U.S. politicians' decoupling from China rhetoric "ignorant" and "arrogant," say experts

By Xiong Maoling, Gao Pan (Xinhua) 13:35, January 20, 2022

WASHINGTON, Jan. 19 (Xinhua) -- Some U.S. politicians have recently ramped up the "decoupling from China" rhetoric, as both Democrats and Republicans look ahead to the midterm elections amid surging COVID-19 cases and a bumpy economic recovery.

Such rhetoric, according to experts, revealed the ignorance and arrogance of some American politicians, who have been attempting to stir up anti-Chinese sentiment among Americans for their own political gains.

Decoupling with China will significantly hurt U.S. businesses and undermine U.S. productivity and innovation, experts have said, noting that the United States should avoid self-inflicted harm from decoupling and boost cooperation with China in a wide range of areas.


On Friday, Republican Senator Tom Cotton and Democratic Senator Mark Kelly introduced a bill that would prohibit Chinese rare-earth metals from being used in sensitive Department of Defense systems by 2026, taking fearmongering over China to new heights.

Cotton, one of the most vocal China hawks, said ending America's dependence on the Communist Party of China for extraction and processing of these elements is "critical to winning the strategic competition against China and protecting our national security."

The Arkansas senator, who has repeatedly attacked China, floated the conspiracy theory in April 2020 that the COVID-19 virus originated in a Wuhan lab, an unfounded allegation that has drawn wide criticism, both domestic and abroad.

"The U.S. political system is home to many loud-mouthed nationalists who are as ignorant as they are arrogant," Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University and senior United Nations advisor, told Xinhua via email.

"They believe that the United States has the right and the need to dominate the world, and they view China as an affront to U.S. dominance," said the renowned economist and bestselling author.

Sachs noted that it is easy to "stir fear" in American people, "who are generally not well informed about the rest of the world," adding that the U.S. media "has a long tradition of stirring such nationalist sentiments."

The two senators' decoupling remarks came just a few days after some members of the House of Representatives voiced their discontent when "MADE IN CHINA" KN95 masks were given to them amid an Omicron wave, arguing that the House shouldn't publicly advertising U.S. dependency on China.

"Many of the current members of Congress continue to embarrass me with this infantile behavior, and this is but one more sad example," Greg Cusack, a former member of the Iowa House of Representatives, told Xinhua. "The reaction is simply idiotic!"

"We should, instead, be grateful that China was able and willing to export so many of these masks to assist Americans (and others around the world), who otherwise would not have had access to such devices," said the former U.S. state lawmaker.

Cusack said certain people, not limited to Americans, seem to need an enemy or adversary in order for them to make sense of the world. "Not rivals, opponents, but enemies. This, too, is part of our problem," he said.


The renewed "decoupling from China" rhetoric came as no surprise, especially as both parties are gearing up for the midterm elections in November, when the entire House and about a third of the seats in the 100-member Senate will be up for grabs.

Democrats control both the House and the Senate right now, but that could change after midterms. Amid lingering pandemic, high inflation, a slowing economic recovery and ongoing legislative struggles, the Democratic Party's hopes of maintaining its narrow majority are fading.

When asked whether the ramped-up China-bashing rhetoric from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers has anything to do with the upcoming midterm elections, Cusack gave a definite yes.

"It is also worth noting that the very persons working to widen and harden divisions among American citizens are eager to drive wedges between the United States and other nations too, and right now China is the country of choice," said Cusack.

Noting that "self-reflection and self-recognition remain, sadly, rare commodities," Cusack said American manufacturers, given the green light by previous U.S. administrations decades ago, decided to downsize their American operations and relocate off-shore in order to save on labor costs.

"Rather than look at the cause of our manufacturing inabilities, we, of course, have preferred to blame China rather than our predecessors," Cusack said.

Sachs, meanwhile, noted that the Biden administration has so far largely followed the Trump administration behavior on China front. "In my interpretation that this is mainly a political choice, to avoid being attacked by right-wing nationalist politicians," said Sachs.

"The Biden administration is going along with a Trump-era policy that is relatively low-cost in domestic politics though it is very risky in geopolitical terms," he said. "I hope that the Biden administration adopts a more cooperative approach."


Despite some politicians touting the benefits of U.S.-China decoupling, economists and business leaders say otherwise.

According to an analysis by U.S. Chamber of Commerce's China Center in partnership with Rhodium Group released in February 2021, American businesses would be significantly impacted, with hundreds of billions losses in foregone GDP and capital gains and U.S. productivity and innovation undermined if the two countries were to fully decouple.

Michael Zielenziger, managing editor of Oxford Economics, said in a blog published in October that despite the cry of some politicians that U.S. companies should decouple from China, "there's no evidence that it is happening."

"It is remarkable to witness the growing antipathy towards China in the political realm when U.S. dependence on Chinese-produced goods seems as significant as ever," Zielenziger said. "This political and economic contradiction is not only self-defeating, it can damage U.S. interests."

Cusack said he believes that the entire idea of decoupling is a "grave" mistake.

"Yes, we and China have our disagreements, many of them substantive but none of them irresolvable, but they pale before the massive threats that exist to our beautiful planet, which include but are not limited to climate change and global warming," he said.

Sachs also believes that the case for cooperation between the United States and China is "stronger than ever," urging the two countries to work together to end the pandemic, ensure vaccine coverage of the entire world, improve the quality of the vaccines and medicines, decarbonize the world energy system, and provide development financing for the world's poor countries.

The two countries should also be in regular dialogue to help coordinate the management of the global economy, "and to avoid risks of direct confrontation," said the renowned economist.

"We especially need cooperation of the United States, European Union, and China for these purposes," he said. "Instead, we have growing rhetorical attacks." 

(Web editor: Zhong Wenxing, Liang Jun)


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