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Is the US out of step – and out of line, probes UJ’s Dr David Monyae

Dr David Monyae, the Co-Director of the University Of Johannesburg (UJ) Confucius Institute (UJCI), penned an opinion piece entitled “US out of step – and out of line?” published on IOL news, 24 April 2019.

The art of dancing requires the ability to listen prudently to the rhythm of songs so as to align one’s body’s moves to the beat of the music. Increasingly, the US’s responses to a rising China resembles a dancer without a rhythm.

As a dancer, Washington has demonstrated it is both a clumsy ballerina and poor listener of the fast-paced rhythm of post-Cold War music. This is particularly true when one watches the US dance to the songs played from Beijing.

In the post-World War II era, the US mastered the Containment dance. When the Soviet Union threatened Western capitalism through the spread of communism, Washington devised a well- co-ordinated dance in response to music emanating from Moscow.

Although the dance was clumsy at first with the rise of McCarthyism, Washington perfected the Containment dance abroad by deploying different moves for different regions.

Once again, the US has reinvented a dance for the new era and object of containment: China.

Like the Soviet Union, China seemingly poses a grave danger to American hegemony. Surprisingly so – China does not seek to spread any ideology in the world.

Although Beijing adheres to communism with Chinese characteristics, it practises a variant form of capitalism mainly led by the state. Thus, it poses no threat to Washington’s market economy.

Despite this reality, Washington deploys similar strategies and tactics in response to the meteoric rise of China as it did during the Cold War.

The first clumsiness in Washington’s responses to China predates Donald Trump’s administration. When BRICS countries established the New Development Bank, the West generally reacted negatively perceiving the South-South Co-operation as a threat to the World Bank and the IMF. It reacted in a similar fashion towards the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank.

The developing world, especially Africa, needs more development finance than what existing development finance institutions can afford.

Secondly, the US has responded badly to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) led by China.

In 2018, bipartisan legislation was enacted with a sole purpose to counter the BRI in Africa through the “Better Utilisation of Investments Leading to Development Act” or Build Act. As a result of this act, Washington will open doors of the International Development Finance Corp (IDFC) at the end of this year.

With only a $60billion (R850bn)budget, according to Washington the IDFC’s main aim is to “create more robust and flexible investment tools for US companies to create employment and help support small and medium businesses in Africa”.

This budget is insufficient to achieve strategic objectives. It is an amount equivalent to what Beijing commits to Africa annually. It is also the amount China committed to Pakistan alone. The entire BRI has a total budget of $1trillion.

Instead of deviating some of a ridiculous large sum of money from the defence budget to development, the US, known as the force of destruction through its endless wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, would rather apportion its finances to more controversial causes.

Thirdly, Washington’s response to Huawei superior 5G technologies exposes its own weaknesses rather than showing global leadership in science and technology.

In all of the above, Washington demonstrates the lack of innovation to compete with China. It is increasingly becoming difficult for Washington to convince its own allies in Europe to abandon Chinese-led BRI or use of Huawei technologies.

From this backdrop, Africa could be well counselled not to be used as a tool for ideological competition among the bigger powers in the international system

*The views expressed in the article is that of the author/s and does not necessarily reflect that of the University of Johannesburg

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