US puts big ‘effort’ into China ties
Past and present US officials have emphasized building a constructive and productive relationship with China.
Tom Donilon, the US national security advisor from October 2010 to June 2013, said on Thursday that the US has put enormous effort into building such a relationship with China.
He described meetings between top leaders of the two nations as an intensive involvement in terms of relations.
In his first term in office, US President Barack Obama had met then Chinese President Hu Jintao 13 times. He has had two meetings with current President Xi Jinping, including the widelyacclaimed summit at Sunnylands, California, last June, when they vowed to build a new type of major country relationship.
Obama and Xi are also scheduled to meet late this month in The Hague, the Netherlands, during a nuclear summit attended by world leaders.
Donilon said such involvement is important because the US has at least dual roles in the region.
“On the one hand, our allies and partners in the region want to see us meet our obligations and provide the reassurance that is necessary, particularly in the wake of the rapid rise of China,” Donilon told a group of foreign policy experts at the Brookings Institution.
“On the other hand, they expect us to have a constructive and productive relationship with China that doesn’t necessarily force choices for countries in the region. That is a very important insight,” he said.
While the US rebalancing to Asia strategy started by Obama four years ago has drawn suspicion from China, Donilon said he had spent at least 30 hours giving presentations to the Chinese leadership about the rebalance over his last four years in the White House.
“Perhaps no country has benefited more than China, frankly, from the US presence in Asia,” he said.
China has welcomed a positive US role in the region but also urged Washington to be unbiased in its words and deeds between China and US allies in the region, such as Japan and the Philippines.
Donilon dismissed Chinese suspicion of the US rebalancing to Asia strategy as a containment of China. “It doesn’t resemble a $500 billion trade relationship, or anything like the relationship that we have with China,” he said.
He described the militaryto-military relationship which is way behind the diplomatic and economic relations as a major concern. “That continues to worry me, frankly,” he said.
China and the US have both made efforts to beef up their military exchanges in the past few years. US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is expected to visit China in April and the Chinese navy will participate for the first time in the Rim of Pacific naval exercise this summer.
Despite a lack of longterm strategic trust, Donilon said the two countries have quite good mechanisms in terms of communications.
“Frankly, there isn’t really any reason for there to be any questions to go unanswered between China and the United States about our intentions,” he said.
Donilon’s words echo what Daniel Russel, the US assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, testified on Tuesday before the Senate Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific.
Russel, a former subordinate of Donilon’s at the National Security Council, told the lawmakers that the Obama administration has consistently made its best efforts to build a strong and cooperative relationship with China.
“Tangible, practical and visible cooperation between the United States and China is critical to addressing regional and global challenges, from North Korea to climate change,” he said.
He said that the US seeks good relations between China and its neighbors. “We encourage all our allies to pursue positive and constructive relations with China. I want to make very clear that our alliances, in northeast Asia and around the region, are not aimed at China,” Russel said.
Former US National Security Advisor Tom Donilon talks about the US rebalance to Asia strategy and US-China relations at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC on Thursday.
Street view of Los Angeles downtown area.