In terms of soft power, public relations and international affairs, the U.S. has the benefit of a so-called “good reputation.” However, in the past few years, America’s relations with China’s government and its attitude toward China’s online community, international officials, students and common citizens have become major points of contention. The Chinese public is highly critical of America’s approach to China’s growing power. Many feel that America’s words and actions are fundamentally and strategically aimed at checking China’s development and containing it militarily. Recent observations of the U.S. show that the country has made two very apparent mistakes in how it handles its relations with China.
Mistake number one: Again and again, America tries to undermine China’s core interests. Naturally, the Chinese people are offended. America maintains a Cold War mentality and a hegemonic logic, which dictates that the strong bully the weak. This is the dominant mindset in the American elite and is the main reason that the U.S. cannot make progress in mending relations. America’s continued efforts to drive a wedge between the Chinese people on either side of the Taiwan Strait and to prevent them from joining forces to defend a common Chinese nation are typical examples of this mindset. Thirty years earlier, the U.S. recognized that the People’s Republic of China was the sole legitimate government of China and that Taiwan was Chinese territory. But if the U.S. now acknowledges Taiwan as a sovereign state, America’s arms sales to Taiwan and focus on friendly relations with Taiwan need to stop immediately. In August of 1982, America agreed to progressively decrease arm sales until this issue of sovereignty could be resolved. If America continues to sell weaponry, it will only serve to damage “cross-strait” and Sino-American relations, thus seriously undermining the strategic interests of the U.S. itself. Currently, America’s actions in regards to the Taiwan issue violate U.S. treaties, Chinese sovereignty and threaten China’s core interests. Moreover, the U.S. is unwilling to correct these mistakes. The Chinese people strongly condemn the United States’ misguided course of action.
Also in regards to territorial rights, Diaoyu Island and its various subsidiary islands have been, since ancient times, part and parcel of China’s sacred lands. Yet, the U.S. Congress and politicians have deliberately claimed otherwise in Article V of the Security Treaty Between the United States and Japan.* This is a bilateral treaty that deals solely with Japan-U.S. issues. Why does it include a reference to Chinese territory? China has always advocated diplomatic negotiations with Japan in order to reach a peaceful resolution to the dispute over the Diaoyu Islands. America’s mention of the Japan-U.S. treaty only rekindles and strengthens Japan’s historical militarism and expansionist ambitions. This renders a peaceful resolution of the Diaoyu Islands conflict even more difficult and intensifies regional tensions. The Chinese people condemn the American government’s violations of China’s territorial integrity and national sovereignty.
The United States encourages the Philippines to cause trouble, damages China’s relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and obstructs China’s efforts to build good relations with neighboring countries and resolve differences between them. These are further examples of how America is meddling in China’s core interests. Since the U.S. has shifted its strategic focus to Asia and the Pacific, it has deployed military forces in China’s vicinity in the name of bringing balance to the region. The Asia-Pacific countries have a strong desire to develop their economies; yet, the U.S. disregards this, and instead deploys its military forces, conducts frequent military exercises, and excludes China from its activities. Such behaviors have aroused strong dissatisfaction among the Chinese people. America’s return to the Asia-Pacific region is undoubtedly part of a larger plan to monitor China. America’s superpower status and consolidation of its hegemonic position in the world damage China’s core interests and have become the main obstacles to positive developments in Sino-U.S. relations.
Mistake number two: America’s use of rhetoric to cover up its actions shows that the country has bad faith. In order to promote a constructive relationship with China, American politicians have expressed support and have made a number of commitments. The U.S. has made a show of welcoming a powerful, prosperous and successful China and a greater role for China in international affairs. The U.S. quickly recognized China’s economic status by cooperating in the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade and promising to relax its restrictions on China’s high-tech exports. But as seen at the end of President Obama’s first term, these efforts have produced disappointing results. Does the U.S. really want to see a powerful, prosperous and successful China? The answer to this question is perhaps an ironic one. Will the U.S. recognize China’s market economy status in the 23rd U.S.- China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade meeting on of Dec. 18 and 19? No one knows. Will there be an actual reduction of control on China’s high-tech exports? Probably not. The Chinese public opinion is the U.S. will not act on its promises. It will only continue to pay lip service. The U.S. consistently says one thing and does another, and acts in bad faith.
China is a country with over 5,000 years of history and culture. The Chinese nation has always upheld the principle of practicing what one preaches and has always acted accordingly. Individuals, institutions and even countries need to listen to their words and watch their actions, since these will inevitably be used to evaluate their integrity. In order to foster a good atmosphere in important international activities or maintain diplomatic etiquette, beautiful words will be needed. China and the U.S. both express that they are looking forward to the bright future of Sino-American relations. The hope is that this is not just empty rhetoric. But actions speak louder than words. The American political elite, if they want to gain the trust of the Chinese people, need to take concrete actions to improve relations and practice the principle of acting in good faith.
In short, China and the U.S. must make significant breakthroughs in order to create a new relationship in a new set of circumstances. China and the U.S. must treat each other as equals and with mutual respect, honor their commitments, and practice good faith to foster a sense of mutual trust.
Editor’s Note: Article V of the 1951 Security Treaty between the United States and Japan treaty does not mention Diaoyu. The author may have intended to refer to the 1960 Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan, in which the U.S. promises to assist Japan in the event of an armed attack upon its territory.