conflicts.
To change this situation, first of all, it is necessary to change the current thinking of many politicians, media opinion people, and even ordinary citizens in a power game pattern.
This is not a big problem in China, because policy makers in Beijing do not formulate China-US foreign policy in this way, and the central government has absolute say in China’s US policy. The United States is not the same. On the one hand, many decision makers in Washington still believe in the “Game of Thrones” and adhere to “the United States first.” On the other hand, American society generally holds similar thinking. Foreign policy has considerable influence. In maintaining the dimension of peace and stability in US-China relations, the current situation in the United States is a vicious circle.
There must be a battle between China and the United States?
Social psychology has a concept of “defensive communication”, which means that when a person subjectively thinks that an outsider is bringing change or threats, the person will tend to take a defensive counterattack, often accompanied by conflict Sexual awareness. It is appropriate to use this concept to describe the American thinking on China today.
This also determines that China and the United States will be in a period of structural conflict for at least the next 20-30 years-China will seek reforms in the existing order, and this will necessarily require the Western countries headed by the United States to “surrender part of their rule-making power” This damages the relative strength of the United States and touches the nerves of the United States.
However, China and the United States will eventually pass the “Thucydides trap.” This is because the core of the “Thucydides Trap” lies in the ending of “Escape from World War I”. However, today it is not only difficult for China and the United States to talk about “there must be a war.” Even small-scale military conflicts have not occurred. This is different from the previous “Thucydides trap” case. why? There are three reasons.
Reason one: economic and social ties
The first reason that China and the United States can overcome the “Thucydides Trap” is that all the precedents of the “Thucydides Trap” in history have not been so closely intertwined with China and the United States today.
After World War II, countries around the world quickly integrated into the globalization process, and many traditional relationships were introduced into the changes. The changes in the past few decades are only the primary stage of globalization, and to a large extent only the globalization of capital. Deepening, international economic and trade penetration into every level of the industrial chain, the barriers to social and cultural exchanges are further broken, and fundamental changes will take place in political science and technology.
Of course, the changes brought about by globalization have their “pain”. People need to adapt, but even today they have made China and the United States “mutually beneficial and difficult to give up”, not to mention the future? Under this symbiotic relationship, the “enemy” is no longer the enemy, and “I” is not just me. How can we go to war?
Reason 2: International resistance
The second reason China and the United States can overcome the “Thucydides trap” lies in international resistance.
In the historical precedents of war, the international community is also mostly unrelated and mediates on the basis of morality or kinship. In today’s tightly connected global political and economic landscape, “recognizing differences while seeking consensus through peaceful means” has become a universally accepted principle. Even the United States, which frequently participates in and initiates wars, is at least in the bright side. It also upholds the slogan of maintaining peace.
The motivation for countries to actively maintain peace is unprecedentedly high, not only because of political correctness and humanitarian considerations, but also because countries around the world are closely intertwined with China and the United States. Only the China-US trade war has already damaged all parties, let alone further conflict?
Reason 3: No one wants war
The third and most important reason why China and the United States can overcome the “Thucydides trap” is that no one wants war. This is not only because the Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) between two major nuclear powers has formed an effective mutual deterrence, but also not only because the lethality of modern war has made people find a new perspective on fear It is because of some more delicate social factors.
First of all, the purpose of war is always political interests. Today, the two countries are too intertwined. The war can no longer bring benefits, or in other words, the people can no longer appreciate such political interests. However, the socioeconomic cost of war has increased significantly. It will turn into political loss. Therefore, today there is no political reason for the war between China and the United States.
Moreover, the early empires in history have a strong sense of honor, whether it is “fighting for France”, “fighting for Germany”, “fighting for the protection of Daming”, “fighting for the British Empire”, this kind of The sense of honor is closely linked to the empires, but the interdependent relationship between people under today’s globalization makes this sense of honor even more futile and impractical.
Let’s talk about the United States itself. The U.S. military layout covers the whole world. It has participated in every major world war since World War II. Since the Vietnam War, the voice of military contraction has never stopped, especially since the Iraq War and even the Afghanistan War. For the people, the consensus in American society is that they do not want to be involved in war again, otherwise Trump, who pushed for global withdrawal, will not be elected; and for soldiers, soldiers are never afraid of death, Rather, it is impossible to find the meaning of struggle and to gain social recognition, and this is exactly the confusion faced by the US military.
As for China, compared to the United States, China today has a higher nationalist spirit, especially the military. Different from the war-weary situation of ordinary people and soldiers in the United States, today the Chinese army is rather fighting, especially at the grassroots, middle and high levels. The military reform in the years after the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China has yet to be achieved. It has been tested in actual combat, but it has already achieved “when you come, you can fight.” However, China is very reluctant to go to war throughout the country. This is because war is a gamble, and it will probably bring serious negative effects to China’s development process and hinder China’s development. The Chinese understand the illusory nature of this gambling situation, and the CCP leadership collective is even more so.
Moreover, China today is no longer in a poor and irreversible situation. The poor “have nothing to lose,” and the rich are less willing to fight.
It should be distinguished that if it is on Taiwan and other issues, the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese nationals will not hesitate to fight with other countries when necessary, but if it is for reasons other than violation of national sovereignty, such as seizing resources, it is It is difficult to imagine the possibility of China resorting to force. After all, for Chinese culture, harmony can make money, and the meaning of “wu” lies in “stopping the ge.”