US National Security Adviser John Bolton ramped up rhetoric on China in an interview on conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt’s radio show on Friday. He accused China of taking advantage of the international order to gain substantial economic and military strength, saying “now is the time” to stand up to China. Mr Bolton also said US President Donald Trump’s tough approach toward China, a country the administration regards as the “major issue this century”, had left Beijing “confused”.
“They’ve never seen an American president this tough before. I think their behaviour needs to be adjusted in the trade area, in the international, military and political areas, in a whole range of areas,” he said.
The US recently is piling pressure on China. Mr Bolton’s remarks are a part of it and more like a continuation of the stinging speech against China delivered by Vice President Mike Pence on October 4.
A barrage of high-profile accusations against China made by senior US officials has exerted a bad influence globally. China refuted the false accusations, but meanwhile Beijing didn’t take retaliatory countermeasures to escalate Sino-US confrontation.
China exercised restraint in showing toughness. That doesn’t mean China will concede on issues of principle. Whenever the US provokes China on trade, the South China Sea or the Taiwan question, China never hesitated to strike back.
The US has labelled China a “strategic competitor”. China could have retaliated and defined the US as a “strategic rival”. Seen from the viewpoint of Chinese history, it would not be so difficult to decide that. But today’s China didn’t, not because Beijing fears Washington, but because the country is determined to further reform and open up. China will not close itself up under US pressure.
It’s believed China will not head into a new Cold War with the US, nor will it become a second Soviet Union. China has economic and military power and will respond rationally and powerfully to US provocations on specific issues. China has no interest in an overall confrontation with the US. A new Cold War pattern will not take shape if China exercises restraint.
No matter how the US political and public opinion elites rabble-rouse, the majority of Americans and the world will finally understand the significance of China’s rational strategic restraint.
If these US elites think they can convince the whole of US society to pay the price for a confrontation with China to prevent imaginary threats, they can keep trying. The US side has been constantly releasing information on a possible meeting between President Xi Jinping and Mr Trump during the G20 summit in Argentina in late November. Its purpose clearly is to put pressure on the Chinese side.
But the fact is: Few Chinese expect a breakthrough at the summit to end the trade war. This round of China-US conflict is more likely to be a protracted war. Most Chinese people are prepared for that. Despite deteriorating China-US relations, China’s adherence to reform and opening-up hasn’t changed, nor its determination to resolve external conflicts in a reasonable way. China still believes that a peaceful bilateral relationship makes both sides winners while a confrontation makes both losers.