US Chinapolicy: Coopetition versus Congagement
After the engagement policy with China of the Trump predecessor governments is now heavily criticized and the discussion about congagement and containment is now under way, the China lobby around Henry Kissinger is now trying to save engagement in the form of the new concept of „coopetition“. Kissinger himself had to admit that the Sino-American relations are now „at the foothill of a 2nd Cold War ”, that engagement, Chimerica and globalization have benefited China and not the USA in particular, but he and his supporters from Big Business or Silicon Valley such as Google boss Eric Smith are now trying to prevent congagement that places more emphasis on containment instead of relying on engagement through a coopetition, i.e. a policy that emphasizes more cooperation and commitment than containment and competition.Actually old engement policyin new tubes.
In an Bloomberg and NZZ article „The Cold War has long since begun“ on July 13, 2020, British historian Niall Fergusson, Senior Fellow at the Center for European Studies at Harvard, Milbank Family Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution in Stanford, criticized this concept because it ignored the fact that the deterioration in Sino-American relations was not so much the result of Trump and the new US foreign policy, which was rather a reaction on the changed, more nationalistic and aggressive foreign policy of China under Xi Jinping who started this already existing Cold War.
First to the concept of Coopetion:
“At a forum on post-Covid-19 world order organized by the Kissinger Center for Global Affairs at Johns Hopkins University, a clear majority of speakers warned of the dangers of a new cold war. Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, instead advocated a model of cooperative competition (“coop-etition”) based on “rivalry and partnership”, in which the two nations compete and work together at the same time – just like Samsung and Apple have practiced for years.
Harvard’s Graham Allison, author of the bestselling book, Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap ?, agreed; As a further example he cited the „friendly enmity“ between the Song Emperor of China and the Kingdom of Liao on China’s northern border. The pandemic, Allison said, “has brought to light the impossibility of clearly identifying China as an enemy or a friend. Rivalry and partnership may sound complicated, but life is complicated. „
„Building productive and predictable cooperation between the US and China,“ wrote John Lipsky, formerly a member of the International Monetary Fund, „is an inevitable step in strengthening the institutions of global leadership.“ The last cold war brought „the shadow of a global Holocaust“ into the world for decades, said James Steinberg, a former deputy foreign secretary. „What can we do to create an environment that limits rivalry and creates space for cooperation?“
Elizabeth Economy, my colleague at the Hoover Institution, had an answer: “The United States and China could. . . get together to face a global challenge », namely climate change. Tom Wright of the Brookings Institution took a similar line: „Concentrating on competition between the great powers and neglecting the need for cooperation will not give the US a permanent strategic advantage over China.“
All of this sounds perfectly reasonable, with one exception: The Chinese Communist Party is not Samsung, and certainly not the Kingdom of Liao. Rather, today’s advocates of “rivalry and partnership” – as was the case in the First Cold War, when academics (especially after 1968) tended to be doves rather than hawks – overlook the possibility that the Chinese are not interested in friendly enemies to be. They know very well that this is a cold war because they started it. „
Already in a conversation between Graham Allison and Kissinger at Harvard, both emphasized the danger of a Sino-American war and Kissinger suggested that the USA should participate in China’s New Silk Road, get engaged again and invest in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), that the USA and China should concentrate on the nuclear nonprolifertion and especially North Korea and then contentious issues like Taiwan, Hong Kong, South and East China Seas could be solved by means of a diplomatic compromise.
Niall Fergusson now questions the authority of Henry Kissinger, especially whether he can still be considered a realist and representative of realism in the face of such seemingly illusory views. Especially since Kissinger’s school of defensive realism, which is based on a strategic balance of power, is now openly challenged and criticized by John Mearsheimer’s offensive realism and it seems that Fergusson leans towards this school as well. Ferguson sees as an indicator of his assessment of the new aggressiveness of China under Xi Jinping especially the writings of Wang Huning, political bureau member and advisor to Xi Jinping and the associated and sponsored writer Liu Cixin, whose view of the world he sees in the Hobbes wolf nature of a warrior against all and an „intergalactic Darwinism“
„Anyone who hopes to find cooperation again or at least cultivate friendly hostility with Beijing is underestimating the influence of Wang Huning, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee since 2017 (the most powerful body in China) and the most influential advisor to Xi. In August 1988 Wang spent six months in the USA as a visiting scholar; he visited more than thirty cities and nearly twenty universities. His report on this tour, America against America (published in 1991), is a – in places devastating – criticism of democracy, capitalism and the culture of America (racial discrimination is particularly emphasized in the third chapter).
The key: Liu Cixin
But as I said, the book that taught me the most about how China sees America and the world today is not a political text, but a work of science fiction. “The Dark Forest” was Liu Cixin’s 2008 sequel to the hugely successful novel “The Three Suns”. It is difficult to overestimate Liu’s influence in contemporary China: he is courted by the technology companies in Shenzhen and Hangzhou, and as one of the faces of Chinese creativity in the 21st century, he has been officially endorsed by none other than Wang Huning.
In „The Dark Forest“, where the story of the invasion of the earth by the ruthless and technologically superior Trisolarians is continued, Liu’s three axioms of „cosmic sociology“ come into play.
First: „Survival is the primary need of civilization.“ Second: „Civilization is constantly growing and expanding, but all of the matter in the universe remains constant.“ Third: “Chains of mistrust” and the danger of a “technological explosion” in another civilization meant that there could only be the law of the jungle in space.
In the words of the hero of the novel Luo Ji: «The universe is a dark forest. Every civilization is an armed hunter who wanders through the trees like a ghost. . . he tries to appear noiseless. The hunter has to be careful because other hunters like him lurk everywhere in the forest. If he encounters other life, regardless of whether it is a different hunter, an angel or a devil, a newborn baby or an old man, a fairy or a forest spirit, he has no choice but to turn it off. In this forest, hell are the other living beings. . . every life that reveals itself to another [must] be eliminated immediately. „
Kissinger is often (I wrongly mean) regarded as the outstanding exponent of Realpolitik. But the book is far harder than realism. It’s intergalactic Darwinism.
You can of course say that this is science fiction. Yes, but «The Dark Forest» gives us an insight into something that we think too little about: how Xi´s China thinks. If China has already declared the cold war on us, we no longer have to decide whether or not we are in a cold war with China.
Not only are we already in the fringes of this new cold war; these foothills are also covered with an impenetrable dark forest designed by China. “
In the Anglo-Saxon world, a fight is now apparently raging between the supporters of Engagement / Coopetition and defensive realism, who are grouped around Kissinger, Allison and Eric Smith, while the Congagement faction is more teaming around Trump, the Committee on the Present Danger: China, Kyle Bass and the Chinese oligarch Guo Wengui and John Mearsheimer’s school of offensive realism.
Niall Fergusson, who predicted the collapse of the USSR and the financial crisis in 2008, thinks it is sometimes wiser to stay out of wars. In his book The False War, which appeared in its first British edition in 1998 and a German translation in 2001, for example, he blamed the then British Foreign Minister Edward Gray for the outbreak of the First World War, as he sought to escalate instead of keeping the kingdom out of the war. The result would undoubtedly have been a German victory and the supremacy of the German Reich in Europe, but Great Britain would have kept her empire. The rise of Adolf Hitler and National Socialism would of course also have failed in the event of a German victory. Accordingly, Ferguson does not even see Trump, but rather Joe Biden as the greater danger of war.
In an article that appeared in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) on August 31, 2020, the British historian stated that the world had long been in the middle of a “Second Cold War” that was being fought between the West and the People’s Republic of China . With a view to the upcoming presidential election, he further stated: “If there is someone who I can easily imagine that – unintentionally, of course, and with the best of intentions and the most edifying rhetoric – will turn the Second Cold War into the Third World War, then it is the self-appointed heir of Roosevelt, namely Joseph Robinette Biden. „
Ferguson bases his view on the historical experiences of the last 120 years, in which it was mostly the hyper-moralism of democratic presidents that led the world into new wars, among others Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman and Lyndon B. Johnson. According to Ferguson, the Taiwan conflict could trigger a major war.
With regard to Trump, however, the British historian stated in this article: “Despite all his many mistakes, Trump has upheld a great Republican tradition – not to start wars abroad. The exception to the rule of the Republican dove ideology during the last century was, of course, George W. Bush. Everyone else – Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan – were notable for the small number of young Americans they sent into battle: far fewer than their Democratic counterparts. „
In an interview with Die Welt, Ferguson reiterated the theses he had published in the NZZ. Here he said: “I have studied a century of American history carefully, and whenever Democratic presidents had a really important domestic agenda when they were elected, they subsequently embroiled themselves in major wars. This is exactly what happened to Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon B. Johnson. […] A scenario could develop where the Biden government comes to power, is ready for all sorts of expenses on social services, education, tax hikes and the usual, and then faces a Taiwan crisis. I believe that China will push this topic at some point. „