Let's Hope a Risen
China is More Responsible than U.S.
and others may be anxious about a lingering 'Middle Kingdom mentality' in Beijing, but the same applies to Washington. The world must hope that a risen China won't copy the domineering, hegemonic
stand of the United States."
U.S.-China relations are important not only in themselves,
but also for our region and the world.
And subtle or not, the fact that President Obama has visited
Hu Jintao’s China before the Chinese leader visited Obama’s Washington could be
taken as a kind of omen between the two powers.
In recent days, Obama has visited not only Beijing,
but Shanghai. And apart from meeting leaders and dignitaries, he has also
spoken to students and others.
Obama's visit was almost as significant as Richard Nixon’s
historic 1972 arrival in Mao Zedong's China,
well before Mao ever considered visiting America.
Obama made the trip in his first year in office, whereas Nixon took his in his
third (although he sent feelers to Beijing
almost as soon as he entered the White House).
The issues separating Washington
and Beijing are many and very
important. But beyond the usual media coverage of trade, human rights, Iran,
North Korea and
issues like anti-terrorism and environmental concerns are also pertinent.
To better understand what has rapidly become the world’s
most vital bilateral relationship, it's instructive to compare events over a
was economically backward and struggling on every front, after the devastation
of the Great Leap
Forward, the Cultural
Revolution, domestic political intrigue and other associated upheavals. If
not actually exporting revolution, striking ideological postures abroad wasn't utterly
unrelated to domestic turmoil.
is the most promising economic power, is set to overtake the United
States economically, and is already America's
largest creditor. As the world’s leading prospective superpower, it has
everything to look forward to - and the way it conducts itself internationally accords
was deeply ideological, having picked up the pieces after centuries of
feudalism, and had to navigate a vast nation through monumental problems.
Today’s China is pragmatic rather than revolutionary, with
the state having to hold the country together in terms of national sovereignty
and territorial integrity, while at the same time continuing to tackle
Obama repeatedly assured his Chinese hosts that the United
States is not out to “contain” China.
Obama may not share the ideological hawkishness of some
Americans, and certainly none of their sound bites. But at its root, any
superpower will be inclined to contain any other power that may rival it
regionally or globally.
For the moment at least, the United States seems to have the
most at stake in working with, rather than confronting, a rising China. Yet no
superpower worth its hegemonic clout would take the prospect of containment
“off the table,” and the U.S.
certainly hasn't done so.
The United States
has surrounded China
with allies from Japan
to Australia to
cheerleading a so-called “alliance of democracies” - a world in which a rising China
would feel out of place.
As for overt containment, for example a naval blockade,
certainly nothing like that is on the agenda. Which is why militant dissidents
Xinjiang or Taiwan
hoping for unambiguous U.S.
support have been disappointed. China's
huge and rapidly rising market is far more important to the world’s premier
And that huge market will remain huge only if it's permitted
to grow uninterrupted, without paranoia, and unfragmented by internal secessionist
Americans who have an “attitude” often argue that China
has been able to grow so fast only because the U.S.
has agreed to buy its products. But trade cuts both ways, since China
today is like Japan
was in the past, providing Americans with a variety of products that would
otherwise be unaffordable.
Criticism of shoddy goods from China
today is commonplace, again like it was in regard to Japan.
These are still early days for Chinese industry and the quality of
manufacturing is bound to improve, above all because the market demands it.
A new generation of Americans may find novel areas of
agreement and cooperation with a new generation of Chinese. But only where
there is mutual respect and consideration can things work out. Only by allowing
for differences without double standards or a sense of exceptionalism can
things come to a positive conclusion.
President Barack Obama visits China's Great
Wall, Nov. 18.
Americans and others may be
anxious about a lingering “Middle Kingdom mentality” in Beijing, but the same applies to Washington. The world must hope that a risen China won't copy the domineering, hegemonic stand of the United States.
Obama can help translate the promise of a bold new future
vastly different from the past into reality. In China,
today’s “Tiananmen youth” are pursuing promising careers, many of which are
among Obama’s student audience.
too is also coming around to seeking fuller, healthier relations with the new China.
Much the same goes for relations between Taiwan
and the Mainland.
And this also applies to Southeast Asia
with the members of ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations]. However
much a reigning superpower may try, not only is China
too big to contain, there would be no point to bottling up shared prospects for
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