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.
Chen Weihua, based in Washington DC, is deputy editor of China Daily USA. firstname.lastname@example.org
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