The Biden administration finds itself under renewed pressure to adopt a more hawkish anti-China policy. For hawks in Washington, who regard the power struggle between the U.S. and China as the “Cold War 2.0,” a strict “containment policy” like the one used against the Soviet Union is needed to halt China’s rise. In a nutshell, they want to replace the Cold War’s Soviet Symphony with a Chinese one.
During the Cold War, the U.S. forced countries to dance to the rhythm of its Soviet Symphony. George Kennan, an American diplomat, was the man behind the Soviet Symphony, which outlined the U.S. policy to contain the Soviet Union. Kennan, who served as the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow in 1946, sent a 8,000-word text, also known as the "Long Telegram," to the U.S. State Department. In this text, Kennan called on the United States to implement a strict containment policy to prevent the the Soviet Union from expanding.
The public found out about the approach in an article based on that telegram titled "The Sources of Soviet Conduct," which was published in Foreign Affairs magazine in July 1947 and authored by "X," who was George Kennan, of course. Kennan's article became the basic framework for American policy during the Cold War period that continued until the late 1980s.
China is now seen as the U.S.’s biggest geopolitical rival. There are dozens of reports making the rounds in U.S. media regarding this Sino Symphony. It’s not yet clear which of these will be the adopted as the framework for the new China policy. Everyone is in agreement about them being the “enemy,” but there is no consensus about the measures to be taken against this “enemy.” China hawks insist that China is reshaping the world in its image and thus want the Biden administration’s 2022 defense budget to proportionately reflect the “Chinese Threat.” According to these hawks, the 2022 defense budget will show whether or not an effective and deterrent policy against China will be adopted.
Both the U.S. and China are after new alignments on their quest for global leadership. As the Biden administration attempts to persuade its traditional allies to join its anti-China alliance, Beijing sees its “New Silk Road” or the “Belt and Road” project as its own tool for alignment against the U.S. As a global investment strategy, this project encompasses large swathes of geopolitical areas in Eurasia and Africa (Afrasia). Meanwhile, China is hoping that this project will make it easier for the yuan to become a global currency reserve. As a matter of fact, there is no shortage of reports in U.S. media about China accelerating its efforts to challenge the dominance of the U.S. dollar in global markets.
There are those who are pushing the U.S. to bring Russia into the fold and join its alignment policy against China. According to the proponents of this view, sparsely populated eastern regions of Russia share large borders with densely populated China. Thus, China constitutes a close threat to Russia.
The analysts in question argue that by using a “carrot and stick” approach, the U.S. can prevent Russia from aligning with China. This policy is reminiscent of U.S. President Richard Nixon playing the "China card" against the Soviet Union. Nixon used the China card, which he secured by extending an olive branch to Beijing, as leverage against the Soviet Union. In the same vein, analysts suggest that Biden will also use the "Russian card" against China. In other words, policies that bring Russia closer to China must be abandoned.
A prime example of China's "anti-alignment policy" is the 25-year "strategic partnership" agreement signed by the Iranian and Chinese foreign ministers on March 27. The deal is said to bring $400 billion worth of Chinese investment to Iran. The fact that the agreement was signed after Biden came to power is noteworthy. According to Chinese sources, the deal is part of China's Belt and Road Initiative.
Let’s recall that the strategic importance of both Turkey and Iran was singled out in George Kennan’s containment doctrine. It seems as though these “alignments” will play a critical role in the upcoming period. The U.S. must not delude itself into thinking, “I can play the Sino symphony and everyone will dance to it.” This is not the world of yesterday; a lot, and I mean a lot, has changed since then.