U.S. Needs to Learn How to Coexist Peacefully with China

Currently visiting mainland China, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden recently publicly expressed that, “Although China is not America’s ally, it can become America’s friend.” At the same time, Biden stressed, “It is probably necessary for competition to exist between China and the U.S., but this does not mean that an all-out conflict will erupt between the two nations. In reality, everything tells us that advancing dialogue with China is what is in line with U.S. national interests.”*

Presently, mainland China is America’s second-largest trade partner, its number one source for imports and its third-largest market for exports. It also holds $1.2 trillion in government bonds, making it America’s largest creditor. According to reports by the research organization Global Insight, mainland China could, by around the year 2035, surpass the U.S. to become the world’s largest economy. Since trade activities between the U.S. and China foster closer ties each day, this will also establish the important foundation for the development of constructive relations between the U.S. and the Chinese Communist Party.

Working together with China on U.S. interests

Obama repeatedly emphasizes that the U.S. must have a practical attitude toward relations with the CCP. Both sides are neither enemies, nor are they strategic partners; in reality, the two are trade partners who also have competing interests in the Asia-Pacific region. Specifically, the main thinking behind America’s strategic plan for dealing with the CCP is, “we need not like China, but we do need to work together with China to handle the major issue of U.S. interests.”

When speaking at the defense think tank RAND Corporation, former U.S. National Security Council Senior Director of Asian Affairs Zalmay Khalilzad pointed out that the U.S. can plan to combine with its allies — such as the Philippines and Australia — to form an allied force to jointly handle conflict in the South China Sea region. At the same time, the U.S. needs to use its tactics for balancing power in order to prevent the three big powers — Russia, the Chinese Communist Party, and India — from forming an alliance against the U.S. Likewise, it must also prevent any one of these three countries from proclaiming itself the hegemony of the Asian region.

Previously, America’s former Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, had said that, from America’s perspective, the Asia-Pacific region simultaneously holds huge hidden potential and danger. Through the effect of trade growth and the free market, the U.S. can exercise great influence over Japan and India. At the same time, America also needs to keep a close watch as the Chinese Communist Party, by means of strengthening its economy and military force, begins to form a threat to U.S. interests in the Asia-Pacific region.

Within the Obama administration, those who wield power over strategic planning policy decisions generally believe that, were any tactic that proved effective against the Soviet Union during the Cold War to be used to cope with the CCP, it could result in substantial risk or even harm economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region, bringing about major damage to U.S. interests. This is because there are many differences between the mainland China of today and the Soviet Union of the 1980s.

In 2010, mainland China’s gross national product had already reached $6.5 trillion and had $3.2 trillion of foreign exchange reserves. Moreover, although its military spending in 2011 reached the level of $100 billion, the U.S. passed a defense budget for the same year of $649 billion. Contrary to expectations, this wide gap in military expenditures has caused American think tanks to believe that the Chinese Communist Party’s current strategy has coerced the U.S. to fall into the black hole of an arms race, making the U.S. spend excessively on military expenditures, using up its precious funding resources and causing U.S. economic development to lose momentum.

Guiding China to contribute to international society

Supposing the U.S. opened up a cold war with China in the Asia-Pacific, clearly the U.S. would, at once, have to be able to deal with all the challenges brought about by the CCP taking action against Japan or Taiwan, by North Korea launching an invasion on the Korean peninsula and by the CCP’s expansion of its military into the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean. This means that the U.S. would increase the size of its navy and air force pre-deployment in the Asia-Pacific; it would also push forward its military relationship with its allies Japan, South Korea, Australia and India.

However, this action could incite an arms race in the Asia-Pacific, especially in the adjustments to national defense policy that Japan plans to implement in its new edition of its “Defense White Papers,” which would drive China to increase its armaments, triggering the apprehension of South and North Korea and provoking Southeast Asian nations to go down the path of strengthening their military power.

In order to prevent a cold war from erupting between the U.S. and China in Asia, the core strategists in the Obama administration believe that, faced with China’s rise, it must now consider significant issues: First is how to coexist peacefully with China and develop mutually beneficial and constructive relations. The second question is how to influence China and ensure that its policy direction is in the interest of U.S. global strategic layout. Third is how to guide China toward becoming a contributor to international society, while at the same time being wary of its destructive actions. Lastly, the U.S. needs to use the principle of pragmatism to increase the quality of common interests between itself and the CCP, and to reduce the hindrance of bilateral disagreement about interests. In this way, the U.S. would be able to continue the process of cooperative economic interaction with China, thus itself becoming a winner.

The author is a national security consultant at National Policy Foundation.

*Editor’s Note: This quotation, accurately translated, could not be verified.

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