US should face up to re­al­ity of China

China Daily (Canada) - - COMMENT -

The China-US Asia-Pa­cific Con­sul­ta­tions held in Bei­jing this week was in­au­gu­rated in 2011 in Honolulu, Hawaii, to re­flect the com­mit­ment by the two na­tions’ lead­ers to build a pos­i­tive, co­op­er­a­tive and com­pre­hen­sive re­la­tion­ship. The proper phrase for which is build­ing a new type of ma­jor coun­try re­la­tion­ship.

How­ever, rhetoric and poli­cies in Wash­ing­ton of­ten do not re­flect such a goal.

The words com­monly used in Wash­ing­ton re­gard­ing China are how to man­age China’s rise. Such a mind­set is based on the premise that China is the vil­lain, the ag­gres­sor and the prob­lem, while the United States is the good cop, the de­fender and sav­ior. The sup­po­si­tion is China needs to be lec­tured.

The va­lid­ity of such a propo­si­tion is un­founded. It is true that China has been learn­ing a great deal from the rest of the world, in­clud­ing the US, Europe and Ja­pan, over the past 35 years of eco­nomic re­form and open­ing-up. But to tell China that it needs to be man­aged cer­tainly does not give enough re­spect to China, let alone treat China as an equal.

De­spite all the ten­sions China has with some of its neigh­bors over mar­itime ter­ri­to­rial and his­tor­i­cal is­sues in re­cent years, China re­mains a key trade part­ner, if not the largest, for most of these coun­tries. There­fore, it has as large a stake as any­one else not to let the sit­u­a­tion get out of con­trol.

To as­sume China’s rise is des­tined to be dis­rup­tive to the world is just fic­tion. Look­ing back over the last 35 years, China has done noth­ing any­where near as dam­ag­ing to the world as the US has with its med­dling in var­i­ous coun­tries and its in­va­sion of Iraq and Afghanistan. The world is still liv­ing with the con­se­quences of the US’ ac­tions and will con­tinue to do so for years, even decades, to come.

What is known is that China’s rise has contributed greatly to the eco­nomic pros­per­ity of not just the Chi­nese peo­ple, but peo­ple all over the world, in­clud­ing peo­ple in the US.

With the false as­sump­tion that China is a bad guy and needs to be man­aged, it is no sur­prise that con­tain­ment is em­bed­ded in many of the US’ poli­cies.

It is not the kind of con­tain­ment that the US adopted to deal with the Soviet Union, be­cause China and the US have be­come so in­ter­de­pen­dent eco­nom­i­cally that adopt­ing that con­tain­ment pol­icy would in­flict equal calamity on the US it­self.

Some in the US have coined the word “con­gage­ment” to de­scribe the US’ strategy of en­gag­ing China eco­nom­i­cally but con­tain­ing China through mil­i­tary and po­lit­i­cal means in a bid to cur­tail China’s grow­ing in­flu­ence. Some have called it un­con­ven­tional con­tain­ment.

What­ever it is called, this kind of think­ing was be­hind the US’ re­bal­anc­ing to Asia strategy four years ago.

At a sem­i­nar on the US-Aus­tralian al­liance held at the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies in Wash­ing­ton on Wed­nes­day, 37 per­cent of the au­di­ence said the US’ re­bal­anc­ing strategy was well de­signed but poorly im­ple­mented, while 39 per­cent said it was poorly de­signed.

What un­der­scores such a strategy is the US wants pri­macy in both the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion and the whole world, de­spite the emer­gence of an in­creas­ingly mul­ti­po­lar world. Many in the US are sim­ply not pre­pared for a world in which their coun­try will not be No 1 for­ever.

It is good to see that China and the US are ex­plor­ing more prac­ti­cal co­op­er­a­tion in a bid to boost mu­tual trust, as in­di­cated in a joint state­ment is­sued af­ter their con­sul­ta­tions.

But if Wash­ing­ton stopped see­ing China as the bad guy and dropped its out­dated think­ing that it needs to man­age China, it would dra­mat­i­cally re­duce the pos­si­bil­ity of con­fronta­tion and in­crease the op­por­tu­nity for a win-win re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two na­tions. The au­thor, based in Wash­ing­ton DC, is deputy ed­i­tor of China Daily USA. chen­wei­hua@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

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