eg Chinese Voices
No. 53 | 24.07.2022
Strategic stalemate between China and US remains as the balance of power shifts.
Why is China’s Struggle against US Hegemonic Power Entering a Phase of Strategic Stalemate?
Huang Renwei (黄仁伟)
Huang Renwei is executive vice president of the Institute of Belt and Road and Global Governance, Fudan University. He was the vice president of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. He has long studied China’s international strategy, Sino-US relations, and the international economy. He is the author of “The Historical Choice of China’s Peaceful Development Path”, “Time and Space of China’s Rise”, “Independent and Peaceful Foreign Policy”, and “The Evolution of Land Systems in the American West”.

Context:

As China ascends economically and politically, its struggle with the US has grown fiercer. Huang Renwei points out the inherent weakness of the US power structure and argues that, starting in 2020 and potentially lasting for the next 30 years, China and the US have entered a strategic stalemate phase that will ebb and flow.

Key points:

  • The concept of a "strategic standoff phase" was coined by Mao Zedong in "On Protracted War". Mao’s theory was that the war against Japan consisted of three stages: the Japanese offensive, the Chinese-Japanese strategic stalemate, and the Chinese counter-offensive. However, today's China-US stalemate phase is of a different nature: the strategic competition between China and the US has not yet entered a state of hot war; and China has not set the strategic goal of complete military defeat of the US, but rather, China’s goal is to fight for a just and equal new world order with common prosperity for all countries.
  • The reason this relationship is entering a strategic stalemate lies in the so-called “duality” of their respective power structures. The “duality” of the US is characterized by the fact that, on the one hand, the country is undergoing a process of economic and political decline, but on the other hand it is still a relatively strong military power. China's duality is the opposite: it is in a process of ascending, but also showing many weaknesses of its own. The “duality” gradually evolves over time.
  • The hegemony of the US dollar has historically greatly benefited US strategic interests. However, the US has overreached with this power and its credibility has been called into question.
  • In the next 30 years, China will face the harsh reality that the US-led Western countries will reject and malign China‘s role and participation in the old-world order. China must take the initiative to change the existing international landscape to create a new world-order. It may take generations before such a new system is established.
  • Can the US win with this decoupling strategy? It is doubtful, as the US' ability to confront China is both limited and constrained. If the US were to engage in military aggression against China, war related costs would be astronomical. The war could bring a collapse of US financial markets. In the end, the US cannot beat China militarily, provided there is no nuclear war.
  • The length of the strategic stalemate phase depends on how quickly the balance of power shifts. It is assumed that the decade between 2030 and 2040 will see a decisive shift in the global power balance as China's economy, measured in GDP, surpasses the US. Huang believes that in the decade between 2040 and 2050, China will catch up with the US in the areas of science and technology.
  • He also believes that in this strategic stalemate phase, the US will make greater use of its soft power advantages, whose cost-benefit ratio far exceeds that of hard power confrontation. Thus, the intensity of the US-China soft power competition is expected to take center stage.
The 25th Anniversary of Hong Kong’s Reunification with the Chinese Mainland: Some Reflections on “One Country, Two Systems”
Shao Shanbo (邵善波)
Shao Shanbo served as both a member of the Strategy Committee and the Executive Committee of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and was appointed as head of the Central Policy Unit serving the chief executive. He is now a full-time consultant to the Central Policy Unit.

Context:

The 25th anniversary of Hong Kong's reunification is the midpoint in the 50 years’ “one country, two systems” principle. This is a new chapter in the reformation of the government and legislative council according to the new election regulations. However, separatist incidents like "Occupy Central" in 2014 and the “Violent Waves” in 2019 that blocked the city’s functioning for months, require us to reflect on the past and look forward to the future.

Key points:

  • In 1997, when Hong Kong’s sovereignty was rightfully returned to the People’s Republic of China, the central government in Beijing was very concerned about maintaining the stability of Hong Kong society. Consequently, it decided that the entire government structure and its civil servant personnel system would remain unchanged. A few years prior to the handover, the political forces representing the “old colonial” rulers, introduced a so-called political democratic system, fracturing the political parties and complicating the election process for the Hong Kong’s Chief Executive and legislative council members’ appointment. This was a fundamental change for the once only commercially-oriented island. These changes laid the groundwork for the polarization of the past 25 years. Last year, the central government proposed and implemented new changes to the election process, which secured the Hong Kong government’s political alignment.
  • There has been heated debate in Hong Kong and in Beijing on whether the central government should intervene in Hong Kong’s local political affairs. In the early days, after the handover of Hong Kong, Beijing restricted itself to a policy of “non-intervention”. History has shown, however, that this cautious policy couldn’t prevent the anti-central government and separatist activities. This even led to the large-scale outburst of the “Violent Waves” separatist movement in 2019 that stopped the functioning of the city for months. After the 2019 riots, the central government finally intervened. It changed the national security law and equipped police and law enforcement agencies with new tools to expedite the filing of charges against individuals in the separatist movement and to incarcerate them when appropriate. It also changed the electoral system, ensuring that only people who were proven to be loyal and patriotic could run for political office. The interventions helped the people of Hong Kong understand the central government's positive role in local political affairs.
  • The “one country, two systems" principle allows Hong Kong to operate under a capitalist system for 50 years in order to maximize its unique location as a free port city and in so doing provide value to the socialist construction of the mainland. Shao believes that the policy of “one country, two systems" has not caused the island’s problems, rather, it was the antagonistic political forces opposing the intervention of the central government who were responsible for the political disruptions. Very recently, Xi Jinping asked the CPC to study this concept thoroughly, because it could also provide the transitory political framework when, in the future, the Taiwan Island is unified with the mainland. According to Shao, 2047 may not be the end of "one country, two systems" if its vitality and superiority can be proven by praxis.

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