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Arnaud Bertrand

Arnaud Bertrand

Nov 25
21 tweets

If you have to read only 1 article on US-China competition, make it this extraordinary interview of Harvard scholar Dr. William Overholt by Larry Summers! Overholt explains why he gives the Biden administration a D+ for its China policy. A small 🧵…

To start with, Larry Summers's question that triggered the "D+" answer is very revealing, from someone who's been a key actor in Washington for so many decades. Summers basically describes the US's China policy as purely a question of power, i.e. "maintaining pre-eminence".
For all the disgust it can legitimately trigger, Summers's description is actually extremely accurate: "[US's China policy] treats China as an adversary, seeks across a multiple range of issues to confront and challenge China, sees isolating China with respect to technology...
... as important for our continued leadership and is more focused on our imperatives of maintaining pre-eminence than of accommodating gracefully their desire for a peaceful rise." Now onto Overholt's answer...
One of the main reasons for the poor grade is, of course, Taiwan. To Overholt, Biden "has completely reneged on the 1979 agreement that’s been the basis for peace in Taiwan" and presided over "a complete breach of the US promises that have kept Taiwan safe for over four decades"
How? Because the agreement said "we will not have official relations, we will not have an alliance." And: 1) "Biden has said four times he will defend Taiwan. That’s called an alliance." 2) "When Nancy Pelosi went to Taiwan, she was very careful to label it an official visit."
He goes on: "China has honored the agreement. We have broken the agreement. [...] On Taiwan [...] we Americans are the problem. And Biden has, more explicitly than anybody else, repudiated the deal on which Taiwan’s success is built."
As such he finds it very cynical that we blame China: "Every time we send another congressional delegation and the Chinese protest by sending some airplanes and ships, we say, 'Oh, those terrible, aggressive Chinese!'"
He also blames influential China hawk Elbridge Colby for "not remembering that all the peace and prosperity and democracy in Taiwan are built on that 1979 agreement" Colby wrote one of the most morally repugnant book ever written on "deterring" China 🔽…
Arnaud Bertrand

Arnaud Bertrand

Currently reading Elbridge Colby's "Strategy of Denial" since it's becoming a very influential book in the US. Most striking to me is that the book is based on the premise that China is a threat to the US. But the explanation for why that is is incredibly insane. Small 🧵
He also dismisses the notion that China prepares to "invade Taiwan" as a mixing up of growing military capability with intent: "Every intelligence officer and retired intelligence officer I’ve heard says that there is no indication of Chinese intent to invade Taiwan"
He concludes that on Taiwan "we are creating the problem that we think we’re trying to deter. The risk is nuclear war. The common assumption that a Taiwan war would likely be confined to the area around Taiwan is utterly wrong. It would almost certainly be more like a world war."
The other key reason for the D+ is the recent tech war Biden started. Overholt doesn't mince his word: "This restriction on semiconductors is a declaration of economic war. This is going 30, 40% of the way toward what we did with Japan, cutting off their oil before Pearl Harbor"
He goes on: "This validates every crazy nationalistic Chinese professor who’s been arguing that our goal all along has been to keep China down, to prevent them from growing. In terms of the relationship, it’s just awful. People don’t realize this is a declaration of war."
He also explains why it won't succeed. It'll "damage the American semiconductor industry" and get the Chinese to "flick the switch to the emergency setting" where you do whatever it takes to succeed, and "China will succeed".
Which is, shameless plug, incidentally exactly what I've been saying on the matter for months...
On the grade, Overholt concludes that those 2 actions [Taiwan and the economic war] deserve only a D+ because it "potentially towers over George W Bush’s decision to invade Iraq. It could tower over Lyndon Johnson’s decision to escalate in Vietnam as a mistake." Strong words...
He also has interesting things to say about China in Africa: "China has caused a lot of problems in Africa. It’s done a lot more good. African growth since China started growing has gone from a 0-2 percent range to the 2-6 range. And an awful lot of that has to do with [China]"
He pushes back against "utterly false Chinese debt trap argument" and says it is "one of the most troubling things to [him] that the Republicans but also, Secretary of State Antony Blinken" push it, because "on balance, China’s done a lot of good for Africa."
He explains: "African countries’ problems with Western debt are a lot bigger than African problems with Chinese debt. And China has been handling the debt in an utterly responsible way." And, this is quite extraordinary, he explains that "Deborah Brautigam at SAIS did a study...
...of 1,100 Chinese financial deals, many of which have come under pressure. They have never once called in collateral. They’ve never once said, 'Since you owe me money that you can’t pay, I’m going to seize your road, your port.'"
There you go. Please read the interview in full, a lot of truth nuggets in there. Shows that thankfully some pre-eminent people in the US don't buy their own propaganda and manage to separate the wheat from the chaff to understand what's truly going on...…
Arnaud Bertrand

Arnaud Bertrand

Entrepreneur. Previously HouseTrip (sold to TripAdvisor), now, the website that explains Chinese Medicine. I've been known to write decent threads.
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