Washington’s real policy toward China
by Brian Berletic on 10 Jul 2023 0 Comment

After an intense escalation between the US and China over the former’s persistence in “containing” the rise of the latter, and particularly over US interference with the island province of Taiwan, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken travelled to Beijing [June 18-ed] supposedly to repair tattered US-Chinese relations.


As part of the process, Secretary Blinken even publicly recited the US One China Policy, acknowledging that the US does not support Taiwan independence. However, even while acknowledging China’s sovereignty over Taiwan, Secretary Blinken reiterated US “responsibilities” under the unilateral Taiwan Relations Act “making sure Taiwan has the ability to defend itself,” or in other words, selling arms to Taiwan without Beijing’s approval and thus trampling Chinese sovereignty.


Following this, US President Joe Biden would refer to Chinese President Xi Jinping as a “dictator” during a speech featured on the official White House website. Days later, Secretary Blinken would affirm President Biden’s comments, as reported by US government-funded media outlet Voice of America in their article, “US Officials Agree: China’s Xi Is a Dictator.”


Why is the United States attempting to appear to be pursuing diplomacy while deliberately sabotaging any improvement in US-Chinese relations? Before answering this question, it is important to understand just how long-running the US policy of containing China actually is and how unlikely it is we are witnessing any serious attempt to change it today.


US Policy Seeking to Contain China Stretches Back Decades


US foreign policy toward China has been for decades and remains focused on encirclement and containment. Even as Secretary Blinken travelled to Beijing, a myriad of US government-funded programs led by the National Endowment for Democracy (banned in Russia) and adjacent organizations worked to coerce, destabilize, and even replace governments along China’s periphery in Southeast Asia to shape the region into a united front against Beijing.


The US is also still working closely to expand the activities of its two key anti-China alliances, the Quad (the US, India, Japan, and Australia) and AUKUS (Australia, the UK, and the US). The US continues its military build-up in the Indo-Pacific region, including through expanding the US military’s presence in the Philippines and continuously sailing US warships off China’s coasts.


Additionally, US government and corporate-funded think tanks like the Council on Foreign Relations, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Atlantic Council are currently planning both economic sanctions to impose on China, as well as military intervention meant to enforce and exacerbate sanctions.


Today’s posture of US belligerence toward China is a continuation of a policy articulated decades ago in US government documents. On the US State Department’s official website under the Office of the Historian, a multitude of documents and memorandums explaining Washington’s policy of containing China can be found.


One document dated 1965 with the subject “Courses of Action in Vietnam” written by then US Defense Secretary Robert McNamara to then US President Lyndon Johnson would note:


“The February decision to bomb North Vietnam and the July approval of Phase I deployments make sense only if they are in support of a long-run United States policy to contain Communist China.


China looms as a major power threatening to undercut our importance and effectiveness in the world and, more remotely but more menacingly, to organize all of Asia against us.”


The memo would also note “three fronts to a long-run effort to contain China” which included, “the Japan-Korea front, the India-Pakistan front, and the Southeast Asia front.”


Omitting references to Vietnam and the Soviet Union, the memo sounds like it could have been written today, a reflection of how US foreign policy pursuing China’s containment has persisted for decades regardless of which US President resides in the White House and who controls the US Congress.


Feigned Diplomacy for Consensus Building Toward Sanctions and War


If the US has pursued China’s containment for decades and has no intention of stopping, why has the US State Department attempted to appear to pursue diplomacy with China?


The answer is simple. It fits a wider pattern of Washington attempting to portray itself as “diplomatic” and “reasonable” and its adversaries as belligerent and unreasonable. When the time comes to impose sanctions and even wage war, the perception that the US does so only reluctantly helps build consensus amongst American allies who are needed to help enforce US sanctions across the global economy and bolster US forces on the battlefield.


In 2009, then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would hand Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov a physical “reset” button as a symbol of Washington’s supposed interest in “resetting” relations with Moscow. However, even as Secretary Clinton conducted the charade, the US State Department and related agencies and organizations were engineering the upcoming 2011 “Arab Spring” and the violent overthrow of multiple Russian allies across the Arab World including Libya and Syria, the New York Times would later admit.


Another example is the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the “Iran Nuclear Deal.” While the agreement wasn’t publicly revealed until 2013 and only signed in 2015, US-based think tanks began planning for it years earlier.


In the Brookings Institution’s “Which Path to Persia? Options for a New American Strategy Toward Iran” paper, US policymakers would admit the proposal was essentially a trap aimed ultimately at regime change in Tehran.


The paper would admit:


The ideal scenario in this case would be that the United States and the international community present a package of positive inducements so enticing that the Iranian citizenry would support the deal, only to have the regime reject it.


In a similar vein, any military operation against Iran will likely be very unpopular around the world and require the proper international context - both to ensure the logistical support the operation would require and to minimize the blowback from it.


The best way to minimize international opprobrium and maximize support (however, grudging or covert) is to strike only when there is a widespread conviction that the Iranians were given but then rejected a superb offer - one so good that only a regime determined to acquire nuclear weapons and acquire them for the wrong reasons would turn it down.


Under those circumstances, the United States (or Israel) could portray its operations as taken in sorrow, not anger, and at least some in the international community would conclude that the Iranians “brought it on themselves” by refusing a very good deal.


While it was clear the US-Russia “reset” was disingenuous, the Brookings paper offers documented proof that the US uses apparent good will and diplomacy as a means of consensus-building ahead of predetermined sanctions and even military intervention.


Several years after the Iran Nuclear Deal was signed and put into effect, the US would unilaterally withdraw from the agreement, accuse Iran of having “violated” it, reimpose sanctions on Iran, and begin pursuing a combination of US-sponsored subversion within Iran (as planned elsewhere within Brookings’ paper) and proxy war across the Middle East region against Iran and its allies.


Just as was stated in 2009 by Brookings policymakers, the US attempted to appear to extend an offer of peace and reconciliation, only to then attempt to portray Iran as having violated the nuclear deal in bad faith, justifying sanctions and military actions the US had prepared against Iran and intended to inevitably use all along. With Secretary Blinken’s recent visit to Beijing, the United States is pursuing a similar strategy against China.


US Sanctions and War with China Already Underway


Just as with Russia or Iran, the US has already planned and is implementing both a campaign of escalating economic sanctions and military aggression against China, both directly and through proxies.


The US has for years sponsored armed groups from Pakistan’s Baluchistan region to Myanmar in Southeast Asia, to the Solomon Islands in the Pacific to attack Chinese diplomats, citizens, infrastructure projects, and businesses.


The US has already implemented sanctions on Chinese economic activity. Through US government and Western industry-funded think tanks like the Council on Foreign Relations, further sanctions are being prepared, which are intended to be even larger than those imposed on Russia after the Special Military Operation began in February 2022.


The CFR’s paper, “U.S.-Taiwan Relations in a New Era, Responding to a More Assertive China,” spells out Washington’s plans to continue undermining its own agreements with Beijing over Taiwan, recommending a host of political, economic, and military measures to maintain US influence over the island province and thus US primacy over China in Asia.


Measures such as further arming Taiwan, separating Taiwan economically from the rest of China, and building up a US military presence in the region all aim to prevent China from stopping what is essentially the political capture of Taiwan by Washington. Maintaining control over Taiwan is key to an admittedly wider policy of maintaining US “influence” and “access” in Asia.


Echoing the 1965 memorandum published by the US State Department on its own official website, the CFR paper concludes “it is not only Taiwan’s future at stake but also the future of the first island chain and the ability to preserve U.S. access and influence throughout the Western Pacific.” The paper even includes a map showing how Taiwan “anchors a network of US allies,” a network which clearly encircles and threatens China.


It is clear that the United States seeks to encircle and contain China. Because of China’s growing power, Washington is unable to do so alone. It requires increasingly extreme economic sanctions and military aggression in its attempts to subordinate the rising superpower, requiring consensus between itself, its allies, and nations around the globe it will attempt to coerce into supporting both its sanctions and military aggression as tensions expand.


Just as US policymakers stated regarding Iran, “the best way to minimize international opprobrium and maximize support (however, grudging or covert) is to strike only when there is a widespread conviction that” in the case of China, the US “tried” diplomacy, and it was “China’s” decision to pursue belligerence leaving a “reluctant” US no other option but economic sanctions and military intervention, hopefully convincing, compelling, or at least making it easier to coerce the rest of the world into going along.


It appears that both Russia and Iran were well aware of US duplicity in its supposed diplomacy. It is unlikely that China is unaware. China likewise seeks global support amid growing US-Chinese tensions, but is doing so through patience, persistence, and through constructively engaging with the rest of the world, providing a compelling and stark contrast to the accusations levelled by Washington against Beijing.


Judging at the rate of decline of the unipolar “international order” led by Washington, and the rise of multipolarism advocated by not only China but also Russia and Iran, it appears China is pursuing the winning strategy. Only time will tell if the increasingly dangerous and desperate measures Washington is resorting to in its long-running policy of containing China eventually succeeds, or ultimately backfires and unravels the current circles of power in Washington and on Wall Street who conceived and perpetuated this policy.


Brian Berletic is a Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”. Courtesy


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