The 2020s have come, and the US is still the largest external uncertainty of China’s development. An accurate understanding of the US is the foundation for China to cope with US-posed challenges.
The US is powerful. We must admit that the country’s comprehensive strength and its key power, including its economy, technology, military and diplomacy, are above China’s. None of our countermeasures should be based on the assumption that China’s strength will soon surpass that of the US.
The 2017 US National Security Strategy for the first time labeled China as a “strategic competitor.” Since then, US policy toward China has changed profoundly. The US has launched a trade war, a technology war, and human rights attacks against China, which have undoubtedly increased external resistance to China’s development. China’s comprehensive strength is weaker than that of the US, which has determined our overall defense posture in the China-US ties.
In addition, this strategic situation that is unfavorable to China will last for quite a long time. It is likely that China will reach or exceed the US earlier than other areas in terms of economic scale. China’s consumption may exceed that of the US as soon as this year. And if it goes well, China’s GDP is expected to reach the US level in the next 10 years. But it may take longer for China to improve its economic quality and its position in the global industrial chain.
The China-US technological gap is much wider than their GDP gap. Their gap in military strength is a reflection of their technological gap. China has made some breakthroughs in specific scientific research fields such as 5G network and quantum science. But China still faces an immense task to improve overall technological strength, which requires constant efforts for decades.
China has only two medium-sized aircraft carriers, while the US has 11 large nuclear-powered fleet carriers. This gap cannot be narrowed in a short time. China’s nuclear power is also a far cry from that of the US. Besides, the US has military bases across the world, but China only built one support base in Djibouti.
However, the above-mentioned gap does not mean that China’s national interests can be easily infringed. Over the past year, the US has been pressuring China or inciting trouble over the trade issue, South China Sea, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and Hong Kong. Yet China’s overall strategic defense has been stable. China is not an easy target for bullies.
The US is powerful, but it is not strong enough to rule the world in an imperial way. If the US is being unreasonable or carrying out power politics in any part of the world, it will face counterattacks. This can be proven when the US is unable to solve the issues of North Korea and Iran the way it wants, and when it encounters setbacks while interacting with its allies.
China has neither the strength nor the will to challenge US interests. China is unable to take the offensive when facing the US. But it is increasingly capable of safeguarding its own core interests.
Most of China’s core interests do not overlap with those of the US. This provides the possibility for China and the US to avoid sharp conflicts and to take most frictions under control.
China hopes to live in peace with the US. The two countries have the capability and wisdom to do so. There is no need for China to excessively evaluate the US China policy. Washington has its own interests. The most important thing for China is to seek ways to jointly look for a way to coexist and achieve win-win cooperation.