Contemporary International Problems

Question Description

•Describe the principal effects of China’s increasing prosperity on U.S./China relations.

Final Answer

First of all, our relations with China have been, and will remain for the foreseeable future to be mixed, to be a complex combination of cooperation and contention. So the first thing is, don't ever expect a kind of nirvana of peaceful, cooperative productive U.S.-China relations. I can't see that.

We're always going to have a complex mix of compatible interests and conflictional interests. And really, if you think about it, how could it be different? We have a far different history, far different political system. The Chinese have an aggrieved experience with the West and the United States -- lots of resentment. And China is still a very poor country.

It certainly depends on how the Chinese respond.... If they're seen to be basically positive, this represents a chance to improve U.S.-China relations that hasn't existed since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, and indeed since 1989, with the Tianamen massacre.

Since 1991 and 1989, China and the United States have not really been able to cooperate very significantly in the security area. If we are cooperating in the security area, this tends to be an area of cooperation that is so important to the United States that we tend to not clutter the agenda of bilateral relations with lots of other secondary issues; issues that are very important in this country, but nonetheless are not of the same magnitude and urgency of the security concerns. If the Chinese play their cards right and are cooperative, we could see better relations.

It's potentially very important. First of all, China, unknown to many Americans, is our fourth-largest trade partner. There are certainly probably 300,000, 400,000, 500,000 American jobs that are directly dependent to exports to China, and there are some of our most competitive high tech sector. Obviously, given the state of our own economy, we don't need more unemployment. ...

But China's economic importance -- particularly to the United States, but the global economy -- hasn't been recognized in another way, and that is inter-dependence. Let me just give you a fact that I think is just demonstrative of a larger reality. Eighty-seven percent of the motherboards of computers in the world are made in Taiwan. And of that 87 percent of the brains of a computer, the motherboards made in Taiwan, 50 percent are now made in the PRC, and that industry is even moving more rapidly towards the PRC. So in certain key areas, China's component manufacturing is absolutely key to a strategic global industry.

So whether you look at it narrowly, or in terms of jobs, China is essential. Also, China is the most rapidly growing major economy in the world today. And heaven knows, with Japan lagging and Europe's economy stagnating and the Americans hovering near a recession, the world needs all the center of growth that it can get. So I think we are going to recognize that we have a very great interest in China's prosperity.

I think the president now has both strategic military reasons to try to have a decent, productive relationship with China. He has economic reasons and, frankly, we have great cultural reasons. Some of the most innovative intelligent students in American universities today come from abroad, and many of those come from China. So we have cultural reasons, economic reasons and military reasons.

You can't predict how China is going to behave in the future. But I think what we can say for now, and for the next ten years is, all Chinese I'm familiar with -- except a few modest interest groups -- are devoted to the proposition that the Chinese first need to economically modernize. The challenge to America is to make it clear to the Chinese people that the world is supportive of them becoming more prosperous and having a more dignified place in the world; that the United States does not stand in the way of that; and create an environment that's going to create the incentives where the Chinese want to play by the rules, where they feel like they're a member of the club.

The odds are very great that, if China is able to continue to move in the direction it's going and that we are basically receptive to the aspirations of the Chinese people... I think we'll always have difficulty in dealing with China. But it need not be the kind of experience we faced with the rise of Japan or Germany.

The way I would put it, there's a deep ambivalence about Americans. Chinese leaders send their sons and daughters in great numbers here to study. Many of their sons and daughters are living long term in the United States, opening businesses. I think there's great respect for American technological and financial wizardry, great admiration. The Chinese characters for the United States are the "Beautiful Country." The traditional name for San Francisco is "Old Gold Mountain." There's this image of the United States as a beautiful, powerful, clever nation and I think that's the dominant sentiment -- for the United States, in a sense, to be a role model for China.

But when the Chinese define you as a teacher or a role model, they expect the teacher to be deferential and considerate of the student. And so, often, Chinese people see the United States acting in what they believe is an arrogant, thoughtless way that basically is designed to keep China down. So there's this admiration that competes with this sense of victimhood, this sense of "You don't respect us," sort of what we call the Rodney Dangerfield-"I-don't-get-no-respect" kind of view of the United States. So I think it's deeply ambivalent. But, on balance, the prevailing sentiment is very positive.t is critical commercially. It is the only strong economy in Asia today, in fact, its one of the only growing economies in the world today. ... Also...there is a worry that if China used its military power or its growing political influence to undermine U.S. national interests, we could have a very significant problem in Asia over the horizon.

China and the United States are engaged in a major gamble with each other. The United States is gambling that, with increased engagement and especially with increased trade, it'll become a more liberal society and more open society. China, on the other hand, is betting that they can open up to the extent necessary to promote their economic prosperity. They're smart enough to know that a certain amount of capitalism is a good thing and they've got to go in that direction to feed 1.3 billion people. But that they can open up to that extent, but not to the extent they lose control -- and control is the name of the game.

It's not communism in the sense of the Soviet Union, where they're trying to convince the world, as it were, of a doctrine. It's more a matter of they're keeping control, and they will do what is necessary to keep the communist regime there in control. So they're betting that they can keep that control. It's going to be some years, probably, before we see who's right. In the meantime, the name of the game in terms of diplomacy and national security is to try to keep incidents from happening until we reach that point that throw us off-kilter and get us into trouble with one another and make the world more dangerous. ... I'm willing to take that gamble. I think we've got a fair chance of winning that gamble.

But it's not at all clear that that's the way that it's going to turn out ...It very well could be, if they can open up somewhat, do better than they've done in the past but still arrest American citizens at will, proliferate weapons of mass destruction and be an imminent threat to our friend across the Taiwan Strait.

We think that China-American relationship should move forward in the interests of both sides. But China is a country which suffered a lot in the past. China country, like the United States, jealously guards its own sovereignty and territory, integrity and dignity. And if people understand these principles that they apply not only to the United States, but to China and to other countries, then they can understand the emotions of the Chinese people on this issue.I think we should recognize that China and the United States both want to improve and develop their relationship, but there are some sensitive elements in the Sino-U.S. relationship, which will sometimes lead to certain disturbances. Over recent years, you know that both parties in the U.S., the Republicans and the Democrats, have both had the same policy towards developing and improving Sino-U.S. relations. 

On the other hand, frankly speaking, there are also differences of opinion between the two countries. The important question is how to handle these differences. No one should take a tough attitude just because these differences create problems. That will not contribute to the solution of the problems.

Basically, I think what we should focus on are the major common interests between the two countries, which are important and wide-ranging, for instance, to safeguard peace and stability in the Asian Pacific region and to improve world economic development and prosperity. Also, we both want a better environment and less pollution. We both want to fight against transnational crimes, etc. In those areas, we have important common interests, and we should cooperate further in those fields. ...

Relations in trade and other areas are improving. We have also had much more consultation on international issues.

Duke University

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