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How China Deals with the U.S. Strategy to Contain China

[Editor’s Note: On December 10, 2010, the website of Qiushi Journal, the official publication of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, published an article examining six strategies that the U.S. has developed to contain China: a trade war, an exchange rate war, a public opinion war, an anti-China campaign, military exercises and simulated warfare, and the development of an anti-China alliance. The author also analyzed seven counter-strategies for China to adopt. The entire article is translated below.

Days after Chinascope published this translation, Qiushi website took down the original Chinese and then restored the article with an additional sentence added at the end: “The above article only represents the personal views of the author and does not represent the position or views of Qiushi Journal or this site.” Chinascope has kept a Google cached copy of the original article. To read that copy, please click here.] [1]

Recently, particularly since the financial crisis, the White House has been moving forward with a policy, which has become more and more aggressive, to contain China.

A. The U.S. Containment Strategies

1. The Trade War. According to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, the latest statistics show that, in just two weeks from October 1 to 15, 2010, the U.S. Department of Commerce developed as many as 24 trade remedies and related cases involving China. Nine of those incidents occurred in just four days from October 12 to 15. Since September, the U.S. has launched seven “section-337” investigations and one “section-301” investigation, involving products such as solar lights, LCD monitors, and printer cartridges. If we look at just the famous case of special protection given to U.S.-made tires, we can easily see that, indeed, the U.S. has launched a trade war with China. Whether China wants it or not, most of the world’s media can see it clearly.

2. The Exchange Rate War. China is the U.S.’s largest creditor. However, the U.S., the borrower, is, in every way, more arrogant than China, the lender. Instead of discussing how to pay back the debt and stabilize the U.S. dollar, the U.S. government and public are clamoring for China to let the RMB appreciate. Ever since the U.S. Congress passed a bill on the RMB exchange rate, the U.S. media have continued to advocate for RMB appreciation. On the other hand, the U.S. Federal Reserve made the statement that “in order to foster economic recovery and job creation, inflation needs to return to an appropriate level.” To accomplish this, it will print 100 billion more U.S. dollars per month. However, its real aim is to force currencies in emerging economies to appreciate. The U.S. also encourages its followers such as Japan and the European Union to join in pressuring China for RMB appreciation. The Bank of Japan has already proactively intervened in the currency markets. Because the U.S. wants to see the depreciation of the U.S. dollar, it is printing more and more dollars so that other countries become stakeholders and all get involved in the currency war. It is obvious that the intention of the U.S. is to contain China by launching an exchange rate war so that it can control the entire situation in the Asia-Pacific area.

3. Public Opinion War. The U.S. is the best at using public opinion to serve its national interests. The U.S. media are completely at the service of the U.S. government in creating propaganda. Whether it is CNN, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, or the Washington Times, they all think it is a great honor to publish articles attacking and criticizing China. Moreover, the U.S. media also encourage the media in other Western countries to join the anti-China camp. These media pretty much all publish identical statements designed to create an iron curtain surrounding China. The situation cannot help but remind people of the Cold War.

4. An Anti-China Campaign. As the U.S. mid-term elections approached, the headline issues were not congressional candidates, but China. It was as if everything had to be linked to China. Everyone was constantly repeating, “China, China, and China.” The New York Times reported that at least 29 mid-term election candidates were playing the “anti-China card.” For both Republicans and Democrats, China, like a sandbag that they can simply punch at will, is blamed for the current economic crisis in the U.S. The politicians were happy to manipulate the ever-increasing protectionist sentiments among voters. These candidates competed to use the anti-China label, attempting to amass more voters this way. The intensity of the anti-China campaign almost amounted to an anti-China war.

5. Military Exercises and Simulated Warfare. Recently, the U.S. allied with multiple countries to conduct military exercises in the Pacific, in Northeast Asia, in Southeast Asia, and in other regions. In particular, these military exercises frequently took place in the waters around China. On July 23, 2010, the U.S. led the biennial multi-country “Pacific Rim” exercise in waters near Hawaii; 34 ships, five submarines, more than 100 military aircraft and 20,000 troops from 14 countries participated. From July 25 to July 28, in the waters from the east to the south of Korea (the Sea of Japan), the U.S. and South Korea conducted a military exercise code-named “Indomitable Will.” It was the largest US-South Korean joint military exercise in the past 34 years. More than 8,000 infantry, navy, air force, and marine soldiers participated in this exercise. The nuclear powered aircraft carrier the USS George Washington, South Korea’s landing ship “Dokdo” (recognized as the largest in Asia), and more than 20 other ships and submarines participated in this exercise. Starting on August 11, the U.S. and Vietnam held their first joint naval exercise in the South China Sea. The U.S. dispatched many large ships, including the USS George Washington. The latest military exercise began on September 16; the U.S. and South Korea launched a 10-day joint military exercise. The U.S. frequently prevails upon South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and other countries that neighbor China for joint military exercises. Its purpose is very clear: to encircle China militarily.

6. Creating an Anti-China Alliance. The Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta published an article on October 27, 2010, entitled “The United States Is Piecing Together an Anti-China Alliance.” The article stated that the Pentagon is spending heavily to expand its base to contain China. Washington is also trying to persuade Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries to join its anti-China alliance. Currently, in the confrontation with China, the Obama administration’s policies have become tougher and tougher. They are trying to put together an anti-China alliance that includes China’s neighboring countries and trading partners, and form a united anti-China front based on issues of conflict such as the South China Sea and the RMB exchange rate. Recently, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Vietnam and other countries before returning to the East Asia Summit. She made a high-profile announcement that the U.S. would lead Asia. In November 2010, when Obama will visit Japan, Indonesia, India, and South Korea, “China” will certainly be an important topic of discussion. [2]

B. China’s Counter Strategies

When faced with an aggressive U.S., how should China respond? The article “Cast Away Illusions; Prepare for Struggle” that Mao Zedong published on August 14, 1949, is still applicable to today’s situation: Our wishes to persuade the imperialists and those who are against China to be kindhearted and repent are fruitless and will never come to pass. The only way is to organize forces to fight against them. One fundamental principle that we must follow is the strategy, “If friends come, treat them with wine; if jackals come, we have shotguns for them.”

1. Economic Warfare. Of course, to fight the U.S., we have to come up with key “weapons.” What is the most powerful weapon China has today? It is our economic power, especially our foreign exchange reserves. The key is to use it well. If we use it well, it is a weapon; otherwise it may become a burden. Counting on the fact that the U.S. dollar is the international currency, the U.S. government has increased the number of dollars in circulation, leading to its devaluation. The countries with high reserves in dollars will suffer, but the U.S. itself loses nothing. However, for this to be true there is a premise. Someone must purchase those excess dollars they printed. If no one purchases them, then they will only be circulated domestically, inside the U.S., and cause inflation. In order for the countries with foreign exchange reserves in the U.S. dollar to restrain the U.S. from over-issuing U.S. currency, they must act together and not buy U.S. dollars. There are two ways to achieve this. The first is for all these countries to reach a consensus and act together as one. The second is if one country takes the lead, does not buy U.S. dollars, and other countries then follow. Which alternative should China choose? The first tactic requires countries with foreign exchange reserves to reach a consensus. China, Japan, the U.K., India, and Saudi Arabia are all countries with high foreign exchange reserves. Japan is constrained by the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty and will not break away from the U.S., so the probability of Japan cooperating is very low. Great Britain has always followed the U.S., so the probability that it will cooperate with China is also pretty low. There have been recent changes in Britain’s political structure. Prime Minister Cameron has adopted a new strategy toward China that increases the possibilities for cooperation, making it a more likely player than Japan. Also, the U.K.’s foreign exchange reserves, which are market adjusted instead of sovereign funds, are to a large extent subject to market impact. India has stayed closely allied with the U.S. in recent years, and Obama promised to support India for a permanent membership in the UNSC. Thus, the probability for India to cooperate with China is also not great. India’s purchasing power of foreign exchange reserves is very limited anyway, so it cannot influence the overall situation much. Saudi Arabia does not have much political interest in the U.S.; its purchase of foreign exchange reserves is purely commercial. So they are more likely just to follow the market. Based on this analysis, it is very unlikely that China and these countries would ever reach a consensus. Therefore, we are left with the second option, which is to take the lead in affecting the market for U.S. dollars. This approach is market-driven, so others will not be able to easily blame China. It is a good solution, and also we will not owe anyone anything for the favor of becoming our partner. The key issue is that China must have people who understand the market well and are good at using the market at the right time to impact the exchange rate of the U.S. currency. Of course, the most important condition is still that China must have enough courage to challenge the U.S. currency. China can act in one of two ways. One is to sell U.S. dollar reserves, and the second is not to buy any U.S. dollars for a certain period of time. The first option may cause the U.S. dollar to devalue, so China must consider whether it can take a loss resulting from the depreciation of the U.S. dollar. However, the U.S.’s over-printing currency will also cause the dollar to depreciate and will cause the foreign exchange reserve to shrink even more in value. Thus, in comparison, we will probably end up losing less. For the second option, if we do not buy the U.S. debt, what should we buy instead to increase our foreign exchange reserves? Options are the Euro, the British sterling, Japanese yen, Indian rupee, Russian ruble, and Brazilian currency. At the same time, buying the debt of these countries will help promote good relations and economic and trade cooperation between China and these countries. It will enhance China’s economic influence in these countries. Therefore, this is a highly cost-effective tactic, and, more importantly, China is the biggest buyer of U.S. debt. China’s actions will have a demonstrable effect on the market. If China stops buying, other countries will pay close attention and are very likely to follow. Once the printed excess dollars cannot be sold, the depreciation of the dollar will accelerate and the impact on Americans wealth will be enormous. The U.S. will not be able to withstand this pressure and will curtail the printing of U.S. currency. The dollar will then appreciate. Most importantly, through this, China’s foreign exchange reserves will no longer be “the meat of the Tang-dynasty monk” [3] for the U.S. Instead, they will become a major economic force to constrain the U.S. The key to success is that China needs to have enough courage and determination to take the U.S. pressure. This is exactly what we need. It just shows how much the U.S. needs China. The more pressure we can take, the more successful this strategy. It will indicate that this “weapon” is highly effective and the U.S. will start to fear us.

2. Financial War. The fact that the U.S. dollar is the world’s reserve currency makes the U.S. a financial superpower. Currently, China’s increased share in the International Monetary Fund and its increased voting rights are a very big step forward. The problem is not that the value of this share is expressed in U.S. dollars, but that it would be best if the share could be expressed in RMB. Therefore, for China to challenge the position of the U.S. dollar, it needs to take a path of internationalization and directly confront the U.S. dollar. The path of internationalization can be done in four ways. First, use Hong Kong as a springboard to increase the payment of the amount and the issuance of RMB bonds; there has been much progress, but not enough; we should believe in the popularity of the RMB in the international community. Second, using the huge foreign exchange reserve as a guarantee, we can issue RMB bonds globally, allowing other countries to use RMB as their foreign exchange reserve; we can consider setting up a central foreign exchange bank, specializing in the deposit and lending of foreign exchange reserves and related financial services. The huge foreign exchange reserves serve the same role as gold, to ensure that offshore RMB can be exchanged for foreign currency at any time. Third, create an international version of the Chinese securities market to attract foreign companies. Participants can buy the securities with RMB or foreign currencies. Overseas companies that are listed can raise funds in yuan or other currencies. Then the listed companies or a foreign exchange policy can determine the specific proportion of RMB or other currencies. Fourth, establish an international currency trade center, allowing world currencies to trade, forming an international financial market and a foreign exchange market. Specific trading rules and the national currency trade volume can be adjusted according to market demand. China’s 30 years of history of reform and opening up show that the Chinese government and its people’s understanding and application of the market mechanism and free trade will be on par with the U.S. and other Western countries. China’s ability to grasp the laws of the market and the ability to control economic trends are not inferior to those of Western countries. The market mechanism can propel the internationalization of the RMB, rather than relying on government negotiations. We fully trust the Chinese government’s capacity to handle the market and the regulations. If these four suggested actions can be implemented smoothly using the market mechanism, the RMB will become the world’s reserve currency, putting pressure on the U.S. dollar and undermining U.S. financial strength.

3. Military exercises and simulated warfare. No doubt the U.S. military exercises challenge China’s strategic bottom line. China should certainly actively respond, but the issue is how to respond skillfully. Wherever the U.S. chooses to conduct its military exercises, let’s pick another location for our military exercise. This is not to avoid confrontation; it is “besieging Wei to rescue Zhao.” [3] The timing can be the same, but the location can be different. In areas where the U.S. once engaged in a military exercise, the Chinese military should immediately arrange a military exercise with a clear target, simulating war. There is no need for China to fear the U.S. aircraft carrier. During the Korean War, when the contrast in military strength was much greater than it is now, we were not afraid; why should we be now? Would the U.S. really dare to start a war with China? Facts prove that America is a paper tiger that cannot even handle Iraq or Afghanistan, not to mention China. We should definitely have the strategic determination and courage to defy such an enemy. As for aircraft carriers, they should not put any military pressure on China. Courageously contacting the U.S. carriers will only benefit us, not harm us. Only by in-depth contact can we truly understand the U.S. aircraft carriers. The fundamental purpose of war simulation via military exercises is to show China’s determination to meet challenges instead of avoiding them. This will send a clear message to the world that China has the strong will to resolutely safeguard its national sovereignty.

4. Space war. All U.S. strategic forces rely on its strong space facilities, which are both an advantage and a weakness for the U.S. As long as China can fully demonstrate its ability to destroy any space facility, and in particular to attack U.S. satellite facilities with precision, at a minimum cost, China can pose enough of a threat and place enough pressure on the U.S. Compared to U.S. aircraft carriers, U.S. military satellites are more vulnerable to attack. China’s missiles can directly attack the military satellites, which usually orbit at an altitude less than 10,000 kilometers. In 2007, when China test fired missiles to destroy an abandoned satellite, the whole United States was shocked. China should make efforts to develop space weapons as soon as possible, as this is the most effective military means of attacking the U.S. If we can eventually fire missiles from a satellite, the U.S. will find that it has nowhere to hide; it will find itself entirely exposed to the attack radius of Chinese weaponry. At the same time, China’s satellite technology is what it is most proud of, most good at, and what is most independent (from foreign forces). It is only a small step behind the U.S. and Russia. Vigorously strengthening the building of our space military forces should be not only the focus of our national defense, but also the most powerful weapon to deter U.S. military blackmail. We should learn to explore independence in making more strategic choices and in developing weapons of strategic importance, instead of following the direction of the U.S. military. Of course, the Chinese government should not be afraid of Western media hype about the China threat. Defending our own interests is more important than any PR stunt. When the U.S. government sent troops to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan, it didn’t even care about criticism from other countries. Following our own way is a reflection of our self-confidence and is also a strategy.

5. Attacking a nearby enemy. The U.S. seems highly interested in forming a very strong anti-China alliance. It not only made a high-profile announcement of its return to East Asia, but also claimed to lead in Asia. What is especially unbearable is how the U.S. blatantly encourages China’s neighboring countries to go against China. We cannot completely blame the U.S., as flies do not stare at seamless eggs. Countries like Japan, India, Vietnam, Australia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Korea are trying to join the anti-China group because they either had a war or another conflict of interest with China. They are attempting to gain benefits by using the U.S., and these are the countries that surround China. Throughout the history of the new China (since 1949), peace in China has never been gained by giving in, only through war. Safeguarding national interests is never achieved by mere negotiations, but by war. Therefore, China must adhere to a basic strategic principle: We will not attack unless we are attacked; if we are attacked, we will certainly counterattack. We must send a clear signal to our neighboring countries that we don’t fear war, and we are prepared at any time to go to war to safeguard our national interests. China’s neighboring countries need China’s international trade more than China needs them, with the vast majority of China’s trade deficit caused by these countries. Therefore, they, but not China, will suffer greater damage by antagonizing China. China should make good use of these economic advantages and strategic power. This is also the most effective means to avoid a war.

6. Befriending distant enemies. To attack a nearby enemy and befriend distant enemies was one of the most brilliant bits of political wisdom (articulated) during the Spring and Autumn Period. It should still be the best diplomatic strategy for China. Regarding the U.S. attempt to build an anti-China alliance, China’s counter strategy of befriending distant enemies can have three components: First, disintegrate the traditional U.S. allies, particularly the European Union. Second, strengthen strategic cooperation with the U.S.’s neighboring countries. Even if we do not form an anti-American alliance, at least we can let the U.S. feel the pressure. Third, step up cooperation with Africa and other regions that the U.S. does not pay attention to. Let’s first analyze how to implement the first strategy. The disintegration of the Soviet Union and a weakened Russia removed it from being the European Union’s biggest threat and strategic rival. The thought of war is far removed from the EU, and peace is the norm. There is no reason for the U.S. to exist in Europe. Almost certainly, Europe does not need the U.S. in the military arena. So is there any economic need for the U.S.? The economies of the U.S. and the EU are quite homogeneous; they are more mutually competitive rather than interdependent. The global financial crisis has saddled Europe with huge losses and the U.S. with almost none. This has made Europe recognize that the U.S. has a reduced value.  Many European countries have come to realize that Europe does not need the U.S. The estrangement between Europe and the U.S. is an opportunity for China. The complimentary economic relationship between China and the EU is greater than the mutual economic dependence between the EU and the U.S. Therefore, China should make Europe the focus of its strategy of “befriending distant enemies.” Recently, China has increased exchanges with France, Portugal, Greece, Spain, Germany, and the UK, thereby significantly strengthening the cooperation between China and the EU. This is the right strategic direction. We must have the courage to implement the second strategy. The enemy’s enemy is our friend; even if it is not our friend, it can be used to contain the U.S. In the Americas, countries surrounding the U.S. are not monolithic. China can further expand its cooperation with Cuba, Venezuela, and other countries that are not taking orders from the U.S. In addition, China should strengthen its cooperation with Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, and other countries in the Americas, both in their economies and in trade. These countries’ economies do not vigorously compete with the Chinese economy, and there are broad areas of cooperation, particularly in agriculture. China should weaken its agricultural trade with the U.S. but enhance it with other American countries. China should make good use of the huge agricultural market, an important strategic diplomatic tool, to contain the diplomatic strategy of the U.S. On this strategy, China hasn’t done good planning and implementation. It should seize the current opportunity, that the U.S. is overlooking the Americas, to weaken the U.S.’s strategic backyard. Third, we should vigorously cultivate Africa. At present, the diplomatic relationship between China and African countries is built upon a good base and prospects are promising. The African countries are not only helping China in competition in the international diplomatic situation, but, in recent years, we have also been strengthening economic and trade cooperation with them. However, there haven’t been many military exchanges, so China’s strategic and economic interests in Africa are not effectively protected. Piracy is rampant in Somalia and the international community is crying out, but doing very little that is effective in the fight against piracy. Therefore, China can make use of this situation to expand its military presence in Africa

7. Public opinion war. The basic function of public opinion is to arouse the attention of the majority of the population, who are either for or against a certain issue. The media’s influence on public opinion agitates for support of or opposition to a person, an issue, or a country. So far, compared to the U.S., China’s position in international public opinion is vulnerable. It is often in the position of being opposed, with the initiators usually being the U.S. media. However, is the U.S. media loyal to the U.S.? No, the media is loyal to the market. Whoever can ensure that the media makes a profit can control the media. The media’s greatest goal is to expand their influence and expand their market share. In this regard, we can capitalize on the current advantage, which is that China is the object of a high degree of concern in the world, to fully use the role of the market to leverage the tone of international media coverage. For example, the Chinese leaders can take the initiative to accept some important Western media interviews, showing the world the real China and real Chinese leaders. In the past, Chinese leaders’ tendency to appear in a group has been very different from that in Western culture, which focuses on individuality. Westerners like to see more concrete and vivid individuals, especially the leaders. Therefore, Chinese leaders who have more charisma, personality, and the courage to accept a Western media interview are usually popular in the West. There are a number of media outlets in the world, but the opportunities to interview Chinese leaders are scarce. Being able to interview the Chinese leaders would certainly help to improve the media’s influence, would be conducive to attracting attention, and would expand the market. Therefore, Chinese leaders can fully take advantage of the market to let the world know the real China, understand China’s policies, and understand the Chinese people and government, so as to win the support of upright people, increase China’s influence, and create a favorable international environment. Past history has proven that whenever Chinese leaders take the initiative to actively accept the Western media, our policies are in an advantageous position, the Western media’s reports on China are more objective and comprehensive, and the Western public’s understanding of China is comprehensive and concrete. Recently, there has been a great breakthrough in Chinese leaders’ acceptance of Western media interviews, but there is still great flexibility in the choice of media and in the way interviews are conducted. We can further explore this area, and choose how to publish information that Western people are used to. For example, we can do television interviews, publish articles in newspapers, give comments on the Internet, and even post a message on the micro-blog. Internet tools played a great role in U.S. President Barack Obama’s election campaign. We can use the new media and actively seize the international public opinion market.

[1] Qiushi, December 10, 2010
[2] Although this article was published on December 10, 2010, it was probably written prior to Obama’s November visits. We noticed the problem of the verb tense in the original Chinese, but did not attempt to alter the meaning. Instead we put a note here, so that the reader will understand.”
[3] Regarding “the meat of the Tang-dynasty monk”: This is an analogy from Journey to the West, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. The “Tang-dynasty monk” refers to the Buddhist monk Xuanzang, who traveled to the “Western Regions” during the Tang dynasty to obtain sacred texts (sūtras). It is said that anyone who eats his meat will become an immortal.
[4] Besieging Wei to rescue Zhao, one of the famous Thirty Six Strategies from an ancient Chinese military strategy book.  This strategy derives its name from a famous incident that occurred in 354 BC involving one of China’s most renowned strategists, Sun Bin (a descendent of Sun Zi). Pang Juan, a minister at the court of the State of Wei, who is believed to have had the same teacher as Sun Bin, was jealous of Sun’s talent and had him framed as a spy. Sun escaped and fled to the State of Qi. Several years later, the king of the State of Wei appointed the same Pang Juan as commander of the army and sent him to attack the capital of the State of Zhao, Han Dan. The king of Zhao immediately appealed to the State of Qi for help. The king of Qi consulted his advisors, who all spoke in favor of immediately sending aid to their ally. Only Sun Bin recommended waiting and advised, “To intervene between two warring armies is like trying to divert a tidal way by standing in its path. It would be better to wait until both armies wear themselves out.” The king agreed to wait. The siege of Zhao lasted more than a year before Sun Bin decided the time was ripe to come to Zhao’s aid. The king of Qi appointed Prince Tian Ji as general and Sun as his military advisor. Sun came up with a plan, “Since most of Wei’s troops are out of the country engaged in the siege, their defenses must be weak. By attacking the capital of Wei, we will force the Wei army to return to defend their own capital, thereby lifting the siege of Zhao while destroying the Wei forces at the same time.” Tian Ji agreed to the plan and divided his army into two parts, one to attack the capital of Wei and the other to prepare an ambush along the route to the capital. When the Wei general, Pang Juan, heard that the capital was being attacked, he rushed his army back to defend it. Weakened and exhausted from the yearlong siege and the forced march, the ambush caught the Wei troops completely off guard and they suffered heavy losses. Zhao was thus rescued, while Pang Juan barely escaped back to Wei to recoup his losses. Hence the strategy of: besieging Wei to rescue Zhao.