On Tuesday (17th), former U.S. President Obama’s memoir A Promised Land was officially on sale. In this more than 700-page memoir, China appears 95 times in the text, involving sensitive issues such as trade, climate and ethnicity.
The former American leader does have a lot to say about China.
Compared with Trump’s four-year term, Obama has had eight years of contact with China. During these eight years, while supporting free trade, the United States has repeatedly attacked China on trade issues. China’s tires, solar panels and other commodities have been subject to high tariffs.
At the same time, while the United States and China cooperate closely on climate change issues, it also plays the “climate change card” and has stated on many occasions that it will “supervise” the Chinese government’s emission reduction.
In Obama’s new book, this twisted and contradictory mentality is particularly obvious and ubiquitous.
Obama’s attitude towards the rapid development of China’s economy is that recognition is higher than hostility. In his memoirs, he pointed out, “History tells me that chaotic and poor China threatens the United States more than a prosperous China. I think China’s success in lifting hundreds of millions of people out of extreme poverty is a great achievement of mankind.
Considering that China holds more than $700 billion in U.S. debt and has huge foreign exchange reserves, it is an essential partner for the United States to control the financial crisis. “In order for the United States and the rest of the world to emerge from recession, we need China’s economic growth,” Omaba wrote.
Obama believes that from the perspective of economic growth, it is impossible to refute that China has become one of the largest economies in the world. “Made in China” is very popular all over the world. “American companies and their shareholders like to transfer production to China for low-cost labor and higher profits. American farmers like Chinese customers to buy their soybeans and pork. Wall Street companies also like the big-invested Chinese billionaires, and countless lawyers and advisers have a share in the expanding Sino-US trade.
So during Obama’s tenure, there was a general consensus among all parties and interests in the United States: the United States should not only not engage in protectionism, but also learn from China. “If we want to stay first, we need to work harder, save more money, and teach our children more about math, science, engineering and Mandarin,” Obama wrote.
In Obama’s view, for more than 30 years, China and the United States have managed to avoid open conflict, relying not only on luck, but also on strategic patience.
Obama believes that China’s attitude of doing business with all countries and not judging the internal affairs of other countries is a virtue. “It is this strategy that patiently helps China save resources and avoid costly contradictions and conflicts.”
On the one hand, Obama spent a lot of time complaining about China, accusing China, and even saying that he was “surveilled” during his visit to China.
In response, Lu Xiang, an expert on American issues of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said in an interview with the Global Times that we can think that the book is better sold, so we might as well read it as a joke. No one can confirm the details mentioned by Obama in the book. It is not ruled out that they project what they have done on China and think that “China must do the same if we do this.”
Even if economic and trade exchanges have always been the ballast of Sino-US relations, and Obama’s affirmation of China’s strategic patience, this does not affect him from blaming China’s development and growth in the international trading system for the depression of the U.S. economy.
Seeing the influx of Chinese goods into the United States and the cheaper TVs, Obama directly dumped the “pot” of the decline of American manufacturing to the outsourcing and automation of Chinese manufacturing.
In the latest statement, Obama also conveyed a “hardline” attitude towards China. In an interview with Obama on November 16, Atlantic Monthly said that many of the policies he adopted in his early days of office were constrained by the financial crisis, otherwise, “I might have taken a tougher approach to China’s trade”. He now believes that “it is entirely reasonable to put more pressure on China on trade issues”.
Under Obama’s administration, Sino-US relations were relatively stable on the surface, unlike the high-profile diplomatic “face-to-rear” between the United States and Russia.
But deep down, behind Sino-US relations lies long-simmering tension and mistrust, not only around specific issues such as trade or climate, but also around a deep question: What does China’s revival mean for the international order and the status of the United States in the world?
“This is the epitome of Sino-US relations,” Obama wrote in the book. As a former president, his views are undoubtedly quite representative in the United States, which is why we should pay attention to it and understand clearly.