Obama has been elected the 56th president of United States with a majority vote as expected. His victory makes history not only because he is the first black president and won with majority support, but also because his election occurred in the middle of a financial crisis.
It is also worth mentioning that in his competition with Senator McCain all of the European allies supported Obama. As a result, the Obama Era has come. And we are wondering where Sino-U.S. relations are headed in this era. After every election year, relations between China and the U.S. face an awkward period of destroy and rebuild. Will the cycle repeat this time?
The media hold two different opinions. One thought is that the Republican candidate Senator McCains coming to power would be propitious for promoting the development of Sino-U.S. relations. On one hand, it is President Bush who brought Sino-U.S. relations to a sound and healthy mechanism and made China a stakeholder in a strategic position. On the other hand, it is clearly stated in the Republican partys platform that they welcome a strong, peaceful, and prosperous Chinas rise.
Another media view is that no matter who comes to power Sino-U.S. relations will continue to develop along a stable path towards a deeper relationship. I prefer the latter because the development of Sino-U.S. relations today has been confirmed by both Democrats and Republicans. In the interest of United States Obama will not treat the Sino-U.S. relationship as a small matter.
Whats even more important is that observers often only concentrate on how President Bush steadily pushed the development of Sino-U.S. relations in his second term and neglect the distress he caused the relationship in his first term. Back in the Clinton years the relationship between the U.S. and China was defined as a constructive and cooperative partnership." This was the apex of Sino-American relations from a strategic perspective.
As a Democratic president, Obama has a strong foundation from the partys heritage. He also enjoys the substantial relationship of stakeholder as a power brick. The Sino-U.S. relationship in Obamas era will not repeat the cycle of destroy and rebuild." Even if there are some twist and turns, they will not be very important.
China and US have built dozens of negotiation mechanisms. On a technical level, China and the U.S. have built dozens of negotiation mechanisms in the Bush years, including strategic, economically strategic, military, trade, and diplomatic ones. All of these alleviate the structural contradictions effectively.
The normalization of these strategic mechanisms has been affirmed by both parties, and it is not possible for Obama to push all these mechanisms down and build his ownthe political and diplomatic price is too high.
In the power game between the U.S. and China, the basic structure has not changed; the U.S. is still the stronger party, but its tend toward decline and Chinas relative rise have also taken shape. While the United States suffers from a financial crisis and its overall power is declining, Chinas strong risk-resistant capacity has become the hope of world economic engine.
In the recent Asia-Europe meeting in Beijing, Europe expressed its hope to construct a new international finance system that makes China independent from the U.S. dollar and gives China more of a voice in the international finance sector. Some media even predict that in the coming G20 finance summit Chinas voice will have more listeners form powerful countries.
Just recently Senator McCain and Senator Obama both set forth their position on Sino-U.S. relations in China Briefing. Senator McCain directly pointed out the key to the problem: the United States now owes China nearly 500 billion dollars. In fact, China holds approximately 550 billion dollars of the U.S.'s national debt.
As a creditor of the U.S. government which is now in crisis, China will of course not add insult to injury, but it will play a role in checking the United States. Considering its own interests, if China the creditor does not collect the debt, todays dollar dominant finance system will not collapse. Therefore, under the strategy of maintaining the dominant position of dollar, Obama could only add more intimacy to the Sino-US finance marriage.
Building a rational partnership
Regarding the Taiwan issue, which is of fundamental national interest to China, Obama personally believes that todays cross-Strait relationship is at its best time since 1990s. He encourages the development of the cross-Strait relationship and reducing the intensity over the Taiwan strait. One of his advisers even expressed strong support for any peaceful solution to the Taiwan problem.
This means that although the cross-Strait relationship in Obamas era will stick to the three Sino-U.S. joint communiqués and the Taiwan Relations law," the U.S will hold an positive position on the peaceful solution of the cross-Strait problem.
Based on the diplomatic mess the United States now faces, Obama also needs to adjust the American global strategic framework, withdraw form Iraq as soon as possible, and settle down Iran and North Koreas nuclear problem. All these were caused by President Bushs "preemptive strike policy and need to be solved under multilateral mechanisms such as United Nations and others. Without Chinas cooperation, Obama would not clean up this diplomatic mess with United States limited strategic space.
The United States needs China to solve the North Korea nuclear crisis. As the U.S. leader focuses more and more on domestic issues, the U.S. leaves a power vacuum and strategic space in the Asia-Pacific area. China will take over this space and play a constructive role. From this perspective, both McCain and Obama need China as a partner and must get Chinas support by exchanging or releasing interests with China.
The bankruptcy of Bushs preemptive strike policy and the challenge of a financial crisis all claimed the end of Reagans unilateralism. Obama now faces a coming multi-polar era.
To maintain the powerful position the U.S. now enjoys, the first lesson to learn is how to cooperate with China, who has a large amount of common interests with U.S. A time when the U.S and China have to share interests and responsibility is on its way.
As the American Chamber of Commerce Chairman James Jimouman said, the United States needs a president who can work to establish a partnership with China in order to address the concerns of energy, climate change, and other major issues of the world. In the interests of the United States, whether Obama likes China or not, he must conform to the trend of the times, and establish a rational partnership with China.
Of course, based on inertia from the campaign and the traditional policies of the Democrats, Obama may still blame domestic troubles, such as blue-collar unemployment, economic recession, and other domestic issues on China in the future. And he may also launch an ideological attack on the Chinese and cause trouble in cross-Strait relations.
The Republican Party is also full of anxiety about China's rising trend, and may make noise about the China threat. However, this will not be the main axis of Sino-U.S. relations as we can predict.
Americans have fought hard to break the political obsession of racism and make history with a black president. We believe that Obama will make wise choices for Sino-U.S. relations.