U.S. attempts to prevent China's rise by denying its developing nation status
American and Chinese flags wave at Genting Snow Park, in Zhangjiakou, China, February 2, 2022. /CFP
American and Chinese flags wave at Genting Snow Park, in Zhangjiakou, China, February 2, 2022. /CFP

American and Chinese flags wave at Genting Snow Park, in Zhangjiakou, China, February 2, 2022. /CFP

Editor's note: Keith Lamb, a special commentator on current affairs for CGTN, is a University of Oxford graduate with a Master of Science in Contemporary Chinese Studies. His primary research interests are China's international relations and "socialism with Chinese characteristics." The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN. 

In yet another attempt to prevent China's development, the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations has approved the "Ending China's Developing Nation Status Act." This means the U.S. will pursue a policy of trying to strip China of its status as a "developing nation" at international organizations.

By following this policy of aggression, the U.S. aims to strip China of its objective identity and split it from the Global South.

Facts show that China is still developing. Looking at the Central Intelligence Agency's own statistics, for 2021, China's GDP per capita was at $17,600, below the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Kazakhstan, and even Libya, which was forcibly turned into a developing state by NATO bombing. In contrast, U.S. GDP per capita is at $63,700.

The UN Human Development Index (HDI) also places China in the developing camp, with a HDI of 0.768, which is between that of Brazil at 0.754 or Sri Lanka at 0.782. This figure contrasts markedly with the U.S.'s 0.921.

While China is in the developing world, its system, which provides first-class infrastructure, poverty alleviation, and tech prowess, stands out as an example to the Global South. This is a Public Relations nightmare for the U.S. By denying objective reality and taking away China's developing nation status, the emerging and needless U.S. tent cities look less dire as China, which, in fact, still has considerable gains to be made on poverty alleviation and bringing workers into the middle class, is made to look like a wealthy peer. 

Tents for the homeless line a street corner in Los Angeles, California, United States, December 6, 2022. /CFP
Tents for the homeless line a street corner in Los Angeles, California, United States, December 6, 2022. /CFP

Tents for the homeless line a street corner in Los Angeles, California, United States, December 6, 2022. /CFP

In actual fact, the way forward for the U.S. is to redistribute its wealth fairly and spend money on development, not destruction. It's not China's fault that while its developing democracy is sharing out its wealth and building high-tech infrastructure, schools, and hospitals, the U.S. oligarchy is wasting its considerable wealth on militarism.

In 2022, the U.S., though secure from outside threats and with friendly neighbors, spent $877 billion on its military, compared to $292 billion spent by China, a country with nearly five times the population of the U.S. China has done well due to its system but its large population also means it can use its surplus for fantastic ends, such as its space program. Furthermore, sheer numbers also mean China has greater economic power. These observations are frequently used by the U.S. to deny China its developing status.

However, this points to the U.S. intention of only accepting small weak states, as developing nations, which it can dominate. The corollary is that large developing states, for the U.S., have to remain in the doldrums of poverty, or be subject to balkanization.

The U.S., by stripping China of its developing status, seeks to prevent China's development by making it shoulder the burden of advanced economies. Developing nation status can lead to advantages in international organizations. In the World Trade Organization (WTO), developing states benefit from policies, such as the special and differential treatment provisions, which give longer timeframes to developing states for implementing certain obligations.

Considering the difference in wealth, such policies are reasonable though China as a developing nation actually gains far less from the international system in comparison to others, and contributes much more than widely recognized.

What the U.S. action boils down to is a continuation of the U.S. domestic class war and its contradictions into the international realm. Preventing China's development means preventing many Chinese people from having a basic middle-class life that many in the U.S. already have. The outpouring of U.S. malice towards China is also a distraction from U.S. domestic class inequalities.

My suggestion for the U.S., with its growing tent cities, is to embrace and learn from China's system, which provides so much to its people with relatively little, instead of acting vindictively and jealously.

The propaganda used to justify the "Scrooge elite's" class war say that China uses its developing country status to evade international responsibility. What utter rubbish! In terms of global poverty alleviation, infrastructure building, economic growth, and peacekeeping, China's contributions are thoroughly unmatched.

To add more insult to injury, even the benefits that China accrues, as a developing nation, are less than others. For example, China, which joined the WTO in 2001, under the Uruguay Round of tariff reductions, agreed to cut its average industrial tariffs from 42.7 to 9.5 percent, while other developing states only agreed to cut theirs to 31.4 percent. Likewise, China cut its agricultural tariffs from 54 to 15.1 percent, instead of the 37.9 percent for other developing countries.

At the end of the day, no matter what the U.S. says, the matter of China's development status is not for the U.S. to decide. The fact that it is trying to change it unilaterally points to incredible hubris and malice. China must and will fight hard to reject this arrogance. Undoubtedly, the developing Global South will rally around China cause too, which is to create a true democratic world that is able to resist unilateral bullying – devoid of distinctions between rich and poor.

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