The US Problem With China: Beijing Is Better at Capitalism

As it provokes a new Cold War, the U.S. is warning that its corporate and financial interests, which came first after the 1980s Dengist reforms, no longer take precedence, writes Patrick Lawrence.

Shanghai Disneyland, 2017. (Iiii I I I, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)

By Patrick Lawrence

The Biden regime’s robotic procession to Beijing proceeds apace. Following Antony Blinken’s fruitless visit in mid–June, U.S. taxpayers have paid Janet Yellen’s airfare for another fruitless visit, and following Yellen it was the same for John Kerry. This week it is Gina Raimondo’s turn. The secretary of state, the treasury secretary, the chief climate envoy, and the commerce secretary: What is the point of this parade? 

I cannot but wonder whether these officials are dispatched across the Pacific in descending order of competence. Raimondo, who previously flopped as governor of Rhode Island — except for her plan to cut civil service pensions, an unfortunate success — is mediocrity made flesh. The Chinese must be wondering, with chagrin or amusement or both, who the Biden regime will next send their way. 

The assignment in all these cases is the same: It comes down to “two seemingly contradictory responsibilities,” as The New York Times’s Ana Swanson put it in a curtain-raiser last week. She described “a mandate to strengthen U.S. business relations with Beijing while also imposing some of the toughest Chinese trade restrictions in years.” 

This is succinct, although we can live without the “seemingly.” Proposing to conduct routine business while sabotaging China’s competitive position in advanced technologies is prima facie a ridiculous idea. But the Times must have its “seemingly,” because it is imperative we pretend the Biden regime thinks sensibly and means well in its relations with the People’s Republic.

Sticking by the Neoliberal Catechism

Blinken got nothing done, Yellen got nothing done, Kerry got nothing done, and in Raimondo’s case it is hopeless. The final item on her itinerary is a visit to Disneyland in Shanghai, and you have to credit the secretary’s scheduler for the parting reference to dreams and fantasy.

An English friend observes that Americans are doing a lot of blinkin’ and yellin’ across the Pacific these days. Fair enough, but I think it is more of the former than the latter for the time being. This administration simply has no idea what a sound China policy would look like. 

What is this all about? For a long time now I have concluded that Biden’s foreign policy people match the definition of insanity commonly but mistakenly attributed to Einstein. These people seem to be doing the same thing again and again while expecting a different outcome. But with Raimondo’s visit to Beijing this week I have to revise this assessment.

Those running Biden’s national security policies are unimaginative ideologues petrified of diverging from the neoliberal catechism, yes, but they are not insane. I start to see in their dealings with Beijing a diabolical design to which the Chinese are very right to object.

The Biden administration’s China strategy comes down to parrying, in a word. All the pointless talk is intended to obscure a concerted effort to undermine China’s economy because the U.S. cannot compete with it in various strategic sectors, while — part two — buying time to move maximum U.S. military hardware as close to the mainland as possible under the program the Defense Department named a few years ago the Pacific Defense Initiative, the PDI. 

At the horizon, we are likely to see Washington’s trans–Pacific military ambitions trump longstanding trade and investment relationships. This is what “decoupling” and now “delinking” are all about. They are warnings to the corporate and financial sectors that their interests, which came first in the decades after the Dengist reforms of the 1980s, will no longer take precedence as the new Cold War Biden constantly denies provoking destroys relations with the mainland.

Raimondo, on right, as Blinken addresses a Senate budget committee meeting focused on the U.S.-China Relationship, on May 16. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on left. (State Department/Chuck Kennedy/Public domain)

Two years ago Raimondo gave an interview to CNBC, the financial news network, that more or less announced the Biden regime’s intention to subvert key sectors of China’s economy. She was about to address something called the U.S.–E.U. Trade and Technology Council and told her interlocutor, “If we really want to slow down China’s rate of innovation, we need to work with Europe.” 

It is useful once in a while to have dumbheads such as Raimondo in high positions, because, without meaning to do so, they can tell you so much more than you are supposed to know.

Slowing down China’s impressive advances in high-technology sectors was precisely Washington’s intent by the time Raimondo spoke. The Commerce Department under her direction has since imposed a wide variety of restrictions on U.S. exports to China of semiconductor chips, software systems, and the machinery used to produce both.

As Ana Swanson reports, Raimondo is likely to pile on more of these as soon as she returns from Beijing. 

Sullivan Set the Tone

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan aboard Air Force One with President Joe Biden on a domestic flight on March 13. (White House/ Adam Schultz)

The Biden regime dresses up this profoundly undignified conduct as “narrowly targeted” to technologies that could be of use to the Chinese military. Jake Sullivan set the tone for all of these visitors to Beijing in a speech at the Brookings Institution last April.

“We are imposing necessary restrictions on specific technology exports,” the national security adviser explained, “while seeking to avoid an outright technological blockade. …  The administration intends to maintain a substantial trade relationship with China.”

This is what Raimondo and all of those who preceded her to China say when explaining their intent: Washington’s sole concern, as Raimondo imposes her regime of restrictions, is national security, and all else can proceed rosily. It is hard to think of a flimsier dodge.

By this standard, she would have to restrict sales of Juicy Fruit gum to the Chinese. What the Biden administration is doing comes down to securitizing the economic relationship. If you have ever doubted that the United States is a failing imperium unwilling to accept 21st century realities, I offer this as proof of the proposition. 

The Chinese know this and have said so many times. I no longer think Blinken, Yellen, et al. have any thought of persuading them otherwise on these journeys. That only looks like their intent.

Their true purpose is in the way of theatrical, and Americans are their true audience: They must make sure Americans do not understand Gina Raimondo’s efforts to punch the Chinese, well below their belts, for what they are: an uncompetitive nation’s attempts to hold back a rising economic power. 

I found that speech Sullivan delivered last spring interesting for what he left out, as much as for what was in it. There was not a single mention of the U.S. military buildup at the western end of the Pacific. 

Talk about elephants in the living room. The Pentagon is developing the Australian–British–U.S. alliance known as AUKUS; there is the Quad group, comprising the U.S., Australia, India, and Japan; there are these recently and assiduously fortified alliances with Seoul, Tokyo, Manila and Canberra, and none of this, we hear again and again, has anything to do with surrounding China or providing for the movement of U.S. military capabilities westward toward the mainland. This is only “seemingly” the case, as the Times would put it. 

Raimondo’s Tech Projects 

 Raimondo at Senate hearings on the U.S.-China Relationship in May. (DoD,Chad J. McNeeley)

It is the same as with Raimondo’s projects on the technology side: Neither the Chinese nor anyone else in Asia believes these silly explanations, and no one expects them to do so. Beijing knows very well there is a point to all these apparently pointless visits U.S. officials insist on making.

The Biden regime is buying time as it remilitarizes the western end of the Pacific.

The only people who are supposed to understand otherwise are Americans, who are not supposed to watch as Washington provokes and prosecutes Cold War II. Americans are supposed to watch as U.S. officials — reasonable, constructive, well-intended —make all efforts to talk to the Chinese in the face of their stubborn reluctance to cooperate. 

This is my revised take on the Blinken–Yellen–Kerry–Raimondo cavalcade across the Pacific. These people are not clods. They are purposefully malicious and, it should go without saying, are making the world even more dangerous than it already is. 

There are two things to think about here. One, the Biden regime’s efforts to obscure what it is up to at the other end of the Pacific is a straight reprise of the first Cold War, which now resides in all but the most important history books as the responsibility of the Soviets. We have a responsibility to render and defend an accurate record so that this does not happen again. 

Two, there is this administration’s immense betrayal of Americans as it aggresses in the Pacific, along with the numerous lost opportunities of which Americans are deprived.

You will find in that Jake Sullivan speech grand and plentiful references to the revival of the American middle class, bipartisan unity and other such elevated thoughts. Read the speech and then ask: What is this nation’s leadership doing in the cause of a competitive America?

Is it redoubling efforts to educate the people or is it, diabolically, shutting down access — see the University of West Virginia — to liberal arts education?

What is it doing to produce the doctors and scientists who are needed to guide the way in the 21st century?

What is it doing to bring the dispossessed into the economy, address drug addiction and all the other debilitating social ills?

What is it doing — seriously doing, I mean — to repair and build out the infrastructure Americans need? Nothing or not enough are my answers. 

The Chinese challenge could and should be understood as a chance to reinvent America by way of a Great Mobilization, cap “G,” cap “M,” of New Deal magnitude. There is, of course, no more than lip service to any such idea.

We are instead sacrificing this historic opportunity to the military-industrial complex, the greed of corporations, and the ambitions of political leaders who lack all principle or any thought for the commonweal. 

Maybe you think, as I do, that none of the Biden officials flying off to Beijing is serious about the true work to be done in U.S. relations with China, or is competent to do it.

We must consider, bitterly, that they are perfectly representative of our circumstances as defined by a leadership that is more or less across the board unserious and incompetent to meet the great challenges of our time — China merely one among many.

Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune, is a columnist, essayist, lecturer and author, most recently of Journalists and Their Shadows.   Other books include Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century. His Twitter account, @thefloutist, has been permanently censored. His web site is Patrick Lawrence. Support his work via his Patreon site.  His web site is Patrick Lawrence. Support his work via his Patreon site

This article is from ScheerPost. 

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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28 comments for “The US Problem With China: Beijing Is Better at Capitalism

  1. Piotr Berman
    September 3, 2023 at 00:33

    There is a rational kernel in “anti-China” policy, namely, it is worthwhile to reverse deindustralization that ravaged American country side where factories and comfortable worker households were replaced by derelicts of those factories and decay. Ditto in hitherto industrial cities. And we got big trade deficit even after we ceased to be large scale energy importer. Thing decayed so much that regular trade competition will not suffice, some trade barrier like duties, quotas are necessary, combined with intelligent industrial policy.

    But to “sell the idea”, politicians cannot say that we became too inept to compete according to norms we ourselves imposed on others, so instead they have to vilify China. But dirty means sabotage the cause. I do not see sensible industrial policies, even discussions about it, instead, paranoia and militarization of foreign policy. It is similar to the era of frenetic “free trade agreements” where American negotiators were sticklers on three points: intellectual property (so poorer countries get excessively expensive medicine too), support for Israel and impunity for American war criminals. Impact on domestic jobs was not an issue, and practically, neither it is today.

  2. Rafi Simonton
    September 1, 2023 at 22:06

    The Emperor Wanna-Bes Have No Clues

    I describe the Dem party neolib elite as Ivy Ds; check out where they all went to college. A self-anointed “meritocracy” completely oblivious to how they are merely the 2.0 version of The Best and Brightest whose folly was so well described by David Halberstam. Made all the more amusing by Patrick Lawrence characterizing them as “mediocrity made flesh.”

    In a reply to a similar post, the commenter said that as a Harvard grad, he was taught that everyone there was the best and everyone else wanted to be them. Which confirmed my take that these obvious superiors would have no use for anything their lessers might say or do. Never mind that we can see these would-be emperors have no clues.

    The unholy amalgam of neolib econ ruling class, whose dogma is there is no alternative, with the neocon geopolitical ruling class, whose dogma is unipolar empire, is somehow even less than the sum of its parts. It figures–their common denominator sure isn’t us and multiplying by fractions always makes less.

  3. lester
    September 1, 2023 at 14:17

    Biden and Co. assume that Chinese people are stupid and can’t invent anything, only copy. Clearly the don’t know Chinse history (as chronicleled in SCIENCE AND CIVILATION IN CHINA, by Joseph Needham et al.). They don’t know US history, either, full of stolen inventions everything from the Spinning Jenny to the magnetron. Also the long-term reliance on immigrant engineers and scientists. Think of Einstein and Tesla and many others.

  4. K.J.Noh
    September 1, 2023 at 12:42

    If China could do it, why can’t the US or the West do it? This is not simply a matter of incompetent and unserious US leaders (very true as that may be), but about different systems. Capitalism cannot deliver the goods. Sovereign Socialism, as practiced in China, has shown that it can. It’s not that China is better at Capitalism–NO country is better than the US at Capitalism. It’s that Capitalism has fundamental contradictions that it cannot escape. China skillfully exploited an interstitial space within those contradictions, even as the West was trying to exploit China, and used that contradiction to develop itself without collapsing under the crushing gravity of US Capitalist domination. Having generated escape velocity, it is now speeding steadily towards a new horizon: practical socialism–not abstract armchair philosophizing–and is now showing other countries how to do the same: how to break free of global capitalist exploitation to chart an independent, sovereign path to sustainable development. This was the promise of Bandung and global anti-colonial movements, destroyed by the West through assassinations, regime change, color revolution, war, and politicide. This is a second attempt to create a multipolar world, free from the thumb of the global capitalist hegemon and its violent empire, through international, multilateral institutions, win-win-cooperation to build a “community of common destiny for humanity”. That is a message of hope for the global south, and that is why the Ruling Imperial Elite in Washington and Brussels are preparing a total war against China. They would rather see the end the world than than see the end of their world of unbridled privilege and power.

    • J Anthony
      September 2, 2023 at 06:40

      I’d say China is indeed better at capitalism, as they’ve been able to achieve comparable things within their hybrid system without having to militarily dominate the globe, unlike the U.S.

      • K.J.Noh
        September 3, 2023 at 11:59

        Capitalism and military domination go together. As Thomas Friedman said, “The invisible hand of capitalism requires the mailed fist of military might”. You don’t get capitalism without military violence, just like you don’t get meat without slaughter. So whatever China is doing, it’s not capitalism: It didn’t require primitive accumulation, colonialism, slavery to get started. It doesn’t have a landless, dispossessed proletariat. It doesn’t require wars to sustain itself. It doesn’t need to dominate other countries. It doesn’t have capitalist economic cycles. The commanding heights of the economy are off limits to Capitalists. Yes, China HAS capitalists, but that doesn’t make it Capitalist, just as the US HAS socialists, but that doesn’t make it Socialist.

        They call it Market Socialism. Radhika Desai calls it Sovereign State Socialism. Trots call it “a deformed worker’s state”. The right calls it a global communist threat. DSA types call it a global capitalist threat. The US government calls it a revisionist power, i.e. threat to the hegemony of global Capital. Call it what you will. The key thing is it’s working for its people and for the global south.

  5. Jeff Harrison
    September 1, 2023 at 12:20

    I think it’s a Noh play. The US deep state is skating fast on thin ice hoping, as you said, to be able to set up their next war in the far east. While keeping their proxy war in the Ukraine going before it all come crashing down around our ears. Where either the weapons or the money required to make that happen is going to come from is anybody’s guess. One thing you can say for sure, it will become increasingly difficult for the US to sell its debt to the world. It is also going to be increasingly fruitless. As someone else noted, Huawei has just released the Mate 60, now with all Chinese chips. That’s just the beginning. As Moon of Alabama points out, China is graduating more scientists and engineers than the US and Europe combined. And, Russia has just announced the SSJ-100 Superjet, now with all Russian parts. As I’ve said many times before, the US may be the most powerful country in the world (this is probably questionable) but it is not more powerful than the rest of the world.

    • lester
      September 2, 2023 at 12:44

      China has a long term history of respecting education. The US has a history fimporting educated people. In the last generation, the US has relied on engineers and scientists from China and India. But now, as they become unwelcome, who will take their place? Not Flat Earthers or Young Earth Creationists!

  6. September 1, 2023 at 11:42

    Thank you.

  7. vinnieoh
    September 1, 2023 at 10:48

    Have to agree that all these US visits to China are purely for US domestic consumption, just how Patrick suggests – “Look, see how reasonable we are?” The same BS as right before our Nazi proxies began shelling Luhansk and Donetsk.

    I don’t always agree with Patrick and sometimes he makes me angry as hell, but I will support him, and I’ve been delinquent in supporting Caitlin Johnstone as well. Is Patreon secure?

  8. Dfnslblty
    September 1, 2023 at 08:50

    These are not diplomatique missions — they’re vacation rewards for the oligarchs on their descent.

    “A diplomat who says ‘yes’ means ‘maybe’,
    a diplomat who says ‘maybe’ means ‘no’,
    and a diplomat who says ‘no’ is no diplomat.”

  9. Sam F
    September 1, 2023 at 06:12

    Thanks to Patrick Lawrence for an excellent article.
    Certainly US leadership is “incompetent to meet the great challenges of our time” but is also completely corrupted by economic power controlling the executive, judicial, and legislative branches as well as its mass media. Their seeming incompetence is the opportunism of utterly selfish partisans who daily subvert the public interest. The cure is to strictly prevent the influence of money power on elections and mass media, toward which they diligently prevent all progress.

  10. Rob Roy
    September 1, 2023 at 01:02

    Patrick Lawrence, as usual you’ve written another excellent article. It
    captures the essence of the US/China situation. It amazes me how advanced China is compared to what the US appears more and more to be, as John Pang recently put it, a backward village. I recommend his wonderful, insightful talk with Julie Evans on a CodePink podcast proving China is not our enemy. Odd how shortsighted America is, living day to day, considering the long mature view of China.

  11. August 31, 2023 at 23:18

    Reading Patrick Lawrence is always a breath of fresh air and wisdom.

    For the past fifty years the US has been waging war on the world.

    For the last fifty the Chinese have been building their economy and country and minding their own business.

    Now we see the end result. The US just can’t see that peace and progress are inseparable partners.

  12. wildthange
    August 31, 2023 at 21:20

    It is similar to a treaty on the Ukraine as cover to militarism and an attempt to strangle them with a new form of western dominance.
    The old cold war days are over and so is all the attempt to gain control of China over the centuries.
    Doing a replay of WWII for Russia and China all over again plus trying to regain India is just pathetically out of touch with 21st century human civilization.

  13. RomfordRob
    August 31, 2023 at 19:31

    Some hilarious snippets in this report. The sheer ridiculousness of US officialdom! If only the reality we’re not deadly serious. I’m hoping that there is reason to be optimistic as a result of developments like BRICS and African and Caribbean demands for real independence. Can the terrible scourge of war be avoided? We live in hope!

  14. JonnyJames
    August 31, 2023 at 18:52

    Short-term greed and institutional corruption de-industrialized the US. China was brought into the WTO and US corps get tax breaks to offshore production. The Bipartisan D/R dictatorship approved of all of this along with the other ‘free trade’ agreements etc. Cheap labor, regulatory arbitrage, subsidies and tax incentives, and high overhead costs (economic rent) in the US all helped to de-industrialize and then financialize the economy.

    The only “challenge” from China is that it’s not going to kow-tow to the Anglo American empire anymore and wants to assert itself in its own backyard. Historically, China has never been foolish enough to want to dominate the world and they don’t appear to now.

    China (as others point out) has state industrial capitalism, whereas the US has nothing but dollar hegemony, and finance capitalism. The US will never pay the trillions in treasury debt that China (and others) hold in their central banks. That’s why BRICS are trying to figure out non USD currency swaps and slowly de-dollarize.

    Hubris-filled, unrealistic, out-of-touch, incompetent and corrupt US officials want their “cake and eat it too”

    US foreign policy doctrine insists that the US must militarily dominate the globe, even in China’s backyard. The Washington Consensus must prevail, or the US will kick over the vegetable cart.

    Meanwhile, the domestic mass-media induced freak show is talking about a retread of Biden/Trump. No matter which freak is selected as the next puppet emperor, US policy won’t change. Despite all the BS, China policy continued under Trump and Biden. Plus ca change…

  15. Henry Smith
    August 31, 2023 at 17:33

    The sanctions are having the desired effect … Huawei has just announced a brand new 5g phone with all Chinese chips. The morons in Washington really are clueless Clowns.

  16. Monsoon
    August 31, 2023 at 16:00

    China capitalism with Chinese characteristics is far better than cowboy American capitalism.

    Why? China is a state capitalist enterprise.

    The state thus does th economic planning.

    In the US it is bust-or-boom individualistic capitalist and large for profit only corporations.

    State capitalism is one step closer to th material conditions necessary for socialism, but it could go either way.

    Depends on the consciousness and the material conditions of the masses.

  17. Robert
    August 31, 2023 at 15:09

    The Biden Administration is loaded with 2nd generation Deep Staters, unimaginative, arrogant, some not very bright, and all living in the past. The past that they live in was the USA with the # 1 economy and # 1 military and no country was anywhere close as # 2. They make policy and war decisions as if China’s economy was at 1980 level and Russia’s military was at 1990 level.

    I’m generally an optimistic person but I just don’t see any blue sky with this incompetence throughout the White House.

  18. Drew Hunkins
    August 31, 2023 at 14:53

    The US is dominated by parasitic international finance! These billionaire bloodsuckers destroyed our country! We have no one in the room to counter these parasitic savages! No one in the room to pound the table and wrestle concessions from them! None of this is quantum physics. Class warfare is the driving motor force of history.

    The United States of BlackRock Israel is now a drug addicted indebted train wreck.

    China’s showing the globe a different way.

    • Don Clark
      August 31, 2023 at 21:16

      China showing a different way? What is that way? Continuing the 70 yr insistence that Taiwan must be part of China and like they did with Hong Kong turning it into another police state/concentration camp? Only their threatening Taiwan with war every day. And they’ve threatened all their neighbors for many years to stay away areas that they claim is theirs, which never were, while insisting all the Yellow Sea is also theirs, even the recognized international areas. Is this a different way?
      China supports war criminal Putins illegal war against Ukraine because China intends to do the same thing against Taiwan as they did in Tibet and whatever areas in the Western Pacific their building their Navy for. Is that a different way?
      China is an authoritarian police state ruled by one man who was educated by Mao who had killed millions of his own followers. How many will Emperor Xi imprison or murder before he gets what he wants? Is that a different way?

      It’s true the West’s billionaire bloodsuckers are a continuation of the ancient ruling class domination and is to be totally rejected as soon as possible, but is Emperor Xi’s way better? I’d say it’s worse!

      • Bill Todd
        September 1, 2023 at 10:54

        Stick around here and you could learn a lot.

      • Drew Hunkins
        September 1, 2023 at 12:06

        Your little comment is full of half-truths and outright lies.

        Is Beijing perfect, absolutely not. But it is indeed showing a different way in many respects versus the Washington-militarist hegemon, the biggest the world has ever seen.

        Enjoy peddling your CIA, Soros, NED, and State Dept propaganda.

      • K.J.Noh
        September 1, 2023 at 13:15

        Space control to Mr. Clark: your signals are distorted. Please return to planet earth.

        So many lies and distortions. So little space. Where to begin?

        Taiwan island was a province of China until the Japanese appropriated it as war spoils after the Sino-Japanese war in 1895. It was then turned it into a Japanese colony. That colony should have been returned to China, according to the Cairo Summit, after WWII. However, the US interfered on the losing side of a civil war and established a fascist rump state on the island in order to continue to harass and wage war against China–which it did for decades–as well as use as it as an East Asian platform to undermine socialist movements around the world, for example training death squad leaders in Taiwan. Despite this sordid history, there is one fundamental fact that every country on the planet agrees on: that Taiwan island is part of China–even the Taiwan authorities and the ROC constitution agree that that there is only one China, of which Taiwan province is simply a province.

        And so on.

        “The wicked flee where no one pursues”.

        Such wicked, wicked lies.

      • lester
        September 1, 2023 at 22:19

        It’s pretty obvious that for the last 20 years, Chinese people have been getting more and more prosperous, while Americans have been getting poorer and poorer.

      • Robert
        September 2, 2023 at 19:49

        Well, well Mr. Clark. That was some rant you produced. It was exhausting reading it. Can’t imagine how exhausted you were after writing it.

        China is certainly not perfect and I prefer living in a country with our (USA) form of government. However, no one in their right mind can dispute the fact that the Chinese government has produced a near miracle for its citizens over the past 40 years. No country in history produced the type of results China did. And overall, indications are that the people of China are very satisfied with Xi and “his government” . China is proof that forms of government other than Western “Democracies” can work out well for its citizens. Now let’s spread that knowledge to D.C., and the EU. We might prevent about a dozen wars this next decade.

    • lester
      September 1, 2023 at 22:24

      We are making all our own mistakes, no one else. We’ve chosen to wage war, war, war, mostly on smaller, poorer, countries, ever since about 1950. Results: we are poorer and have a lot of enemies. At home, we’ve chosen to enrich 1 per cent of our population and make the rest poorer. We chose to do it, no one made us.

Comments are closed.