Ever since George Kennan, in a telegram titled “Long Telegram,” raised the issue of containing the Soviet Union as the main target of the foreign policy of the United States at the beginning of the Cold War, this strategy has always attracted the attention of Western countries, especially the United States, concerning emerging powers. If we consider banning TikTok in the West as part of China’s containment plan, we should also look for another tool to complement the target of containing emerging China. Naturally, the West will not suffice by banning the use of mobile applications in implementing this policy.
Rise of China, its threats
The increase in the power of a country in the international system and the ambiguity in its possible targets are sources of concern for other countries. What will be China’s intentions, and what will Beijing demand after gaining power and prestige, including a significant part of the West’s concerns? About the United States, there is concern about Japan as a regional ally of that country, as well as Europe, let alone China, which has nothing in common with that country and is considered an unreliable power for Western civilization. Meanwhile, China’s measures are an example of gasoline on fire. Economic growth has caused the government to gradually increase its share in the world economy and approach the point of close competition with the United States. In addition, there are that country’s commercial and economic practices and the accusations made by the West against that country. Charges such as intellectual property theft, forced technology transfer, granting subsidies to state-owned companies, and, most importantly, the country’s Belt and Road Initiative will increase Beijing’s influence on the global economy and trade.
China’s lead in strategic technologies such as artificial intelligence, communication technologies such as G5, and quantum computing will also be a significant warning to the United States and its allies. Along with the economic cases, China’s claim of disrespecting the standardized values in the international order worries the West about the emergence of a power different from “us.” Finally, military and security issues, especially in the Asia-Pacific, are the peak of divergence in the relations between the two sides. China’s measures in the South Sea and its claims over parts of it, along with its espionage and cyber operations, have made mainly the work of the West easier regarding China’s possible intentions. Despite all this evidence and measures, China will demand a much larger share, and that country’s emergence will be a significant challenge for the West and their pleasant order.
Taming the dragon
Explanation regarding the measures of the United States and its allies against China to contain that country will require more explanatory paragraphs. In this way, the West, especially Washington, faces various theories that can effectively shape that country’s foreign policy. The fact that China must be restrained and that the country’s dominance over the Asia-Pacific region and its influence on other strategic areas of the world must be prevented is part of such concepts. Thoughts influencing the US foreign policy explain that gaining regional dominance can be challenging. Washington knows that the way that presidents like McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt took in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and established the influence and dominance of the United States in the American continent should not be repeated in the case of China and the Indo-Pacific. Also, components and factors such as economic and military dominance, political influence, technological leadership, control over resources, soft power, and strong government, which can be the basis for gaining prominence and a hegemonic position for a generally challenging government, should not be available to it.
China’s containment and limitation can occur precisely in the sectors that cause the most significant concerns. Restrictions will be created in the industries where Beijing is threatening and challenging. The West can sanction and set tariffs against Chinese goods in the economic sector. The West can limit China’s investment in some industries, weaken the competitive price advantage of that country’s goods by imposing heavy tariffs, and use its leverage among financial institutions to limit China’s credit. As the United States imposed tariffs worth 250 billion dollars on Chinese goods in 2018, and Europe also imposed import tariffs on steel products, solar panels, and consumer electronic parts made in China in response to the US trade and based on anti-dumping laws. Although such cases will be expensive for the West, the challenge against the pleasant order of the West will be far more dangerous and costly.
The West can also pressure China in the diplomatic and international dimensions. A critical approach towards that country using reasons such as censorship, violation of human rights, and the rights of minorities are things that the West can use to pressure China to change its behavior. In addition, distorting China’s image in the eyes of public opinion and at the global level, like what was done about the origin of the coronavirus, as well as weakening the government by using its destruction and presenting alternative models of government, are other examples of such cases.
Regarding technology competition, China’s significant progress in three sectors, communication technologies such as G5, quantum computing, and artificial intelligence, will be a warning for the West. Issues that will endanger the security of the West. The West, especially the United States, should try to Increase its educational and research expenses and establish its superiority over China.
As mentioned, balancing measures will generally be used against a rising power dominating a region. In the military sector and deterrence against China, forming coalitions and alliances will be the most effective means of restraining this country. To prevent China from dominating the Asia-Pacific, the US military presence increased naval patrols and operations such as Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOP) in the South Sea, which takes place within 12 miles of China’s claimed territories and according to international law, and challenges China’s claims, as well as the annual Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC) with the presence of Asia Pacific countries are another manifestation of military deterrence against Beijing. In addition to these, various security and military alliances and agreements in the region, such as the AUKUS in 2021, QUAD in 2007 and the trilateral agreement between Japan, Australia, and India, and the bilateral security agreement of the United States with Japan and Taiwan are examples of military containment of China by the West and its regional allies.
With all such cases, it must be said that containment, although on paper and in theory seems something that can be planned and implemented, in addition to being expensive, can impose high costs such as conflict, instability, and harsh and uncalculated actions on the regional and international system.