A sign for a firearms store is displayed in Yuma, Arizona, on June 2. US President Joe Biden has urged lawmakers to ban privately owned assault weapons to curb the mass shootings plaguing the country. Photo: AFP
Wang Wen
Wang Wen

US is so bent on resisting China’s rise, it has ignored its own decline

  • American rhetoric about the threat of China and attempts to counter its power are both bewildering and frustrating for ordinary Chinese
  • A population that once looked up to the US now looks on aghast at the violence perpetuated both within and outside its borders

The US’ perception that China is a threat runs contrary to empirical evidence, is mired in ossified ideological thinking and is unacceptable to Chinese academia. To see just where potential evil lies, here are the facts.

China has not been at war in more than four decades. It doesn’t send destroyers and bombers to cruise the Florida Straits, just to test Washington’s tolerance. China’s military expenditure isn’t even a third of the US’, which spends more to fund its military than the next 10 powers combined.

China’s managed economy wasn’t ruptured by a financial crisis, caused by sheer greed and lack of oversight. Chinese citizens don’t have to arm themselves with firearms, and most of China’s local constabulary don’t even carry guns.

The US government’s never-ending threats, and the outrageous depiction of socialism by American politicians, leaves Chinese people feeling confused and even angry.

In many ways, the US is a beneficiary of China’s bounty and struggle. US consumers save hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dollars each year buying Chinese products and commodities. The flow of China-made consumer goods to the United States isn’t about to change even as more Chinese companies build plants in America, and US companies grab a greater share of the Chinese market

China holds more than US$1 trillion in US Treasury bonds, which helped it survive the 2008 international financial crisis. Still, a decade later, the US had the temerity to launch a trade war against China, which is only hurting American consumers who are paying the tariffs. Contrary to their own best interests, officials in Washington have now blocked better technologies from China. Why? Just because it comes from China.

China didn’t instigate any of this, but it has rightfully invoked countermeasures.

China’s population is four times that of the United States. There are more people in China than all the countries of North and South America combined. It’s inevitable that China’s gross domestic product will exceed that of the US.

Trying to suppress China’s growth makes Chinese people think the US is standing in the way of a better life simply out of spite. Economic growth is not a sporting event, there are no trophies handed out at the top of the pyramid.

China has signed more international treaties and joined more international organisations than most other countries. It passionately defends the international order centred on the United Nations, which was established under the leadership of the US in 1945. China isn’t the only country that continues to benefit from the stability of the post-World-War-II international order, and it sees no need to subvert this system.

China does not accept the holier-than-thou accusations made by the US regarding Tibet, Xinjiang and Hong Kong. Opportunities for Uygurs and Tibetans continue to improve and expand as their populations grow. Hong Kong’s economy has grown faster than in most developed countries.

Chinese people believe its time for the moral crusaders in the US to take a look inward, and seek to improve their own communities. Just last month, for example, we saw the mass shooting tragedies in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas.

Chinese travellers in the US, meanwhile, have posted videos of mile after mile of homeless tent cities. Is this any way to live?

To Chinese people, the current state of affairs in the US is shocking. The prevalence of violence in America’s cities, and the violence and war it has perpetrated beyond its borders, is heartbreaking for Chinese people.


Horror and grief after Texas school shooting, Joe Biden calls for action

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How did this happen in a country that Chinese people once held in such high regard? In many ways, Chinese saw the US as their tutor. They wanted to emulate its success, and learned how to follow instructions. Yet the “student” has now grown up, and is a teacher in its own right – there could not have been any other outcome.

The shattering of the American myth has prompted a political awakening and a renewed self-confidence in China. Chinese people have turned to their 3,000-year-old culture to find wisdom and ways of making greater contributions to the world.

Chinese are entrepreneurial in spirit but resist unfettered capitalism. We know instinctively that capital flows must be regulated and the key goal is to contribute to measured improvements in social equality and national well-being. This is how China has been able to alleviate poverty and rebuild its infrastructure, bringing a tsunami-sized wave of improvements across the country.

China’s push for ‘common prosperity’

This shows the difference in how China and the US are developing; one has buckled down in near unanimity while the other appears to be sinking without hope into two distinct camps led either by elites or brutes.


Of course, both nations need to evolve; there is too much unwarranted political correctness on both sides. Things have gone so far that it now borders on being taboo to say something good about the other side.

The US and China need to learn from each other’s strengths and make common progress as this will certainly go a long way towards easing tensions between the two countries.

Wang Wen is professor and executive dean of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China