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Bernie Sanders

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on June 17, 2021 published an article in Foreign Affairs urging U.S. leaders to choose cooperation and not confrontation with China. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Sanders Speaks Out Against 'Dangerous' Chorus Pushing for New Cold War With China

"Developing a mutually beneficial relationship with China will not be easy," the senator writes. "But we can do better than a new Cold War."

Brett Wilkins

Following President Joe Biden's attempt to use the 47th G7 summit last week as a tool for building an anti-China consensus, Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday published an article in Foreign Affairs imploring U.S. leaders: "Don't start another Cold War."

"A fast-growing consensus is emerging in Washington that views the U.S.-Chinese relationship as a zero-sum economic and military struggle."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders

"The unprecedented global challenges that the United States faces today—climate change, pandemics, nuclear proliferation, massive economic inequality, terrorism, corruption, authoritarianism—are shared global challenges," writes Sanders (I-Vt.). "They cannot be solved by any one country acting alone. They require increased international cooperation—including with China, the most populous country on Earth."

"It is distressing and dangerous, therefore, that a fast-growing consensus is emerging in Washington that views the U.S.-Chinese relationship as a zero-sum economic and military struggle," he says. "The prevalence of this view will create a political environment in which the cooperation that the world desperately needs will be increasingly difficult to achieve."

Whereas 20 years ago U.S. political and business leaders courted China, Sanders writes, "the pendulum of conventional wisdom in Washington has now swung from being far too optimistic about the opportunities presented by unfettered trade with China to being far too hawkish about the threats posed by the richer, stronger, more authoritarian China that has been one result of that increased trade."

"We are already hearing politicians and representatives of the military-industrial complex using this as the latest pretext for larger and larger defense budgets."
—Sanders

"Now, instead of extolling the virtues of free trade and openness toward China, the establishment beats the drums for a new Cold War, casting China as an existential threat to the United States," he says. "We are already hearing politicians and representatives of the military-industrial complex using this as the latest pretext for larger and larger defense budgets."

"The Chinese government is surely guilty of many policies and practices that I oppose and that all Americans should oppose: the theft of technology, the suppression of workers' rights and the press, the repression taking place in Tibet and Hong Kong, Beijing's threatening behavior toward Taiwan, and the Chinese government's atrocious policies toward the Uyghur people," writes Sanders.

However, the senator asserts that "organizing our foreign policy around a zero-sum global confrontation with China... will fail to produce better Chinese behavior and be politically dangerous and strategically counterproductive."

Sanders continues:

The rush to confront China has a very recent precedent: the global "War on Terror." In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the American political establishment quickly concluded that anti-terrorism had to become the overriding focus of U.S. foreign policy. Almost two decades and $6 trillion later, it's become clear that national unity was exploited to launch a series of endless wars that proved enormously costly in human, economic, and strategic terms and that gave rise to xenophobia and bigotry in U.S. politics—the brunt of it borne by American Muslim and Arab communities.

"It is no surprise that today, in a climate of relentless fearmongering about China, the country is experiencing an increase in anti-Asian hate crimes," Sanders writes. "Right now, the United States is more divided than it has been in recent history. But the experience of the last two decades should have shown us that Americans must resist the temptation to try to forge national unity through hostility and fear."

"The experience of the last two decades should have shown us that Americans must resist the temptation to try to forge national unity through hostility and fear."
—Sanders

"Creating true security and prosperity for working people in the United States and China alike demands building a more equitable global system that prioritizes human needs over corporate greed and militarism," asserts Sanders. "In the United States, handing billions more in taxpayer dollars to corporations and the Pentagon while inflaming bigotry will not serve these goals."

"The growing bipartisan push for a confrontation with China will set back those goals and risks empowering authoritarian, ultra-nationalistic forces in both countries," says Sanders. "It will also deflect attention from the shared common interests the two countries have in combating truly existential threats such as climate change, pandemics, and the destruction that a nuclear war would bring."

"Developing a mutually beneficial relationship with China will not be easy," he concludes. "But we can do better than a new Cold War."


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