[Editor’s Note] On May 26, Secretary of State Blinken delivered a speech on U.S. policy toward China, and on June 12, Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Security Dialogue in Singapore. During this period, the U.S.-China relationship itself continued to deteriorate. Situations in the Taiwan Strait, the South China Sea, and regional security in the Asia-Pacific region are becoming more volatile and unpredictable. Where is the U.S.-China relationship headed? In the Chinese context, “relationship” is a form of interpersonal interaction that is influenced by perceptions, and perceptions can influence decision-making. Therefore, as the U.S. and China engage in strategic rivalry, it is especially important to examine and analyze the perceptions of each country from top to bottom. Starting on May 29, Meizhong Stories began to produce a weekly newsletter designed to track China’s perceptions of the U.S. This newsletter covers commentaries on the U.S. by the Chinese government, select state media outlets, think tanks, and social media platforms. It is called “China View Newsletter”. This issue covers the period from June 6 to June 12.
This letter is written, edited, and translated by the Carter Center China Focus’ interns Xin Tong and Sarah Stahlman.
Government (Chinese Foreign Ministry)
At a press conference on June 6, Zhao Lijian criticized Blinken’s remarks in his China policy speech accusing China of engaging in “coercive diplomacy”. He said, “China never coerces others, and we firmly oppose coercion by other countries. ‘Do not do to others what you don’t want others to do to you’ — this is a long-held Chinese cultural belief. One of the traditions in China’s diplomacy is that we believe all countries, big or small, are equal. When national sovereignty and dignity is under coercion or violation, China responds with reasonable and lawful countermeasures to defend its legitimate rights and interests and uphold international equity and justice.” At the same time, Zhao Lijian also pointed out that the United States is the originator of coercive diplomacy, which is mainly manifested by the threat of force, political isolation, economic sanctions, and technological blockades. In response to a reporter’s question about religious freedom in China, Zhao Lijian pointed out that “respecting and protecting religious freedom is the basic policy of the Communist Party of China and the Chinese government” and that “the so-called ‘genocide’ in Xinjiang is an outright lie.” Zhao pointed out that the U.S. has a long-standing problem of “racial discrimination” and a “policy of genocide against Native Americans,” and that the U.S. use of this as a pretext to interfere in China’s internal affairs “exposes its own hypocrisy and double standards”. At the same time, Zhao Lijian said, “The U.S. repeatedly hypes lies on Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong only to create excuses for smearing and suppressing China and to use them as a tool to interfere in China’s internal affairs and split China.”
On June 7, in response to the Washington Post‘s report that “China is secretly building a dedicated naval facility at Cambodia’s Ream naval base,” Zhao Lijian said that “the renovation of the base serves solely to strengthen the Cambodian naval capacities to protect its maritime integrity and combat maritime crimes.” Zhao Lijian pointed out that “The U.S. has ignored and maliciously speculated and smeared Cambodia’s position. The U.S. has even threatened and pressured Cambodia. This is typical bullying practice.” Meanwhile, in response to a reporter’s question about gun violence in the United States, Zhao Lijian said, “The U.S. government should face up to its own poor human rights situation and governance deficit instead of using human rights as an excuse to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.”
On June 8, Zhao Lijian said at a press conference that “The US government itself is the primary spreader of disinformation” and described the U.S. as an “empire of lies”.
On June 9, in response to a reporter’s question, Zhao Lijian once again pointed out the “systematic human rights violations by the United States” and said “the U.S. needs to face squarely and earnestly address the infringement on child laborers’ rights at home, ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as soon as possible, and properly protect American children’s lawful rights and interests.” Meanwhile, Zhao Lijian responded to the U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, saying, “U.S. arms sales to China’s Taiwan region seriously violate the One China principle and the stipulations of the three China-U.S. joint communiqués, especially the August 17 Communiqué, gravely undermine China’s sovereignty and security interests, and severely harm China-U.S. relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. China firmly opposes and strongly condemns this.”
On June 10, Zhao Lijian commented on the Capitol Hill riot at a press conference, saying “this once again exposes the nature of the U.S.’s double standards when it comes to democracy and how the U.S. uses it to engage in political manipulation.” The attack on the Capitol is an “attempted coup” in the United States, and a “color revolution” in other countries. Zhao Lijian said, “The U.S. should deeply reflect on its own ‘democratic deficit’. Labeling, politicizing, and weaponizing democracy will only harm people and themselves.” Meanwhile, in response to recent Russian revelations about U.S. bio-military activities in Ukraine, Zhao said “the U.S. conducts more bio-military activities than any other country in the world. Moreover, the U.S. is the only country opposing the establishment of a verification mechanism for the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC).”
China Military Network
China Military Net is the only news portal of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army approved by the Central Military Commission of China and is the online version of the People’s Liberation Army Daily, the organ of the Central Military Commission of the Communist Party of China.
On June 10, China Military Net released an article titled “Frequently selling arms to Taiwan proves the US is an unprincipled clown”. It says, “For its own selfish interests, the U.S. engages in double-dealing. On the one hand, U.S. dignitaries swear not to support Taiwan independence and have no intention of clashing with China; on the other hand, they continue to sell arms to Taiwan, send wrong signals to the separatist forces of Taiwan independence, and frequently create trouble to prevent China’s march toward reunification, being powerful, and rejuvenation. All of this is the result of extreme selfishness and Cold War thinking.”
On June 6, China Daily Bilingual News published a report entitled “Ideological Infiltration Measures Exposed! What has this American organization done?” The article alleged that the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) finances separatist forces, instigates color revolutions, and colludes with political groups with the aim of “subverting regimes in targeted countries in order to foster pro-U.S. regimes and transplant ‘American-style’ democratic systems to those countries.” At the same time, the article says, “the National Endowment for Democracy concocts false information and ‘packages’ it as a so-called ‘academic authority’. It tries to hoodwink the world with a false face of ‘objectivity and impartiality’ in order to hype anti-government rhetoric.” As of June 12, the article had been read by 45,000 people, with 320 likes and 182 retweets. Only 1 selected message passed the web audit, with the message saying “[The National Endowment for Democracy] does everything but good things.”
On June 8, Xinhua published an article titled “‘Mood Sucks’! Poll shows 80% of Americans pessimistic about economic outlook”. According to the report, “The survey found that Americans are now in a bad mood and their dissatisfaction with the economy has reached its highest level in recent years. This pessimism is not only about the current economy, but also includes doubts about the U.S. political system, its global leadership position, and its ability to help most people achieve the American dream. Some 83 percent of respondents believe the economy is in poor or not-so-good shape. This is the highest level of dissatisfaction in a poll conducted by the National Opinion Research Center since 1972.”
On June 9, Xinhua published an international commentary titled “The U.S. is the destroyer of Sino-U.S. relations – the inaugural piece of the serial commentaries on U.S. Policy toward China”. According to the commentary, “The recent U.S. speech on China policy spreads false information and discredits China’s domestic and foreign policies. It also blamed China for the problems in Sino-U.S. relations and made great efforts to exaggerate the so-called ‘China threat’. This ‘tall tale’ is a complete reversal of black and white. The U.S. is the one who caused the difficulties in Sino-U.S. relations, both in terms of history and the truth.” The commentary also said, “The United States has erroneously depicted China as a ‘strategic competitor’. In fact, ‘competition’ is just a synonym for ‘containment’. The U.S. is smearing, blocking, and suppressing China, seriously damaging China’s legitimate interests. From attacking the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party to discrediting the human rights situation in China… The U.S. is engaged in an ideological assault that challenges China’s political system, undermines China’s territorial and sovereign integrity, and harms China’s development interests. This has greatly damaged the atmosphere of U.S.-China relations and created huge obstacles to their development.” The commentary noted that “In Sino-U.S. relations, the U.S. has been tearing down the stage, attacking China, and injecting negative energy. In contrast, in the face of the U.S. aggressiveness, the Chinese side has been exercising restraint and trying to manage differences, conveying positive energy, and playing a constructive role”. The commentary concluded, “Great power competition is not the theme of the times, and a zero-sum game is not the right choice. Sino-US relations cannot deteriorate any further. The U.S. must correct its strategic perception, jump out of the logic of competition, stop all the wrong practices that jeopardize the relationship between the two countries, and make the right choice for the benefit of China, the United States, and the world as soon as possible.”
Source: Xinhua. The text in the picture reads “U.S.-China cooperation”.
On June 12, Xinhua published an international commentary titled “Diminishing U.S. influence is highlighted by bleak end of the Summit of the Americas”. The article said, “The U.S. hegemonic performance at the summit was widely criticized by countries in Latin America, and the meeting became the least attended summit since its creation. More and more Latin American countries are saying ‘no’ to the U.S., highlighting the diminishing influence of the U.S. in Latin America and globally, and the unpopularity of hegemony.” The commentary repeatedly describes “the hypocritical nature of American-style democracy,” “the double standards of American-style human rights,” and “the hegemonic nature of the United States,” and points out that “win-win cooperation is the trend of the times, but the U.S. is going against the path and is doomed to end up with no help.”
On the same day, Xinhua published its fifth commentary on America’s China policy toward China entitled “The U.S. is the destroyer of the international order”, saying that “Some U.S. politicians are suffering from a ‘cognitive disorder’ called ‘projection effect’. Recent U.S. policy toward China depicts China as the ‘most serious long-term challenge’ to the international order and that the U.S. must defend and reform the ‘rules-based international order’. These remarks are typical of the self-serving nature of the so-called ‘most serious challenge to the international order’, which is not another country, but the U.S. itself.” According to the commentary, “the U.S. is the biggest source of chaos in the world today”, “the U.S. is the biggest destructive force of international rules”, “the U.S. is engaged in ‘coercive diplomacy'”, and “the U.S. has become a ‘rogue superpower’ and has caused great pain to the international community”.
On June 6, Guangming Daily published an article titled “The Appearance and Truth of Contemporary American Human Rights Culture”. The article said, “From the perspective of human rights, the secular-oriented Democratic Party advocates a left-wing liberal view of human rights, while the religiously devout Republican Party promotes a right-wing view of human rights, making the protection of human rights in the U.S. increasingly fragmented and divided. From the perspective of human rights practice, the U.S. is experiencing serious human rights problems such as out-of-control epidemics, political disorder, racial conflicts, and social fragmentation at home; externally, it adopts policy arrangements such as trade protection, power politics, cultural erasure, and xenophobia, insists on weaponizing human rights issues, and intensifies its ideological attacks on China, making human rights a pretext for maintaining U.S. hegemony, interfering in other countries’ domestic affairs and undermining international order.” The article outlined the “truth about the U.S. view of human rights” with four “isms,” namely, “extreme individualism,” “hypocritical egalitarianism,” “unilateral universalism,” and “paranoid messianism”.
On June 8, People’s Daily published an article titled “Measuring U.S. human rights deficit, the bell of the People’s Daily rings eight times to wake up those who pretend to be asleep”. The article briefly reviewed the main contents of the series of “bell rings” (the author’s name is“钟声”,which means “ring of the bell”) articles launched by the People’s Daily from May 16 to June 7, saying “The U.S. should deeply review its own human rights deficit”, and counted the “failure to contain epidemics”, “gun violence”, “social injustice exacerbated by the rich-poor divide”, “brutal treatment of illegal immigrants”, “racism”, “collusion between power and capital in private prisons,” “forced labor,” and “torture in ‘black prisons’ overseas” as “the eight major crimes”. It also says that the articles “profoundly expose the human rights violations of the U.S. at home and abroad, and profoundly reveal that American-style democracy cannot protect the human rights of the American people. The American hegemony has made the U.S. a negative example of human rights abuses in the world.” The articles stresses that on the issue of human rights, what the U.S. needs to do is to “correct its own mind, think about its own faults, and change its own behavior” instead of “politicizing human rights issues and interfering in the internal affairs of other countries at every turn on the pretext of human rights.”
The eight articles are as follows:
On June 7, the Global Times published a commentary entitled “Wu Xinbo: Where will the post-Russia-Ukraine conflict international system go?” According to the commentary, one of the main goals of Russia’s special military operation against Ukraine is to end U.S. hegemony in Europe, end the U.S.-dominated world order, and promote the emergence of an equal international society.
On June 12, the Global Times published an editorial titled “The U.S. does not deserve to say ‘maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait'”. According to the editorial, “The U.S., the real destroyer of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, is trying to intervene more deeply in Taiwan Strait affairs under the guise of ‘maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.’” The editorial added, “The historical trend of cross-strait reunification is unstoppable, and the One China principle is the sustainer of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. In fact, if the U.S. had not played the ‘Taiwan card’ and attempted to hollow out the One China principle, where would the DPP authorities have gotten the courage to refuse to recognize the 1992 Consensus?” Finally, the editorial said, “The U.S. should understand that the Chinese people are not to be messed with, and if they are messed with, it is not a good thing to do! If you want to ‘contain China with the Taiwan issue’, you are playing with fire, and those who play with fire will burn themselves.”
On June 10, Wang Wen, executive director of the Chongyang Institute of Finance at Renmin University of China, published an English language article in the South China Morning Post titled “The US is so bent on containing China’s rise, it has ignored its own decline.” On June 11, Chongyang translated the article into Chinese and posted it on its official WeChat public page, titled “South China Morning Post denounces U.S. ‘foolishness’: curbing China but ignoring its own decline”. The article said, “There is a serious and misplaced political correctness in both the U.S. and China. It is now almost taboo in both countries to say nice things about each other. Complementing each other’s strengths and making progress together will certainly go a long way toward easing tensions between the two countries.” The article refuted Washington’s “China threat theory”, saying it runs “counter to empirical evidence and the U.S. is deeply trapped in rigid ideological thinking”, and said “China will not accept the self-righteous accusations made by the United States against Tibet, Xinjiang, and Hong Kong.” At the same time, the article calls on the U.S. to “look internally” to address its own gun violence and urban violence problems.
On June 7, Today’s Headlines published a report titled “Liu Qingbin: Renowned Chinese economist Chen Wenling recently declared that China must unify with Taiwan and bring TSMC home”. Another major Chinese Internet portal also published a report titled “Economist Chen Wenling: We must get TSMC back, can’t let it run away to the U.S.” On the same day, Singapore’s Chinese-language media, Lianhe Zaobao, cited a Chinese media report and published a report titled “Mainland Chinese economist: Must get TSMC back”. According to the report, “According to guancha.cn, Chen Wenling, chief economist of the Center for International Economic Exchanges, a Chinese think tank, spoke about the current relationship between China and the U.S. at the China-U.S. Forum hosted by RUC’s Chongyang Institute on May 30. In her view, China must bring the TSMC to China as the U.S. and the West will impose destructive sanctions on China like they did on Russia.” Chen Wenling added that “China must support Russia openly, reasonably, and in every way possible.” As of June 12, related reports were taken down in Chinese media outlets.
On June 10, WeChat public forum “China-U.S. Focus” reposted an article by Huazhi Global Watch titled “The Crux of China-U.S. Relations”. According to the article, the U.S. side has fallen into a “Thucydides-esque” conjecture in Sino-U.S. relations, that is, “If China has the ability, it must challenge the existing international order, and if the U.S. wants to remain ‘number one’ in the world, it must make China its primary strategic opponent, and if it cannot get the job done by itself, it will use ‘competition’ as an excuse to rally other countries to join its crusade, deploy the narrative of ‘demonization’ to completely encircle and contain China until it is brought down, and the U.S. will be able to sit firmly at the top of the world.” The article suggests that the most urgent task in breaking the impasse in U.S.-China relations is to “follow President Xi Jinping’s approach of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation, and to put President Biden’s ‘four no’s and one no intention’ statement into practice [this refers to President Biden’s remarks that the US does not seek a new Cold War with China; it does not aim to change China’s system; the revitalization of its alliances is not targeted at China; the US does not support “Taiwan independence”; and it has no intention to seek a conflict with China]. At the same time, under the directional control of the two heads of state, we should explore and promote concrete cooperation projects of common interest, and support and encourage civil and local exchanges and practical exchanges.”
On June 11, the WeChat public forum “Deep Sea” published an article titled “Words don’t match actions, just after meeting with China’s defense minister, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin plays the ‘Taiwan card'”. The article said that on the one hand, the U.S. once again made it clear at the Shangri-La Dialogue that it “adheres to the ‘One China’ policy, does not support Taiwan independence, and does not seek conflict with China,” but on the other hand, it “tends to take a negative position” on the Taiwan issue. The U.S. State Department website once removed the phrases “Taiwan is part of China” and “the United States does not support Taiwan’s independence,” and approved a $120 million arms sales program to Taiwan on June 8 before the opening of the Shangri-La meeting. The article said that Austin’s comments on the China issue were not in line with the U.S. policy. According to the article, Austin was “perfunctory” to questions from China expert Bonnie Glaser about Biden’s Taiwan-related statements and what the U.S. would do about them, saying “Biden’s earlier misstatement that he ‘would defend Taiwan militarily’ may reflect the White House’s current inclination.”
On June 12, WeChat’s public forum “New View of a Strong Nation” published an article titled “Chinese experts: Don’t have illusions about the U.S., we must regain Taiwan! TSMC must be in China’s hands”. According to the commentary, “the West is establishing a ‘technology alliance’ for the semiconductor supply chain, with the goal of forming a small circle of semiconductor technology in favor of the Western group…it is clear that since 2020, the White House has wanted control of the global semiconductor industry”. It went on to say that the U.S. “technology alliance” is a strategic alliance whose strategic goals include “establishing the supremacy of the U.S. semiconductor manufacturing industry” and “beefing up the joint blockade of semiconductor exports to China.” The commentary concluded, “Since the frontal competition with China has already made the heads in Washington ‘reel’, it is part of the Anglo-Saxon ‘tradition’ to go for the evil means if proper conduct does not work. They cannot change this ‘nature’.”
- From June 6 to June 12, China’s media coverage of and commentary on the United States were characterized by an all-encompassing and multi-angle “barrage” and the most frequently used words are “hegemony,” “double standards,” “hypocrisy,” “undermining the international order,” and “interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.” In addition, Chinese media, while criticizing “U.S. ‘criticism’ of China,” mention the nastiness and corruption of the American society. The central government media, including Xinhua, CCTV, and People’s Daily, have written or republished current affairs commentaries and satirical articles exposing the “dark side” of the U.S., criticizing the U.S. on topics such as ineffectiveness in fighting the epidemic, economic crisis, social injustice, gun violence, and war tendencies. In the past week, the official media has devoted much space to negative social news in the U.S., such as how to stop the tragedy of “epidemic orphans” in the U.S., the shooting incident in Maryland that killed three people and injured one, the “fever” of inflation in the U.S., and the Fed’s “tightrope” risk. However, there are little coverage of what is going on in other countries.
- Chinese media prefer to use Chinese cultural imagery, jargon, and popular Internet words to explain the complex “conspiracy” and “wolf’s ambition” of the U.S. against China at this stage. For example, “pseudo-Daoist”, “projection effect”, “empire of lies”, and “dumping doctrine”. The catchy and easy-to-understand words enable the Chinese public to form a simple general understanding of U.S. behavior, while the twisted and vivid “plot” increases reading interest and helps further dissemination of the text.
- Scholars continue to have a negative view of the U.S., mostly discussing the current state of deterioration in U.S.-China relations and tracing the root causes, while few give constructive advice on improving U.S.-China relations. Just as the U.S. believes that China has demonstrated its ambition to change the existing international order and establish a regional hegemony centered on China, China blames the deterioration of U.S.-China relations on the U.S. Cold War mentality and the shattering of the illusion of unipolarism, saying that it is trying to suppress China’s rise and develop the ability to counteract it. China’s view of U.S.-China relations is characterized by a distinct realism. Many articles speak of possible cooperation, but only if the U.S. “recognizes and corrects its mistakes” and makes a “truce” decision, such as not interfering in Xinjiang-related, Hong Kong-related, and Taiwan-related issues. However, at this stage, both the U.S. and China have made saber-rattling statements and related initiatives on the Taiwan Strait issue. The road to cooperation in any shape or form is obviously full of obstacles.