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Is China a threat to the United States

Page history last edited by Bob Andrian 9 years ago


"Is a Booming China a Threat to the United States?"








Here is a brief excerpt from the press conference with President Hu Jintao and President Obama during Mr. Hu's state visit to the U.S. in January of 2011. The exchange perhaps speaks in part to the first cartoon above.



The question, "Is a Booming China a Threat to the United States?" was posed to and debated by a panel of China watchers on the program Intelligence Squared. It might be worth revisiting a few of these viewpoints to help frame our discussion about the question today. Finally, let us hear from two other China scholars, Orville Schell, head of the Asia's Society's China Center, and John Lee, a research fellow at the Center for Independent Studies, on the present and future state of Sino-American relations.





Historical Perspectives


Throughout its long imperial history (221 BCE-1912--Qin through Qing dynasties), China has seen itself as the center of the world. Indeed its name, "Zhong guo" translates as "Middle Kingdom." Throughout its short history the United States has similarly viewed itself ethnocentrically. Both countries possessed (and still do possess) a certain kind of exceptionalism rooted in different historical and cultural identities. In a world where imperial China believed it had no equals, other nations and kingdoms were supposed to come to the China to pay tribute, literally and figuratively. China was the mother lode of civilization for others to emulate. 


As Henry Kissinger has noted in his enlightening book, On China, the concept of a "balance of power" among nations was never part of the Chinese realpolitik. And while such a concept was part and parcel of the American understanding of power relationships among nation-states, that did not prevent us, from believing that our way was "the" way, and furthering assuming that other peoples joined us in that belief. Rather than waiting for other peoples to come to us (as the Chinese expected they would and should), we decided to spread "civilization" to others. Think back to John Winthtrop's "city upon a hill" idea, that grand Puritan experiment in Massachusetts Bay Colony. It did not take long for such messianism to spread in a kind of "manifest destiny" to our western borders and then around the globe. Fareed Zakaria argues inThe Post-American World that 


"In the case of Britain and the United States, perhaps because they have been so powerful, their Protestant sense of purpose at the core of their foreign policies has made a deep mark on global affairs. China, in contrast, may never acquire a similar sense of destiny. Simply being China [his italics] and becoming a world power, in a sense, fulfills its historical purpose. It doesn't need to spread anything to anyone to vindicate itself."(Zakaria, as quoted in Dodson, China Inside Out, 209)


You can read a more thorough examination of these historical perspectives and a discussion of Sino-American relations up to the emergence of the People's Republic of China in 1949.


Chinese Influence on Early America


It should be pointed out that both before and after the American Revolution, the Founding Fathers were attracted to Chinese philosophy, technology and trade. Confucian moral ideals, for example, were respected at a time when leaders in the U.S. were interested in not blindly following in Europe's footsteps. Thomas Jefferson expressed "the desirability of Chinese isolation and of the need to place an ocean of fire between us and the old world." (Education about Asia, Fall, 2011, 11)


Chinese heating technology influenced Benjamin Franklin and led to the more efficient Pennsylvania Fireplace and ultimately the Franklin stove. Cold winters became less harsh for many.




Chinese porcelain was very popular among American well-heeled families, and Benjamin Rush among others, believed that domestic Chinese porcelain manufacturing was a key to national economic self-reliance and overcoming the colonists' dependence on British imports. According to St. John's Professor David Wang, "the American China Manufactory in Philadelphia became noted for its quality, and more importantly, succeeded in cultivating patriotism as it challenged Britain's monopoly of the product and indirectly contributed to the struggle for independence." (EAA, 8)


When Franklin found Chinese soybeans, rhubarb seeds and tallow trees in England, he sent them along to the colonies. The tallow trees were useful in making soap and candles among other things. And, as can be seen in the accompanying photo of Monticello, Jefferson incorporated Chinese railings in his architectural design.




The new nation needed to cultivate new trading partners to help propel economic growth. European countries were willing to export to but not import from the U.S. The Empress of China maiden voyage to Canton in 1784 inaugurated a vigorous U.S.-China maritime trade, and was, as Richard Henry Lee put it, "proof of American enterprise, and will probably mortify, as much as it will injure our old oppressor, the British." (Ibid, 9)




Jefferson believed that the China trade could separate the U.S. from Britain. In 1785 two American ships went to China; in 1806, 42 made the voyage. By 1795, the U.S. was ahead of all its European rivals except Britain in terms of volume of trade with China. New York and New England commercial and financial elites began to prosper.


A Brief Overview of China-U.S. Relations from 1949 to the Present


This Reuters video considers China-U.S. Relations from 1945-1972. Mao's foreign policy, rooted both in his unwavering ideology of continuous revolution and geopolitical realities, could be described as "combative coexistence." in an attempt to avoid China's being "encircled" by perceived hostile nations. In 1965, for example, Marshall Chen Yi pointed to these realities noting that China saw Russia to its north, India to its west, South Korea and Japan (U.S. allies) to its east, and Taiwan and the United States to its south. 


When Deng Xiaoping became paramount leader in 1978, he ushered in a far more pragmatic foreign policy, which was meant to serve economic modernization (and a growing awareness among Party leaders that it was Russia and not the United States who was the more serious strategic threat to China), despite Deng's crackdown of protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989. 


Deng's anointed successor, Jiang Zemin, adopted a policy of "cooperative cooexistence." In particular, as economic reforms continued, he moved China closer to the West so that, among other things, China could achieve "most favored nation" status and earn membership in the World Trade Organization. He also embraced the policy of "one country, two systems" when it came to reintegrating Hong Kong into China's territorial integrity. (This same policy, accepted by the U.S., will be extended to Taiwan when the time for unification comes.)



With the emergence of President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiaobo in 2005, China's foreign policy had reached a new level, morphing into a policy conducted on the basis of actual power. China, in its eyes, was no longer in the shadow of the United States, but an equal power. 


Given the financial meltdowns in the United States and Europe in the last few years, the questioning of the merits of unbridled, unregulated American capitalism, the burdens of two American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the immense success of the 2008 Beijing Olympics in terms of projecting China's prestige, one might argue that we have been seeing the reemergence of "Zhongguoism" (Sinocentrism) and the termination once and for all of the legacy of the Opium War and China's "Century of Humiliation." 


"Soft Power" 


Along with China's projection of "hard power," that is economic and military (two areas we will examine more closely below), the government has been spreading its "soft power." Harvard's Distinguished Service professor, Joseph Nye, discusses the concept of soft power.



How China is perceived by the rest of the world, its global image, is of crucial importance to the Chinese government and to its people as well. As Joseph Nye notes, the 2008 Beijing Olympics (once they got started and memories of the suppression of Tibetan protests for independence began to fade), and the 2010 Shanghai World Expo were very well received and engendered great pride in China. They did not necessarily boost China's "positive" rating in the eyes of the world, however.


Though the government's propaganda department no longer wields as much power in portraying that image, there remains a need for non-governmental groups (private marketing, public relations firms and ordinary citizens) to assume the responsibility of marketing China with "soft power." Public officials are beginning to understand that need, but historically there has been great distance between these government officials and the rest of the population.


Recently, Xinhua News Agency purchased an enormous electronic billboard in Times Square. One advertisement for the "Experience China" campaign emphasizes Chinese friendship.



Soft power---a country's core values and beliefs, cultural construction, cultural "glue" holding the society together (e.g., Confucian harmony), and social practices and policies---is a hugely important influence in global politics. Harvard's Nye has observed, "the current competition among major powers is not whose army wins, but whose story wins." (As quoted in NewsChina, Jan. 2011) Here is a political take on a futuristic winning story from the Citizens Against Government Waste in the U.S. 



"People to People"


For the past 20 years, prominent Chinese-Americans in the United States have been dedicated to cultural understanding and cooperation between the U.S. and China. Their formal organization, the Committee of 100 seeks to build bridges while respecting cultural differences. Recently, for example, the Committee sponsored a conference in Chengdu (Sichuan Province) focused on innovation. One of the members, Carter Tseng, has established the "Little Dragon Foundation," which provides funding both for poor Chinese students to attend schools and for training for prospective Chinese entrepreneurs and CEO's.


Incoming chairman of the Committee of 100 and CEO of East-West Bank, Dominic Ig, argues that heightened political rhetoric, whether of the kind we see in the Tea Party commercial (which aired just before midterm elections in 2010) or of Chinese officials lecturing Washington about its debt, is ultimately counterproductive. With an election year upcoming in the U.S., politicians do not seem to be heeding Mr. Ig's advice. Just recently in Hawaii, President Obama ramped up emotions by criticizing China over its currency and trade policies.


Economic Issues


Certainly there is plenty of common ground and opportunity to forge new links even in a competitive, globalized environment when we consider the present and future state of the Sino-American economic relationship. China's global reach continues to grow as we can see from its burgeoning investments in Africa. For years the U.S. has been China's largest export market (save for the EU's 27 country collective market), and while Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) ratios are rather lopsided in favor of U.S. multinationals, the imbalances will gradually change over time. A shining example of a Chinese company's investment in the U.S. automotive parts manufacturing market is Chicago based Wangxiang America, a U.S. subsidiary of Wangxiang Group from Hangzhou, China. 


Wangxiang's CEO, Pin Ni, has successfully brokered purchases of 28 American manufacturing companies (mostly auto parts related) that were on the verge of bankruptcy in the last few years, in the process cultivating solid relationships with the UAW and saving and creating thousands of jobs for American workers. The company is also investing in solar energy in this country.


In July of 2011, on NHPR's "The Exchange," Laura Knoy explored the consequences of Chinese direct investment in the region.


That said, U.S. companies remain steadfast in their desire to take advantage of China's growing population of consumers. In 2011 China has thus far contributed $24 billion to global economic growth. Party leaders are committed to increases of 13-15% in minimum wages over the next five years, leading to more consumer spending, (currently at 37% of GDP ($6.6 trillion) vs. 70% in the U.S. ($15 trillion)), which will in turn boost the world's economic growth. Of this generation of Chinese, "the strivers," Tim Minges, head of PepsiCo China, says, "I really do think the Chinese middle class will be like the U.S. baby boomers." (TIME, 10/31/11, 36)


With the prospects on conspicuous consumption favorable, U.S. firms are increasingly focusing on producing goods and providing services "made for China" to be bought in China instead of "made in China" to be exported to the United States. The GAP, for example, is closing 20% of its stores in the U.S. and tripling the number in China. PepsiCo (Pepsi, Lay's potato chips, Quaker Oats) is establishing a research and development center in Shanghai to learn more about local tastes. Chicago based Exelon is sending consultants and instructors to share technology and expertise with China National Nuclear Corporation. (Ibid) An enormous nuclear power market exists despite the Fukushima disaster in Japan earlier this year.


Savvy, well-ensconced U.S. firms like KFC have learned to cater to Chinese cultural desires. Breakfast consists of traditional foods (rice porridge, for example), and there are teatime menus. In addition to KFC, companies like Starbucks and Walmart are planning so-called "2nd phases" of expansion to smaller but fast growing cities. (There are 150 Chinese cities with a population of a million versus 13 American cities.) Infrastructural improvements and internet advertising have facilitated these developments. And there are plenty of consumers in "outlying" areas who want to "shop until you drop." U.S. companies bring a certain cachet to the places where they locate. (USA Today, 9/11/11)


Lew Frankfort, CEO of high end handbag and accessories maker, COACH, is expanding the company rapidly in China even as labor costs there are requiring greater efficiencies in production and/or moving operations to countries such as India and Vietnam where wages are lower. As Chinese wages continue to rise, there have even been discussions of moving jobs back to the U.S. Mr. Frankfort offered some thoughts about the Chinese consumer at the Committee of 100's 20th Annual Conference in New York last May.


China's commercial and housing bubble has been built on low-cost land, labor, and capital, a high savings rate, bank loans to targeted key economic zone and industries, consequent factory creation for an export economy, and development of building and housing and infrastructure. Investment in real estate, for example, jumped 33% from 2010 to this year. Easy money has led to a 30% increase in local debt in 2011. Land grabs and real estate speculation have helped to make inflation and social unrest a major concern in a society where economic growing pains are inextricably linked to political stability and "stability maintenance" on the part of the government.


Not suprisingly the government has recently tightened credit and the competition for loans now is indeed fierce. While land sales need to slow, if the bubble bursts and land values drop precipitously, then the ripple effects will be felt globally since Chinese demand for raw materials and commodities will drop as will Chinese imports. U.S. firms, already sitting on heaps of cash and not hiring, will be even more reluctant to do so.


Many see China as a responsible stakeholder in the international world order and globalized economy. Here is Fareed Zakaria's "take" on the potential role China might play in the European debt crisis.


Military and Security Issues


In any security relationship, being able to discern and understand each side's intentions can lead to confidence building and strategic trust just as being able to verify each side's capabilities can result in arms control deals. Understanding language differences might be an important first step on the road to developing a more trusting relationship. 


The Chinese ideograph for security, 安全, derives from two words, "an," meaning peace (the character has a "roof" over a "woman"), and "quan," meaning complete or perfect (the character combines "joined" and "work"). Thus security equals complete peace. In the Chinese military context, security comes across in a less militant tone than one might find in the Western military where security is often taken to mean defense. The Chinese often take security to mean a more home-like place without the need for defense.  Defense can lead to security, but security is fundamentally a psychological matter, a desired end state where confidence not control reigns supreme. Thus, the paradigm that suggests security comes from superiority is illusory. (Griffith, China Maritime Institute paper, July, 2010)


While this explanation suggests that China's military build up is part of a "peaceful rise," or as China's top general, Chen Bingde, insists that the PRC has no interest in challenging the U.S. military, some U.S. officials and military policy wonks have been warning of a growing China threat. The Sino-American relationship is one of both competition and cooperation. The Pentagon's Defense report for 2010-11 speaks of China's military growth as "potentially destabilizing."


While granting that despite China's development of ABM's, aircraft carriers, and stealth jet fighters to accompanying already existing short-range missiles and 1.25 million PLA troops, China's military capabilities are nowhere near those of the U.S., the report stressed the lack of transparency about intentions and materiel production from the Chinese military. In addition, the report, in noting growing Chinese cyber warfare, cites two Chinese military writings that identify "information warfare as integral to achieving information superiority and as an effective means for countering a stronger foe."




Princeton professor, Aaron Friedberg, also believes China is too secretive, the result of its political ideology and authoritarian state. In an op-ed piece in the New York Times, he asserts that China is out to awe its neighbors, dissuade the U.S. from coming to their aid, shake U.S. credibility in the region without having to fight (a Sun Tzu Art of War concept), and thus ease the U.S. out of the western Pacific. For their part, those in China who emphasize the competitive side of the relationship tend to believe that the U.S. is out to dislodge China from becoming the dominant regional power, not to mention working to interfere in its political culture. In an interview earlier this year, Friedberg discussed the U.S. role in the region.




Clearly there are differing interpretations of China's dynamic military evolution. On the one hand there are those who believe that China's military/security ambitions are perfectly understandable given its increasing involvement in global trade and reliance on resources and raw materials to continue to fuel economic growth. Cooperation between the two countries and confidence building about military intentions are essential to avoid miscalculations.


On the other hand, many believe that China's goal is similar to what Friedberg asserts above; namely to rein in U.S. power in the Pacific in part by creating a counterforce to the U.S. 7th Fleet. Concern over the ambiguity of China's intentions makes a trusting strategic relationship difficult to achieve. One also wonders, however, about the fiscal wisdom of pursuing a military rivalry with China. Total PRC defense spending at the moment is about $160 billion. Compare that with the $700 Pentagon budget (including $200 billion for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars).


From the Chinese perspective, how should the government interpret U.S. aircraft carriers being shifted from the Atlantic to the Pacific, cozier Indian-American relations, recent U.S. military agreements with Singapore and Australia, continuing arm sales to Taiwan, American reconnaissance flights off its east coast (true, in international waters, but picture Chinese reconnaissance flights off the coast of New Jersey!), and U.S. intervention in South China Sea territorial disputes? Not surprisingly, China sees the U.S. trying to prevent China's emergence as a global power.


Retired Admiral Mike Mullen was encouraged earlier this past summer when military-to-military visits took place in both the U.S. and China. Both Presidents Hu Jintao and Barack Obama share a commitment to military-to-military relations. Admiral Mullen points to areas of commonality and thus potential cooperation between China and the U.S. These include the fact the both countries are maritime nations with long coastlines and economic dependence on free trade, threats of piracy, drug trafficking and weapons of mass destruction, the need for stability in Korea and Pakistan, the ongoing global need for humanitarian aid and disaster relief, and the realization that real trust cannot be subject to shifting political winds.


Clearly, however, to take one example, there is a growing U.S./China rivalry in the South China Sea, which is home to 115 billion barrels of petroleum and extensive trade lanes for U.S. exports. Demonstrations of U.S. naval might---the carrier George Washington steamed to the Yellow Sea for joint exercises with South Korea---suggest to some analysts a "new era of gunboat diplomacy" from the West. China claims the South China Sea dating back to the 1940s, but other countries in the region also want to look for oil. China insists on dealing with each of those countries bilaterally when it comes to territorial negotiations and strongly resents American interference and insistence on multilateral discussions.


Against U.S. strategic alliances in the region, China seems to be constructing its own version of the Monroe Doctrine. Will such military and diplomatic competition lead to a "Cold War-like" situation? Perhaps more bilateral cooperation on the security issues Admiral Mullen delineates would lead to a more stable order. Then again, given the most recent military agreement between the U.S. and Australia, such an outcome might be in doubt.


When in 2009 the U.S. Navy ship Impeccable was confronted by a number of Chinese boats, official and unofficial, the Chinese military reacted with low level overhead aircraft flights. It was not the first (nor most severe) incident that had caused diplomatic embarassment and a knee-jerk, rather nationalistic, escalation of responses leading to a lack of maritime safety. David Griffiths of the China Maritime Institute at the U.S. Naval War College describes the present Sino-U.S. maritime relationship as risky and uneasy. He asserts that some in the U.S. do not see the supposed benign intent behind the ambition of the PLA Navy to move from a coastal defense navy to a world-class one with a global reach. In fact, some analysts make comparisons between the Chinese navy and German navy before WWI.


However in order to build confidence and trust between the two nations' respective navies, he argues (like Adm. Mullen on the army side) for more naval to naval interaction in order to improve mutual understanding to help military professionals be aware of each other's goals, motives and concerns. In this way military officials could learn to establish government to government communication and cooperation. (Griffiths, "U.S./China Maritime Confidence Building," China Maritime Institute Paper, 7/2010) 




Since the Clinton administration, the U.S. has accepted the "three NOs policy" concerning Taiwan: NO to the concept of two Chinas, NO to Taiwan's independence, and NO to Taiwan's admittance into any international organization. The mainland/Taiwan economic relationship continues to flourish. Cultural contacts and exchanges have occurred with more regularity this year. The CCP has said that Taiwan will be treated like Hong Kong, "one country, two (political) systems. The most recent sale of arms by the U.S. in 2011 ($5.8 billion) included only upgrades to existing aircraft and not any new jet fighters, which had been requested.


Given a global economic crisis, tension in the South China Sea, China's upcoming leadership transition and the U.S. presidential election, should the U.S. reevalaute its policy of continuing to sell arms to Taiwan? If the U.S. could determine that China's territorial ambitions were not hegemonic and limited to Taiwan, then perhaps it could think of ending its commitment to Taiwan.


The NYTimes "Room for Debate" program posed this very question to its group of scholars.


Geopolitical Overview


What, then, are China's intentions for the future? From the standpoint of hard-core realists as Charles Glaser argues in Foreign Affairs, because of China's desire for hegemony in Asia, a new Cold War is approaching. (Glaser, "Will China's Rise Lead to War?", Foreign Affairs, March/April, 2011) China's ascendancy is threatening the U.S. and the balance of power in the Pacific, conflict is inherent in the U.S.-China relationship, and China's military and especially naval developments are remarkably "Bismarckian", and portend a bipolar, nationalistic pre-World War I-like conflict, this time between the U.S. and China. Thus U.S. cooperation with China would be tantamount to appeasement. Instead realists believe the U.S. should work to strengthen regional alliances among China's neighbors, stress ideological differences and work towards spreading democracy.


Realists such as John Mearsheimer (whom we heard from in the Intelligence Squared debate) point to the PLA Senior Colonel Liu Mingfu's 2010 book, China Dream, which articulates China's "grand goal": to 'become number one in the world,' returning, as Henry Kissinger writes, "China to a modern version of its historic glory." (Kissinger, On China, 506.) Kissinger goes on to say,


Liu rejects the concept of a "peaceful rise," arguing that China cannot rely solely on its traditional virtues of harmony to secure the new international order. Due to the competitive and amoral nature of great power politics, he writes, China's rise---and a peaceful world---can be safeguarded only if China nurtures a "martial spirit" and amasses military force sufficient to deter, or, if necessary, defeat its adversaries. Therefore, he posits, China needs a "military rise" in addition to its "economic rise." It must be prepared, both militarily and psychologically, to struggle and prevail in a contest for strategic preeminence. (Ibid, 507.) 


Some Chinese analysts see the U.S. as a major threat, hostile to China's values, supportive of Taiwanese independence, the Dalai Lama and Muslim Uighurs, and adamant about arms sales to Taiwan, bound on encircling China with alliances, harping about currency and trade issues, and demanding slower economic growth to fight climate change. (Wang Jisi, "China's Search for a Grand Strategy," FA, Mar/Apr., 2011)


At the other end of the geopolitical spectrum, "liberal optimists" perceive a stable international order rooted in economic and political openness. Global cooperation is in China's national interest, and rather than attempt to overturn the system, China will join it and be welcomed. (Glaser, FA) Harvard's Glaser argues that given China's size, power and nuclear deterrent, it does not need to seek regional hegemony and is thus likely to accept a U.S. presence in the region. Moreover, the U.S./Japan alliance, for example, benefits the PRC because it allows Japan to spend less on defense (it spends a good deal already, however.)


Chinese State Councilor, Dai Bingguo (chief overseer of China's foreign policy) wrote about China's goals in 2010 in terms of "peaceful development" as opposed to "peaceful rise," and certainly opposed to the implied arrogance and boastfulness coming from Chinese hard liners like Colonel Liu. 


Internationally, there are some people who say: China has a saying: "Hide one's capabilities and bide one's time, and endeavor to achieve something." So they speculate that China's declaration of taking a path of peaceful development is a secret conspiracy carried out under circumstances in which it is still not powerful. ... This statement was first made by Comrade Deng Xiaoping in the late 1980s, early 1990s. Its main connotation is: China should remain humble and cautious as well as refrain from taking the lead, from waving the flag, from seeking expansion, and from claiming hegemony; this is consistent with the idea of taking the path of peaceful development. (Kissinger, 511) 


(It should be pointed out that in 2010, China reacted rather assertively or even aggressively to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, U.S. and Korean military exercises in the Yellow Sea, and Japan's detention of a Chinese ship captain after his boat rammed into a Japanese naval vessel, though the Chinese claimed, video notwithstanding, that fault for the collision rested with the Japanese. China demanded a formal apology even after the ship captain was released. In 2011, China has adopted a bit more of the approach Dai Bingguo speaks of above.) 


Dai also states that China's domestic challenges in terms of socio-economic development preclude a path to becoming the powerful state in the world. 


According to the United Nation's living standard of $1 per day, China today [2010] still has 150 million people living below the poverty line. ... At present there are 10 million people without access to electricity and the issue of jobs for 24 million people has to be resolved each year. China has a huge population and a weak foundation, the development between the cities and countryside is uneven, the industrial structure is not rational, and the underdeveloped state of the forces of production has not been fundamentally changed. (ibid, 524)


Thus it will be by improving living standards through social justice that China will best preserve its core interests of political stability, national unification, and socio-economic progress. In addition, as a responsible stakeholder in the world order, it would behoove China from a security standpoint to take into account more transnational issues such as terrorism and piracy, UN peacekeeping needs, and the importance of stabilizing financial markets. (Hence Zakaria's "take" on China's role in the European debt crisis, though one wonders about the strings China has attached, such as more say in the IMF.) Socio-economic development depends on global stability, so the PRC should seek peaceful solutions to geopolitical challenges, make PLA naval plans transparent and work towards nuclear non-proliferation. This kind of an assertive China benefits China, the United States, the region and the rest of the world.


As Kissinger points out, when one side insists on too much from the other, perhaps being driven by excessive nationalism or election year rhetoric, there can be no way forward in a relationship. For example, 


An explicit American project to organize Asia on the basis of containing China or creating a bloc of democratic states for an ideological crusade is unlikely to succeed---in part because China is an indispensable trading partner for most of its neighbors. By the same token, a Chinese attempt to exclude America from Asian economic and security affairs will similarly meet serious resistance from almost all other Asian states, which fear the consequence of a region dominated by a single power. (Ibid, 526)


In a June, 2011 discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the two Congressmen Co-Chairs of the China Working Group spoke about Chinese perceptions of American intentions in the region.



In a "post-American" 21st century world where no one country will be dominant (even as Fareed Zakaria suggests the U.S., given its leadership in ideas and innovation, is well suited to take the lead, though needing to fix its politically paralyzed, dysfunctional system), Henry Kissinger's description of the U.S.-China relationship as "co-evolutionary" makes good sense. 


It means that both countries pursue their domestic imperatives, cooperating where possible, and adjust their relations to minimize conflict. Neither side endorses all the aims of the other or presumes a total identity of interests, but both sides seek to identify and develop complementary interests. (Ibid)


One of those interests, he suggests, might be labeled a "Pacific Community," where all nations in the region enjoy free trade, free navigation of the seas and national and regional security. In this way, perhaps, China might be less wary of what they think will be U.S. containment, and the U.S. would be equally less fearful that China is trying to remove them as a player in the region. One aspect of a "Pacific Community" is the Trans-Pacific Partnership devoted to free trade. The U.S. is trying to get Japan to join, which it likely will do in part to help it consolidate a strategic environment that gives China the impression that Japan is a formidable country that cannot be intimidated.


For its part, China has so far called the TTP "overly ambitious," and is concerned that its sphere of influenced might be threatened. So the "Pacific Community" concept might not happen immediately. Not to mention the fact that military agreements have been forged between the U.S. and Australia during President Obama's Asia trip this November week. 


In June of 2011, Henry Kissinger and former ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman, sat down with Sir Harold Evans to comment about what progress has been made in U.S.-China relations


A Final Note on Cultural Interconnection


On November 16 in Beijing (two days ago), the first U.S.-China Forum on the Arts and Culture began its three day conference. In an era when public policy issues capture the news media limelight, this private "people to people" exchange initiative will hopefully help foster ongoing cultural interaction and understanding. From the program:




The US-China Forum on the Arts and Culture will include performances, master classes and roundtables that will showcase the best of American culture, while forging new opportunities for American artists to collaborate and converse with their Chinese peers, in fields including visual and performing arts, literature, and cuisine.


Organized by the Asia Society’s Center on US-China Relations and The Aspen Institute’s Arts Program, along with the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries and the United States Embassy in Beijing, the program is intended to provide a platform for lively inquiry and begin a conversation between the two countries about their values, aspirations and achievements in the spirit of mutual understanding.






Here is Orville Schell, director of the Center on U.S.-China relations at the Asia Society in New York, reflecting on how China might change in the future.


China and the United States

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