Hong Kong Media: Sino-US Relationship Needs to Be Stabilized with Wisdom
Translated By Jingman Xiao
21 November 2012
Edited by Kyrstie Lane
China - Huanqiu - Original Article (Chinese )
The rapid rise of China seems to upset the onetime hegemon, the U.S., to the point where it hardly feels at ease. Even during the three debates between Obama and Romney, China was mentioned 35 times by both candidates. Due to the preliminary success of the war on terror, the U.S. now begins its return to China and has adopted a series of measures to constrain China, which brings the Sino-U.S. relationship to a very profound and subtle moment. After the confirmation of Xi Jinping as China’s new leader and the re-election of Obama, it is necessary for the two leaders to seek stable relations with wisdom in this dynamic world.
The Honeymoon Is Always Transient
After the outbreak in the Pacific battlefield during World War II when fascism was the common enemy of all, the U.S. generously passed the Lend-Lease program and provided China with $1.3 billion worth of funds to support China’s anti-Japanese war.
President Roosevelt said in a speech that millions of ordinary Chinese people showed great determination in resisting the invasion and that China undoubtedly deserved help. In response to this, Mao Zedong enthusiastically wrote in a letter to Roosevelt in 1944: The Chinese and American people have always had a solid friendship based on history and traditions. I strongly hope that your effort and success will ensure both China and America’s progress in the undertakings of beating the Japanese enemy, rebuilding permanent peace in the world and establishing a democratic China.*
However, the U.S. did not help China unconditionally. Due to the fear of communism and a misunderstanding of Red China, the U.S. resorted to extreme measures trying to constrain, isolate and blockade China for the past 20 years. After the Cold War, because China had risen in power and thus its international status had become a national security concern of both countries, the tendency to work against the USSR prevailed. President Nixon eventually realized that there was simply no place to accommodate the anger and rage of 1 billion workers on this small planet. China, under a strong ideological influence, also started to approach and engage its hereditary enemy, the U.S.
Since the Sino-U.S. relationship is faced with great competition in many fields, yet not full-scale confrontation, the U.S. China policy has not yet been determined, which results in ambiguous strategies toward China. During the Cold War, the U.S. had a clear set of strategies against the USSR, including full-scale containment and strategic competition. However, for a considerably long period of time, the U.S. has found it hard to make its China policy as clear as the one it had for the Soviet Union. One of the most important reasons is the impact of globalization, regionalization and the ever-increasing interdependence of the two countries. If mutual isolation was the structural factor for both parties during the Cold War, then mutual interdependence is the fundamental structure of the Sino-U.S. relationship today. Although this structure is still subject to changes and alterations, some degree of relative stability has started to materialize. Both the U.S. and China would pay incomparably huge political and economic costs if they wanted to go back to a mutually isolated structure. That is to say, U.S. interests will be harmed if its attitudes toward China are too unyielding.
The Mutually Dependent Gambling Relationship
The fact that U.S. policy toward China has shown a great deal of uncertainty can be understood from two levels of analysis. First, uncertainty is generated from changes, since the structure itself is constantly changing. Second, the structure implies the increasingly wide range of interactions and thus more conflicts, which has been embodied in the relationship between China and the U.S. as well as between other countries. The uncertainty on the U.S. side indicates the massive pressure China is going to feel from the U.S. Because of this interdependence, the U.S. has more mechanisms and measures to influence and pressure China.
The challenge China faces is how to deal with the uncertainty of China policy in the U.S. On the one hand, the interdependence determines that the relationship between the two will be an interactional and reciprocally transformational one. On the other hand, this lets the two countries confront the uncertainty directly. It is hard for either country to come up with a package solution. This is particularly the case where some Western countries, led by the U.S., slander China with respect to human rights, trade, “Made in China” and national security. We could respond to this by following the principle of “an eye for an eye,” especially with problems of core interests. However, venting is never the solution. Instead, we should deploy reasonable, beneficial and disciplinary strategies and treat the conflicts and difficulties between China and the U.S. with sufficient patience and amplified rationality. In the meantime, under uncertainty, China should seek a relatively stable policy toward the U.S. in order to achieve a relatively stable relationship. This requires decision-makers and policymakers to face and deal with the inevitable problems from a historical perspective, with a more gentle and placid attitude, a more open and clear heart and more flexible methods.
*Editor’s note: It is unclear whether this is a direct quotation from Mao’s letter or the author’s summary of the letter.
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