Washington's speculative claims about China are undermining its credibility

Gloria Sand
The only thing the United States can be right about is that China is more and more affirming itself as a solid, reliable, economically and politically successful world power.
Gloria Sand

When provocations become extreme, trust is inevitably lost.

Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang is right in saying that China-US relations have "seriously and dangerously deviated" and that "containment and suppression will not make America great, nor will they stop the rejuvenation of China."

The only thing the United States can be right about is that China is more and more affirming itself as a solid, reliable, economically and politically successful world power. For this reason, China is now offering an alternative to all countries that, so far, could not help but look to the United States as their model. Today, every country can consider two options. In the near future, it will be even more the case since China will gradually be able to show the advantages of its own development model.

This is exactly what the United States is trying to avoid. The reason seems logical: The longer they remain the only model available for the entire international community, the easier it will be for them to maintain their hegemonic hold on it.

Unfortunately for the United States, the global equilibrium is changing, and countries that already have valid reasons to reconsider their relations with Washington are looking for alternatives. The only one available is China.

No matter whether new China partners, either in Southeast Asia or Latin America, the Middle East or Europe, Africa or the Pacific Islands, will take a cautious or an encompassing attitude toward Beijing, what is unusual, and therefore worrying for the United States, is to see them adopting a more ambiguous foreign policy that serves the national interests of every single country better than the US one.

Although such an attitude should be considered quite rational and inevitable, Washington has so far been so sure of its capacity to push its foreign partners to endorse its own interests as if they overlapped with theirs, that it is inevitably getting disappointed when seeing that their pressures are not as effective as they used to be. To redress what appears to be an unfavorable situation for them, they have committed to portraying China as the only global troublemaker.

What more and more observers have noticed in Europe, though, is that Washington's new strategy of denouncing claims rather than facts is pushing European countries to think twice, if not three times, before joining them in their anti-China narrative.

The latest example has been the announcement, on March 8, that the North Stream 2 sabotage has been most likely accomplished by some undefined "anti-Putin groups." More than five months after the incident, and exactly at the same time China is reminding us that the responsibilities of this illegal operation have not yet been disclosed, Washington is coming out with a new story that is relinquishing the United States from any direct or indirect responsibility in the event.

The United States is probably still convinced that they have maintained such an irreproachable reputation that none of their partners will ever question its claims. However, in Europe and in the rest of the world, more analysts have noticed that recent US narratives are less grounded in facts and more the result of vague "unconfirmed claims." The balloon saga was exactly that, with a few staff members of US intelligence based in Paris confirming to French authorities that, as far as they were aware, just one of the four detected balloons was Chinese. However, it was decided to frame the whole operation as one aimed at blaming China for regular espionage activities on American soil to further emphasize China's irresponsibility.

Then was the suspicion that China is ready to sell military equipment to Russia as well as the alarm for the presence of Chinese-made cranes in US and foreign ports as a potential tool for espionage.

All these were just speculative claims. No evidence has been produced, nor will it appear in the future. All these campaigns had only one objective: convincing the rest of the world that China represents a dangerous strategic threat, and that the United States is the only country that is able to resist China's influence and, as a consequence, prevent its partners from falling under it.

Speculative campaigns, though, cannot be as effective as fact-based ones. In the long term, this strategy will only impact the credibility of the United States. It is still difficult to see China ready to emerge as a world model. What is certain, though, is that it will be perceived as a relevant and reliable alternative to the United States, a dynamic that will inevitably weaken Washington's hold on the foreign policy of its traditional partners.

(The author is an independent researcher based in Paris. The views are her own.)

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