Commentary: Making America alone again

By Jin Bowen (Xinhua) 13:37, February 04, 2024

BEIJING, Feb. 3 (Xinhua) -- The United States has always tried to paint itself as a champion of openness and inclusiveness. Yet in practice, it is increasingly inclined to erect all kinds of barriers, turning itself further away from the global community.

In recent months, some Chinese scholars and students, who held valid visas to enter the United States, were interrogated and even deported at airports. In the meantime, related U.S. authorities raided Chinese businesses in the United States, and confiscated the cellphones, computers and other personal devices of the Chinese individuals working in the companies.

Along the U.S.-Mexican border, the state of Texas has put up barbed wire fences to deter migrants. The Lone Star state is locked in a stand-off with the Federal government over a fermenting immigration crisis, which may well define the outcome of the 2024 U.S. presidential election, and reflects the growing anti-immigration and xenophobic sentiments in a country that is always touted as a nation of immigrants.

These seemingly separate incidents, along with many other protectionist approaches by Washington, such as the Biden administration's keeping punitive trade barriers put in place by the Trump White House against the Europeans, have sent out an unmistakable signal: the United States is turning ever inward-looking and only interested in looking after its own interests.

The United States, still the sole superpower of the world, is losing self-confidence, and has become what U.S. political commentator Fareed Zakaria called a "self-doubting superpower."

The general mood in the United States is pessimistic. According to a Pew Research Center survey done in April last year, Americans held a dim view about the current state of the country, with large majorities expressing dissatisfaction with the economy and overall national conditions. And they see the country will be in decline in many respects in the not-too-distant future.

For ordinary Americans, even as U.S. stocks hit record highs and the economy appears to have delivered a strong performance, they say they are still struggling to pay their bills and fend for their families.

Facing the frustrated majority of Americans, politicians of both Democrats and Republicans in Washington have consistently failed to rise up to those real problems chronically plaguing the country, like the widening wealth gap, prevalent drug problems, inflating national debts, stagnated immigration reforms and entitlement program crisis.

Instead of working together to fix those problems, they are busy blaming almost anything they can think of, including political opponents in the country, rising economies far away from America's shores, plus European allies Washington claims it will protect, among others.

An utterly vicious cycle has taken shape: those unfixed domestic problems lead to politicians' preposterous blame game, which would in turn feed political polarization, tear social fabrics part, and spur racism, populism and xenophobism in the country, further complicating the political, economic and social conditions to solve those problems.

America's manufacturing industries are where those contradictions and chaos converge. The Biden administration seeks to reindustrialize America. Yet it also tries to pander to the United Auto Workers, an American labor union, for election support by backing the union's call for record high salary increase, which will greatly cost the competitiveness of carmakers like Ford and General Motors in the global market.

For the Republicans, they blame America's faltering manufacturing on immigrants and foreign competitors for taking away the jobs of those impoverished "rednecks" in the south and struggling "blue collars" along the Rust Belt. This is also an election tactic.

In the meantime, a manufacturing renaissance depends in a large part on a huge skill labor force. People born outside the United States made up 18.1 percent of the overall labor force, the highest level in data back to 1996, according to data published by the U.S. Labor Department in May last year. However, America's rising anti-immigrant atmosphere and chaotic policies, while making migrants hard to come to the United States, could well deny the revival of those labor-intensive industries to actually make a comeback.

More worryingly, extreme conservatism has already poisoned public opinions. That is evidenced by the surge of hate crimes against Asians in the United States in recent years, and the airport harassment cases against the Chinese students.

Openness and tolerance for diversity are some of the important reasons that make America the strongest country in the world. What is regrettable is that the country now even does not recognize itself as a nation of immigrants as the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services removed the phrase from the agency's new mission statement back in 2018. It should do better than that.

Times have changed. It is neither possible nor realistic to win by adopting isolationism, as the United States once did, remaining complacent and uninvolved in global affairs.

In the era of globalization, everyone is closely interconnected, and no one can thrive in isolation. The United States turning people away serves no benefit to either the world or itself.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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