Addressing United States service members in a pre-Memorial Day appearance in Virginia on Friday, President Joe Biden warned his audience that the world is in “a battle between democracies and autocracies”, and Beijing “firmly believes that China, before the year ’30, ’35, is going to own America …”
Media misrepresentations — from “China will own” to “China wants to own” America by 2035 — notwithstanding, the US president sounded like he has been led astray by the bulging bias in Washington against China. And that stirs forebodings over what the future has in store for China-US relations.
There is no doubt Beijing and Washington are at loggerheads over the nature of their bilateral relationship and the direction it should take, and tensions may continue escalating in the near future should their mutual distrust continue to deepen. But unless they are determined to pursue a path of confrontation, which both know would be costly and self-debilitating, they must take a serious look at the problematic mutual perceptions clouding their judgment about each other to find a way out of their current dilemma.
Beijing has made no secret of the pride it takes in its “systemic advantages” for nationwide mobilization when it comes to accomplishing strategic goals. But that ability in no way equates to China being able or wanting to “own” the US. President Biden did not explain how China would “own America”. And there is no sign he knows what that would entail.
People here have no idea their leaders want to “own America”, not to mention how they might intend to go about it.
It may be difficult for the average American to embrace Beijing’s promise of peaceful co-existence and appreciate that it has no malicious intentions against the US. Such affirmations have been vilified to such an extent that any reiteration only cements suspicions. But the reality is, there simply is no way for China to “own” the US even if it wanted to.
How could China even imagine “owning” America while racking its own head over the endless issues that need to be addressed at home?
China remains preoccupied with keeping its own affairs in order. Beijing’s ambitions for 2035 are pragmatically set at fulfilling modernization and raising the country’s per capita GDP to those of intermediately advanced nations, which range between $30,000 and $40,000 at present. That same figure was $65,300 in the US, two years back. That was when China’s crossed the $10,000 mark.
President Biden clearly knew how far China lags behind when he said China is “not competition for us”. As China-bashing increasingly becomes the sole convergence point of Democratic and Republican interests, Biden is obviously aware of what is in his political interest.
Having by and large inherited his predecessor’s tough stance against China, Biden is now apparently falling into his trap by echoing his words. Remember what Donald Trump told Fox Business last October? “If Biden wins, China will own the United States.”