Anti-China rhetoric cost spelled out
Provocative Washington poses risks, but scholar values Ottawa influence
Jeffrey Sachs, a renowned economist and leader in sustainable development, has warned that the United States' hard-line rhetoric against China could provoke conflict between the economic giants.
However, Sachs believes that Canada can play a role in encouraging cooperation in place of confrontation.
The former senior adviser to the United Nations made the comments at a recent East Asia Strategy Forum hosted by the Institute for Peace &Diplomacy, a think tank operating in the US and Canada.
At the event, Sachs shared his views on Sino-US relations, and how Canada should respond to Washington's posture toward Beijing.
"In recent years, instead of that high level of cooperation across the major regions of the world, we have been veering more and more toward confrontation and a sense of Cold War which crept into our rhetoric and then became mainstream in our rhetoric," said Sachs, who is the director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University.
The academic said a great clamor had arisen around the world－inflated with hard-line nationalist rhetoric－that essentially proclaims "we're tough", "we're not going to give in" and "China's unfair".
"I attribute most of these to the United States. Basically, it is because China's economic success has really unnerved American policymakers. They don't know how to address it," Sachs told the forum.
With China's economic rise, and especially with its increasing technological sophistication, US policymakers went into a mode of confrontation by creating an anti-China alliance in foreign policy.
"I don't like this approach of foreign policy," Sachs said. "We're interconnected, mutually interdependent. And we broadly benefit from the success of others. We are not weakened by the success of others. The world is not a zero-sum game. It is a positive sum game, where cooperation leads to positive benefits for all parties."
The economist, who said in his book that then-president Donald Trump was the "worst political leader" he had seen in 40 years of working with governments around the world. Even so, he said the foreign policy pronouncements of US President Joe Biden on US-China relationship are problematic.
As a bestselling author and syndicated columnist, Sachs, in a recent article titled "Why the US Should Pursue Cooperation with China", suggested that Biden's foreign policy with China should begin with cooperation rather than conflict.
"The US may view itself as being in a long-term ideological struggle with China, but the feeling is not mutual…China's goal is neither to prove that autocracy outperforms democracy, nor to 'erode American security and prosperity', as the 2017 US National Security Strategy asserts," he said.
One of the great flashpoints is Taiwan, and the island shouldn't be that. All countries should agree on a one-China policy, Sachs said.
The scholar said it would be irresponsible for right-wingers in the US or Canada to break the one-China policy, Sachs said.
Voice of moderation
Sachs said that Canada needs good, open relations with China and shouldn't fall into some kind of simplistic model of China-bashing or participate in an anti-China alliance. Instead, it should act as a voice of moderation in the midst of tensions between the US and China.
"I've always said Canada's the decent conscience of North America. So I think that Canada can play a very important role by saying to America, calm down, we don't want a Cold War, and there's no winning in a Cold War," Sachs said.
But he pointed out that a "mistake" was made by the Canadian Parliament when a vote was passed stating that genocide was occurring in Xinjiang.
"Because it is a maximal rhetoric, this maximal confrontation mode gets us into a lot of trouble as if these things don't have costs－of course, they have costs," Sachs said.