Sino-American relations. One thing after another ——中美关系,一波未平一波又起(经济学人)

This is a dangerous moment for relations between America and China. Cool heads must prevail.


In a book of essays called “The Next Great War?”, which examines Sino-American relations through the lens of the first world war, Richard Rosecrance warns of “the tyranny of small things”, the points of friction and misunderstanding between rival powers that, without leadership to manage them, can lead to conflict. China and America today are not about to take up arms, but small things are rapidly accumulating. The two distrust each other more now than at any point since Richard Nixon went to China almost 50 years ago. As a presidential election draws near, the potential for dangerous miscalculation is growing.

在一本叫做《下一次世界大战》的文集中,参照第一次世界大战分析了中美关系。Richard Rosecrance 警告说“小事引起**”。竞争对手之间摩擦和误会,如果没有领导去化解,将有可能会导致冲突。中美还没有打算拿起武器,但类似的小事正在累加。自尼克松访华50年以来,中美间的不信任达到了新的高点。随着美国大选的临近,做出错误决定的危险也在增加。

On July 27th America’s consulate in Chengdu closed on orders from Beijing. It was in retaliation for the Trump administration’s order, a week earlier, to close China’s consulate in Houston, the first such moves since the normalisation of relations in 1979. This capped a month in which America sanctioned a sitting member of China’s Politburo, also a first, over the internment of Uighurs in Xinjiang; declared China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea illegal; ceased to recognise Hong Kong as distinct from mainland China; and claimed a victory in its campaign against Huawei, when Britain announced that it would bar the telecoms-equipment giant from its 5g networks.


For the hawks who surround President Donald Trump, this is overdue. In a series of four speeches that evoked the cold war, they laid out their case for abandoning “blind engagement” with China for a more confrontational relationship. On July 7th Christopher Wray, the fbi director, claimed that China was seeking to become “the world’s only superpower by any means necessary”, and warned of its extensive efforts to spy on, influence and co-opt Americans. On July 17th William Barr, the attorney-general, charged that Hollywood studios and America’s tech giants had become “pawns of Chinese influence”.

对于特朗普周围的鹰派来说,这本应该是早点发生的事。在一系列引发冷战的四次演讲中,他们阐述了放弃与中国盲目接触的理由,以及关系更加敌对的原因。7月 7日,FBI局长 Christopher Wray 说,中国正在寻求成为“这个世界上任何意义的唯一超级大国”。并警告称,他们正在加强渗透、影响和拉拢美国人。7.17 ,总检察长 William Barr 指责 好莱坞和美国科技巨头已经成为 “中国的马前卒”

A new, realistic strategy for standing up to China would be welcome. The atrocities in Xinjiang and the demolition of the rule of law in Hong Kong demand a tougher response than the world has mustered thus far. China’s territorial ambitions in its near seas are worrying. Its economic leverage over trade partners and companies sets it apart as an adversary from its communist predecessor, the Soviet Union. 


But their speeches add up to an attitude, not a strategy. They articulate a compelling argument for imposing pain on China, but no framework for judging how and when to do so. They talk about working with allies in loose, aspirational terms. They have little to offer on larger geopolitical concerns like climate change, other than to say China cannot be trusted to keep its commitments.


Another president might formulate a grand vision for how to engage China under such conditions (see United States section). These hawks have Mr Trump. His disregard for democratic allies and the cause of human rights, and his personal affinity for Mr Xi, make him singularly ill-suited to lead a contest with China over global values. He has gripes with China, over trade and covid-19, but these are not rooted in principle. His eyes are on what can get him re-elected.


That sets up a combustible dynamic in the months ahead. As the election approaches, Mr Trump could be persuaded to take more dramatic action—say, financial sanctions on Chinese banks in Hong Kong, or a military display of support for Taiwan. A mishap or misunderstanding could prove perilous. It is right to want to chart a more robust course in Sino-American relations— but it would also be wise to beware the tyranny of small things.



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