By Alec Hennesy
Pictured above: Xi Jinping, leader of China
China has been in the news a lot. Whether it is over trade embargoes or Hong Kong Protests, or even a genocide allegation in the Xinjiang desert, China has been a familiar face on news outlets across the globe. Frequently becoming heavily criticized by most sides of the media, China has been more covered than Russia in recent times, and usually not in a positive light.
This coverage begs the question: is all of this hate justified? Is China a misunderstood country or are they the new top threat to the U.S.?
Is China friend or foe?
It is important to note the U.S. and China have actually worked together in the past. After the Sino Soviet split and Richard Nixon’s visit, the communist country was closer to the U.S. than the Soviet Union.
The U.S. and China are both each other’s largest trade partners, and after 9/11 China offered support in the war on terror. The partnership has since ended however. Working together to fight Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean is the last we have seen of the cooperation between these two countries.
We can see that China’s actions have become increasingly more aggressive over time. In the South China Sea, the PLA or People’s Liberation Army, is currently claiming islands and building military bases in efforts to project its naval and air power. The PLA is stating that these islands are part of China because of their “historical claim” to the region.
These developments have been conflicting with the maritime boundaries of several countries in the region such as Vietnam, Malaysia, The Philippines, Brunei, and Taiwan. While the U.S. has not been facing conflicts due to border issues with the PLA, the U.S. does not recognize China’s claims that this land belongs to them. Occasionally, the U.S. partakes in flyovers and has ships go near the islands in an attempt to encourage China’s repeal from the land.
Another recent tension between the U.S. and China comes as a result of the Hong Kong Protests that started in 2019. The protests were caused by China, and the Chinese controlled Hong Kong government seeking to forcefully integrate Hong Kong further into China.
Hong Kong had developed an agreement with China saying that they can have their own government, free speech, democracy, etc. until 2047 (50 years after they were returned to China from Britain in 1997). China is trying to speed up this process and take control of Hong Kong, especially its elections and democratic safeguards. This has caused internal conflict between the people and the government, resulting in many protests.
The U.S. has openly declared that they do not support China’s actions and passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy act which sanctioned many Chinese officials and businesses involved in Hong Kong.
Probably the most grievous thing that people criticize China for is what they have been doing in Xinjiang. In Xinjiang the majority of the population is ethnic Uyghur muslims, as opposed to the majority Han Chinese in the country. Under the guise of antiterrorism, China has imprisoned up to one million Uyghur people, and is trying to erase their culture, language, and religion.
There have been documents of forced labor, re-education camps, and stories from family members of those who are currently in these “vocational education and training centers” as they are called by China. It is obvious that China is attempting to save their public image by limiting the coverage on the truth behind these camps. In fact, almost any journalist who attempts to report on the events in Xinjiang may face dangerous threats from the Chinese government.
The U.S. and many other countries have labeled this a genocide and are even diplomatically boycotting the olympics in Beijing this year because of this.
There are many more reasons why the U.S. and others can be suspicious of the Chinese government, such as oppression in Tibet, supporting North Korea, debt trapping African nations, collecting data of U.S. citizens, and making threats against the U.S. and its allies like threatening to destroy Taiwan, and India, and insulting Canadá, Australia, and the European union. Despite the previous fellowship with this country, it is clear that the actions of China have represented ideals that do not align with those of the U.S..
In Conclusion I think that the Chinese government is a legitimate threat to not only the U.S., but the whole world. Their economic influence and soft power across Africa, Europe, and South America is growing at a rapid rate, as is their military. China may soon even overtake the U.S. to become the most powerful economy in the world.
Some people say that we are in the middle of a second cold war and frankly I agree with them. However this cold war isn’t like the last one; it will be won by the country with more soft power, informal propaganda, economic influence, and far more subtle means. How it ends depends on how we and the rest of the world react to the CCP.