Some, such as Michael Pillsbury, argue that the “rise of China” poses a great threat to the United States and its interests. Pillsbury goes as far as to argue that the United States does not understand China’s true intent, based on deep cultural values going back centuries. Weigh in on this debate. To what extent do you think the United States ought to fear China?

Should the United States Fear the Rise of China?

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11 thoughts on “Should the United States Fear the Rise of China?

  1. Con: The United States does not need to fear the rise of China.
    Michael Pillsbury misrepresents and attacks Chinese culture and heritage.
    A main thrust of Pillsbury’s argument is that the motives of Chinese war hawks draw upon lessons from the Warring States period to guide China’s strategy to manipulate U.S.-China relations. Pillsbury asserts China’s hawks have several guiding principles: induce complacency to avoid alerting your adversary, manipulate your opponent’s advisers, avoid being encircled, employ metrics to evaluate one’s position relative to the adversary, and keep sight of the shi. He supports his argument through historical anecdotes and generalized assumptions of the Chinese language. One example of a story dates back centuries and outlines the deceptive nature of a Chinese war advisor to carefully manipulate his superior over time to eventually take control over the regime. With this anecdote, he asserts that deception is at the root of Chinese interests and thus this mischievous anecdote must be representative of Chinese policy today.
    Additionally, Pillsbury generalizes the Chinese language. He argues Chinese hawks have hidden in plain sight, obscured only by the inability of Western China “experts” to decode their writings due to their lack of fluency in Mandarin Chinese. He states, “Unfortunately, the vast majority of so-called China experts in the United States do not speak Chinese beyond a few words – enough to feign competence in the presence of those who do not speak the language fluently.” But Pillsbury does speak Chinese, as he repeatedly reminds readers and thus, he is surely able to understand the true connotations and nature of Chinese foreign policy. He states, “The language’s very complexity is like a secret code,” suggesting devious intentions stem alone from foundations of Mandarin. Pillsbury also makes generalized claims that reinforce stereotypes stating, “The Chinese must talk loudly to make the tonal differences audible” suggesting that the Chinese are incapable of whispering.
    In fact, Pillsbury uses the fallacy of ad hominem to discredit and attack Chinese culture by portraying it as inherently mischievous. Ad hominem attacks can take the form of overtly attacking somebody and in this case the Chinese culture and heritage by casting doubt on their character or personal attributes to discredit their argument. The result of an ad hominem attack can be to undermine someone’s case without having to engage with it. By using Chinese heritage, language, and anecdotes against them, he leverages existing negative perceptions to judge Chinese policy towards the U. S off the basis of where it comes from and from whom it came.

  2. Con: The United States does not need to fear the rise of China.
    Micheal Pillsbury’s book implies that China is the only country we need to worry about, when that is indeed not the case. For one, Pillsbury states that in Chapter 9 that, “Other scenarios project China and the United States as dual superpowers, and still others predict a tripolar world of China, India and the United States” (Pillsbury 177). People that claim that we should fear the rise of China are looking at the situation through a narrow, unipolar lens, where only one country can be the global superpower. That should not be the case, considering India, Russia and plenty of other countries are advancing economically and socially along with China.
    In addition to this, the United States has no place talking about the domestic issues of another nation. Where Pillsbury attacks China for advancing its military, economy and social reforms, we are doing the exact same thing; moreover, every country is. Obviously, every world leader and their government is after ways to further the strength of their country. Whether this be through socioeconomic reform, investment in the armed forces or a change in foreign trade conditions, there is not a single country that is out there that is not doing what China (and the United States) is trying to do.
    America does not need to fear the rise of China because there are other countries to worry about, including our own. Worrying incessantly about China alone will only put us in an unnecessary Cold War or make us forget about more pressing issues at hand.

  3. The “rise of China” was and is inevitable, as China has successfully established its position on the world stage as a dominant superpower and will continue to further itself economically, socially, and politically. The United States should be aware of China’s current power and its future rise to establish itself as a world power. Even though the United States should not infringe upon the domestic affairs of China, its concerns and investigations into China are justified when their political maneuvers involve the use of the United States as a pawn to ensure its rise. Michael Pillsbury demonstrates that China has politically manipulated the United States to advance its political position over the Soviet Union and aid its financial development all the while using anti-American propaganda to delegitimize the efforts and intentions of the United States. Pillsbury’s argument is validated through historic, linguistic, and cultural references that reveal the cynical ways in which China has exploited U.S. power and resources for its own gain while successfully concealing its own intentions. The United States has repeatedly failed to recognize China’s power-driven intentions and the extent to which China could spread its propaganda and anti-American rhetoric. China’s socioeconomic, technological, and political rise itself is not concerning, but rather it is the manipulation used to achieve it and the potential anti-American and authoritarian influences resulting from it that the United States should fear.

  4. From my perspective, I do not think that the United States should fear China. At least, it should not be in Mr. Pillsbury’s way.

    The first reason is that Mr. Pillsbury is intentionally misinterpreting Chinese culture in the whole book. To prove his argument that Chinese culture consists of deception and conspiracies, he quoted many stories from ancient Chinese, such as the story of Cao Cao and Liu Bei gathering together to drink wine (煮酒论英雄) and the Battle of Red Cliff(赤壁之战). There are also quotations from Art of War (孙子兵法) by Sun Tzu. For me, as a Chinese, I am surprised by how familiar he is with Chinese culture. But the thing we have to be aware of is that those strategic thoughts only constitute a small part of Chinese culture. The mainstream of Chinese culture is a mixture of Confucian(儒), Buddhism(释), and Taoism(道). Instead of emphasizing on treating others as enemies, those three schools of thought emphasize more on reflecting on self-behavior and manage to explain the origin of the world, like ‘I reflect on three things each day—Am I loyal to my Superior? Am I trustworthy to my friend? Do I go over what I have learned every day?’ (吾日三省吾身—为人谋而不忠乎?与朋友交而不信乎?传不习乎?), ‘The form is nonexistence, and nonexistence is the form.’ (色即是空,空即是色) and ‘Inaction’ (无为而治).

    The second reason is that Mr. Pillsbury distorts historical facts in his book. When mentioning the Treaty of Wanghia, he argued that the treaty is beneficial and equal to both China and the United States. But the original document reveals its unequal nature. For instance, in Article II, the Qing Government has to make consultation with consultants assigned by the United States to change its tariff. In Article XXV, when mentioning struggles on the jurisdiction process, the United States Government stated that China does not have the right to interfere with the process. If the Treaty of Wanghia was truly equal, then why there would be those unequal terms?

    The third reason is that the growth rate of China’s GDP is facing a great challenge, both externally and internally. Even though the industrial system is relatively complete compared with other countries, China does not have enough investment in education. While the United States spent 4.9% percent of GDP on education in 2013, China spent only 4.0% in 2016. Insufficient educational funding will not only lead to a decrease in students’ learning experience but also hinders the development of research skills. Internally, China is facing a continuous reduction in the birth rate. While the United States was 1.80 in 2018, China was 1.62. Continuously aging population will not only lead to decreasing willingness of consumption but also increased vacancy of pension.

  5. The United States does not need to fear the rise of China.
    Building on Michael Pillsbury’s culturalist argument that Angel mentioned, we should also remember that Donald Trump listens to Pillsbury’s consultations on issues of China. Trump has made “America First”, a nationalistic way of thinking about foreign policy and investment, one of the central ideologies of his presidency. It is possible that one of the main reasons the Trump administration has chosen to villainize China more than previous administrations is because it aligns with his isolationist campaign promises. By being so pro-American and anti-China in his rhetoric, he is really just advocating for his own brand leading up to the 2020 election cycle. Overall, our relationship with China has brought economic prosperity to both countries, which is why the Trump administration’s policies are such a stark and surprising change.

  6. The United States has valid reason to fear the rise of China for its implications to U.S. image. One of the hallmarks of the United States since its inception has been its hegemony and global dominance. Maintaining its reputation as a global superpower is dependent upon, among other things, its economy. While Pillsbury does make several culturalist claims which one could argue makes his thesis highly subjective, it is a fact that the Chinese economy has experienced enormous growth in recent years and is projected to overtake the United States’ economy in the near future. With this threat to U.S. economic supremacy, the United States must take into account that the rise of China, whether it be of pure or malevolent intentions, has the potential to invalidate one of the nation’s core characteristics and to undermine the perception of the United States to its foreign allies and adversaries. However, in terms of Pillsbury’s argument, the United States should not fear China on account of disparate culture or customs. This method of approaching foreign relations breeds xenophobia and an unwillingness to fully trust one another. Rather, the United States’ should base its perception of the “Chinese threat” upon quantifiable indicators such as its economy or military.

  7. Pro: The United States needs to be concerned about the rise of China.
    As China’s economy grows, so does its potential for global power, and as a result, its global influence. One area of particular concern is China’s consideration of human rights. Despite the work of many countries and organizations across the global to improve and raise awareness for fundamental human rights, China continues to neglect these rights within their nation and censor information surrounding this issue from their citizens. For example, China’s labor laws still permit the existence of sweatshops, in which workers may work sixty hours a week and make only sixty-two dollars a week. Initially, there was not even a word for ‘rights’ in the Chinese language; the word had to be created by combining the words for ‘power’ and ‘benefits,’ and while the word power can be associated with rights, it does not precisely align with the meaning for human rights as something intrinsic, rather than something to be earned or gained. In addition to permitting infringement of human rights by law, the Chinese government actively hinders groups from their rights while withholding knowledge of their actions from the public. The brutality towards Uigher Muslims is a serious violation of human rights supported by the Chinese government, yet the majority of the Chinese population is kept in the dark about this issue. Diligent censorship allows these actions to go unaddressed, debated, or protested among the nation’s citizens and allows the government to execute their own internal agenda largely without backlash or conflict. These restrictions prevent the will of the people from truly being considered when the information the Chinese population receives is censored.
    The behavior of the Chinese government regarding human rights carries immense gravity as the nation rises in power and becomes increasingly problematic as their potential for international influence grows. Ultimately, the United States needs to be concerned about the rise of China because as China gains global power, their government’s lack of consideration of human rights could become a global norm.

  8. Pro: The US should fear the rise of China because of the environmental implications of their rise. China has relied on unclean energy sources, like coal, in order to build its global economic empire, but this has had devastating effects on the region’s air quality, giving way to pollution, which is now spreading to California. China’s air pollution is far worse than the US’s, with it killing 117 of 100,000 people in a recent study. Additionally, it is getting so bad that alternative forms of energy production, like solar energy, are ineffective because of all of the smog from pollution. If China becomes the world power, the future of the planet is very grim.

  9. Con: The U.S. does not to fear the rise of China’s economy.
    China is not a threat to the U.S., but rather a healthy competitor. The U.S. was founded on the values of capitalism. This is a system that encourages businesses to compete against each other and follow their self-interests to maximize profits. If the U.S. is always the top of the global economy and we are threatened by anyone who comes even close to it – we are not truly practicing capitalism. The U.S. wants to be a global monopoly in order to push self-interests forward. We should be promoting the growth of other economies since it helps us in turn. China is the U.S.’s leading trading partner and most of the exports go to the U.S. Cato Institute reports also show that China is complying with complaints in the WTO, while the U.S. is being anti-productive by blocking the appointment of judges. The United States should be more focused on their own citizens rather than using China’s economy as a scapegoat to internal domestic problems.

  10. The United States should not be afraid of the rise of China. If the United States invest too much time and resources in China, it would fail to address domestic problems and undermine foreign policies with other countries. Economically, the United States and China are interdependent. I agree with Khushi in that China is our healthy competitor. Both countries are building a strong economy through beneficial mutual trade. By limiting mutual relationships with China, the United States is lowering its standard of living because consumers will suffer as a result of trade barriers. Perceiving China as a threat will not benefit the United States and its economy. In addition, the United States is a hypocrite for criticizing China’s infringement on human rights when it fails to uphold its democratic ideals and protect human rights. From the Japanese Internment camps to the racism and police brutality, the world should be more concerned about the United States because the country that claims to protect democracy and human rights is neglecting the rights and well-being of its citizens. Instead of worrying about the rise of China, the United States should focus on resolving its domestic issues. The best way for the United States to maintain its soft power and global dominance is to build a strong economy and uphold its democratic ideals.

  11. Pros: The United States should be afraid of China’s rise due to China’s recent economic policies, such as the Belt and Road initiative, that lure developing countries into its sphere. Through such policies, China could tie up a country’s, or its “partner”, economic and political maneuver, effectively bringing that country under its indirect control through economic promises and policies. One of the most outstanding examples of the dangerous nature of the Belt and Road initiative is in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka borrowed significantly from China to fuel its construction with the aim to boost its economy. Instead, Sri Lanka ended up being unable to pay off the debt for a port, which was believed to have a strategic position for China, and had to hand over the port to China for free. Moreover, China is ramping up investment and influencing the standards of trade practice and technology in Africa, where the U.S. has not looked into. Through the partnership between China and African countries, Africa’s trade policies may mirror China’s and overlook human rights and environmental protections, which the U.S. and its allies have continuously championed. This will make it harder for the U.S. to devise future policies towards Africa or set up positive relationship with African countries, which may hamper America’s efforts to spread democracy and American values. All in all, although monopoly in international relations may not the best outcome for the world, the U.S.’s global hegemony has benefited the majority of Americans by boosting economic growth thanks to globalization and spreading American values.

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