Is a de­clin­ing US good for China?

China Daily (Canada) - - COMMENT -

When the Asia So­ci­ety’s Chi­naFile on­line mag­a­zine in­vited me to dis­cuss whether a de­clin­ingUnited States is good for China, my feel­ing was the ques­tion was loaded and con­fus­ing. Loaded be­cause it seems to as­sume that Chi­nese will cel­e­brate a de­clin­ingUS, given the sen­sa­tional head­lines of strate­gic ri­valry be­tween the two na­tions we see so of­ten in the news me­dia.

Yes. There are Chi­nese who might ju­bi­late over a de­clin­ing US, just as there are those in the US who are ea­ger to see China go bust. But that is by no means the ma­jor­ity in both na­tions.

But first we should clar­ify whether the ques­tion refers to an ab­so­lute de­cline or a rel­a­tive de­cline. These are starkly dif­fer­ent ques­tions and will get dif­fer­ent an­swers.

An ab­so­lute de­cline of the US, in my view, is not hap­pen­ing be­cause the US econ­omy is still grow­ing and its mil­i­tary is stronger and bet­ter equipped than ever. That is also true in many other sec­tors, such as ed­u­ca­tion and tech­nol­ogy.

But a rel­a­tive de­cline of the US is al­ready tak­ing place with the rise of coun­tries such as China, In­dia, Brazil and many other de­vel­op­ing na­tions. Such a rel­a­tive de­cline will be­come in­creas­ingly prom­i­nent in the com­ing decades as emerg­ing economies con­tinue to ex­pand at a faster pace than the US.

An ab­so­lute de­cline of the US would not serve China’s in­ter­ests, be­cause China has ben­e­fited enor­mously from a strong US in grow­ing its econ­omy, ed­u­ca­tion, tech­nol­ogy and var­i­ous other sec­tors in the past 30 years of re­form and open­ing-up. The US’ rel­a­tive de­cline will con­tinue in the com­ing decade, but an ab­so­lute de­cline would not ben­e­fit China much.

Nowthe ques­tion be­comeswhether the rel­a­tive de­cline of theUS is good forChina and other emerg­ing economies. The an­swer­nowis a def­i­nite yes.

And the US has also reaped fruits from the rise of China in the last three decades.

The rel­a­tive de­cline of the US means that not only has China lifted more people out of poverty, but also there are more mid­dle-class Chi­nese, who can af­ford to travel to the US and send their chil­dren to Amer­i­can uni­ver­si­ties. And there is more Chi­nese in­vest­ment in the US. That has been hap­pen­ing and has been warmly wel­comed by the state and city gov­ern­ments in the US.

In fact, the rel­a­tive de­cline of the US means it is not just China, In­dia and Brazil that have be­come stronger, but all na­tions; and that is some­thing worth cel­e­brat­ing.

It also leads to the ques­tion of whether the US is will­ing to share power with the ris­ing rest.

The US’ anx­i­ety about los­ing its global dom­i­nance and lead­er­ship is ob­vi­ous.

The phrase “Amer­i­can lead­er­ship” was re­peated time and again in Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s speech atWest Point onMay 28 and Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sor Su­san Rice’s talk at a se­cu­rity fo­rum in Wash­ing­ton thisWed­nes­day.

AtWed­nes­day’s se­cu­rity fo­rum, Wolf­gang Ischinger, a for­mer Ger­man am­bas­sador to the US, pointed out that lead­er­ship, if not by force, needs trust and cred­i­bil­ity, and that trust be­tween the US and Europe has been dam­aged, fol­low­ing the rev­e­la­tions of the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency con­trac­tor Ed­ward Snow­den.

Ischinger also called on the US and Europe to work with China and other coun­tries to re­form global in­sti­tu­tions such as the United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, the In­ter­na­tion­alMone­tary Fund and the World Bank to adapt to the chang­ing world.

I guess many Chi­nese would wel­come the US lead­er­ship, so long as that lead­er­ship was not just in its own in­ter­ests and it was not be­ing used to rally other na­tions against China, es­pe­cially when bi­lat­eral re­la­tions have hit a low point. The au­thor, based in­Wash­ing­ton, is deputy edi­tor of China Daily USA. chen­wei­hua@chi­nadai­

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