Brzezin­ski ques­tions US ‘sur­veil­lance’

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICAS - By CHEN WEIHUA in Washington zhangyue@chi­nadaily.cm.cn

Zbig­niew Brzezin­ski, a lead­ing Amer­i­can strate­gic thinker, be­lieves China and the United States should work more closely and avoid do­ing things un­nec­es­sar­ily provoca­tive to each other.

The com­ment by the for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity ad­vi­sor un­der Pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter came on Oct 2, less than a week af­ter Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping paid a state visit to the US.

Brzezin­ski was re­fer­ring to the fre­quent US sur­veil­lance planes and ships go­ing near Chi­nese airspace and the coast. Chi­nese have long protested such US ac­tiv­i­ties.

Sun Jian­guo, deputy chief of the gen­eral staff of the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army, told Harry Harris, com­man­der of the US Pa­cific Com­mand, in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sept 30 that the US should “re­duce ac­tiv­i­ties that would cause misun­der­stand­ing and mis­judg­ment”.

“We do some­thing to the Chi­nese ev­ery week that we wouldn’t like them to do us,” Brzezin­ski told a seminar on peace in North­east Asia on Oct 2. “Ev­ery week we fly air mis­sions right on the edge of Chi­nese ter­ri­tory. Would we like it if the Chi­nese planes fly right next to San Fran­cisco, or Los An­ge­les? This is a se­ri­ous prob­lem,” he said, adding that US naval ships are sail­ing very close to Chi­nese ter­ri­to­rial wa­ters.

Brzezin­ski de­scribed such prac­tice from the Cold War days as “an­ti­quated and one-sided. I could see that also pro­duces some se­ri­ous in­ci­dents, very se­ri­ous kind of in­ci­dents,” he said.

On April 1, 2001, a US Navy EP-3 spy plane col­lided with a PLA Navy in­ter­cep­tor fight jet off China’s Hainan Is­land, caus­ing the death of a Chi­nese pi­lot. The 24 crew mem­bers on the EP-3 were de­tained af­ter a crash land­ing in Hainan Is­land. The in­ci­dent, which sparked na­tion­wide protests in China against the US, caused huge set­back in bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship.

Brzezin­ski de­scribed ac­tiv­i­ties such as US sur­veil­lance mis­sions near China’s coast as of “enor­mous psy­cho­log­i­cal and po­lit­i­cal im­por­tance”.

“So we do have some el­e­ments here which need to be mon­i­tored,” he said, say­ing both sides need to “ask them­selves se­ri­ously and re­spon­si­bly” whether they are do­ing some­thing un­nec­es­sar­ily provoca­tive to the other.

He be­lieves there is a risk of a sud­den event gal­va­niz­ing la­tent “anti” sen­ti­ments in both coun­tries. “And we could plunge into some­thing like that,” he said.

Brzezin­ski, who was deeply in­volved in the es­tab­lish­ment of US-China diplo­matic ties in 1979, de­scribed the bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship as “so far good,” but noted that the ris­ing do­mes­tic dif­fi­cul­ties have made the man­age­ment of for­eign pol­icy in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult.

Call­ing the re­la­tion­ship “co­op­er­a­tive,” Brzezin­ski said “it re­ally doesn’t cross the thresh­old to an al­liance”.

“I think, per­son­ally, it’s in their in­ter­est, and cer­tainly in our in­ter­est that we do move fur­ther to­wards some sort of an al­liance,” he said.

He ex­plained that’s be­cause the world is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly un­sta­ble, and an Amer­ica and a China that are drift­ing apart is a coun­ter­pro­duc­tive re­al­ity in that con­text.

“And close Chi­nese and Amer­i­can co­or­di­na­tion on for­eign pol­icy is­sues could be quite pro­duc­tive,” he said.

Chi­nese lead­ers have talked about an al­liance as a Cold War legacy, and many in China feel the US is in­creas­ingly us­ing its se­cu­rity al­liance in Asia to gang up on China, such as on the East and South China Sea is­sues.

Jin Can­rong, pro­fes­sor of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions at Ren­min Univer­sity in China, called the al­liance Brzezin­ski pro­posed as un­re­al­is­tic at this stage, but Jin said part­ner­ship is pos­si­ble.

Brzezin­ski re­minded the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to be care­ful and not to make South China Sea a cen­tral is­sue in US re­la­tions with China.

John Hamre, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions, said he ab­so­lutely agreed that if the US and China are on a path of ten­sion and hos­til­ity, ev­ery­thing gets worse.

De­scrib­ing Pres­i­dent Xi’s state visit as a good one, Hamre, deputy sec­re­tary of de­fense un­der Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, said there is un­fin­ished busi­ness be­tween China and the US.

While China knows that it can­not or­ga­nize Asia in a way that ex­cludes the US, and the US can­not or­ga­nize Asia in a way that con­tains China, they don’t know how to give space and full par­tic­i­pa­tion for ev­ery­one else in Asia, ac­cord­ing to Hamre.

“And the rea­son that’s so hard is ev­ery­one in Asia wants to have a good and proper work­ing re­la­tion­ship with China but also wants the US to be there for the se­cu­rity hedge,” he said.

“How can we rec­on­cile with that? I think that’s un­fin­ished busi­ness of this pres­i­dency and over to the next pres­i­dency,” he said.

“I don’t view Asia now as a source of ma­jor in­ter­na­tional risks, with the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity as a whole in con­trast, to the Mid­dle East and in con­trast to Europe,” he said.

“The vast ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans don’t have a clue of what’s hap­pen­ing in the world scene. And I mean it quite lit­er­ally,” he said, cit­ing both the public knowl­edge and the for­eign pol­icy talk in the US pres­i­den­tial race.

“They are abysmal, they are shame­ful, and they are dan­ger­ous. That doesn’t help us op­er­at­ing in the in­ter­na­tional scene,” he said.

CHEN WEIHUA / CHINA DAILY

Zbig­niew Brzezin­ski, for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity ad­vi­sor, speaks at Washington seminar on Oct 2.

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