The dichotomy between appearance and form on one hand, and essence and reality on the other hand can also be applied to power politics to a certain extent. China best demonstrates the applicability of this philosophical principle or question in the history of its foreign policy and especially over the course of the last few decades. When China opened to the West in 1979, Chinese foreign policy was then crafted around Deng Xiaoping’s axiom of “hide your strength and bide your time.” Now, China is very much applying Sun Tzu’s counsel, who said: “Hide your strength when you are strong. Appear strong when you are weak.”
Now, while China demonstrates meekness on the international stage in order to conceal its true strength, Washington is putting up a hollow and superficial display of strength through sanctioning individuals and countries left and right in order to conceal its weakness. Afghanistan revealed the flaws and weaknesses in the American system over the course of the last few months, and Eastern countries have pounced on this evolved strategic context. While China tries to conceal its newfound power through meekness on the international stage, countries aligned with China such as Russia, Iran, and North Korea are not as reserved as China is when it comes to manifesting this evolved strategic context. Moreover, the strategy of sanctioning people left and right not only has limits, but it also comes with blowback in the form of inflation and shortages. And in the end, North Korea continues to test missiles and continues to intimidate South Korea and Japan, while Iran continues to pursue its nuclear program. Also, Russia continues to exercise its leverage over Europe in a number of ways.
Also, there is a global balance of power element which is primarily psychological in nature that one has to consider, as mentioned in previous blog posts. In the coming years, the global balance of power can either go full-swing in favor of China, or it can settle at an equilibrium between the United States and China depending on what Washington does. Thus, the global balance of power can very much be determined by what Washington does in the coming years. But if Washington continues taking advice from the likes of Richard Haass and Wesley Clark – who are largely responsible for the current global balance of power situation and unfortunately are given a platform to spew their stupidity on mainstream outlets such as CNN – then the situation may turn out into something far worse than potential power equilibrium within the international system.
Thus, Washington is very much caught in the throes of a global balance of power situation with China which is not to its advantage right now. Plus, gridlock and incompetence in Washington makes the situation much worse. Joe Biden, Tony Blinken, Janet Yellen, and Lloyd Austin are the figureheads and symbols of a global balance of power situation with China that is quite disadvantageous to Washington. While China hosts the ‘Winter Olympics’ and effectively manages the coronavirus, the internet and social media in the United States is overflowing with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris memes. The wise thing to do would be to assess things on a daily basis through an intuitive understanding of this balance of power principle which I have highlighted in previous blog posts, and then see what happens.