China, US not strategic rivals

09:46, July 02, 2011      

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There has been much discussion as to whether East Asia will continue to maintain stability since Obama announced that the United States would "return to Asia." The United States claimed that its presence in East Asia is conducive to regional stability, but is it true? Its Asia-Pacific strategy has three priorities: economic prosperity, regional stability and the safety of its allies. Overall, the United States has the willingness, ability and need to maintain the stability of East Asia.

However, history has clearly proven that only a regional multilateral security mechanism will ensure long-term security and stability in East Asia. The alliance led by the United States only benefits a few countries rather than the majority of East Asian countries, so it is expected that the present security structure will not last long. A multilateral security mechanism among East Asian countries has become an unstoppable trend, though it still faces many challenges.

If East Asia has its own regional multilateral security mechanism, the U.S.-led regional security structure will be changed, and the United States may have to choose to either leave or stay as a member of the multilateral security mechanism. Of course, there is still a long way to go. Even after the mechanism is established, the United States will be able to make the decision to stay or to leave according to its own will.

Therefore, to maintain its presence in East Asia, the United States will create different situations according to its own needs such as strengthening alliances, increasing regional military drills and keeping the regional balance of power.

However, it is impossible for the United States to act on its own will in the region. The United States will not fight for the interests of certain countries because it only uses force for its immediate interests. Thus, although the United States is willing to get involve in some disputes in East Asia, it will unlikely be deeply involved.

The United States will never take a risk in using force if it has multiple options even when defending its immediate interests. Because the United States will only fight for its own interests, it is naive for some countries to expect the United States to fight for theirs. When the interests of the United States ?notably security interests ?overlap with those of other countries, the United States will wage wars under the cover of fighting for the interests of other countries as it did in the Korean War. To prevent some countries from doing as they please, the United States will play a role as a balancer and arbitrator.

Strategically, people generally assume that China and the United States are adversaries fighting each other in East Asia and a cold war between them is inevitable. This view evidently neglects the facts.

First, it is groundless to assert that there is strategic competition between China and the United States today. The so-called strategic competition is just a hypothetical concept developed by some countries that definitely fascinates certain media agencies and interest groups.

Second, both sides will suffer losses if China and the United States compete against each other strategically, and certain countries may even benefit from it while other uncontrollable countries or forces may also rise up. That is why a stable strategic relationship between China and the United States is needed regionally or worldwide.

While the possibility of great powers conflicting with each other has decreased, most conflicts will be the unbalanced conflicts between a great power and small countries. Therefore, future conflicts or escalated confrontations will hardly be initiated by two large countries, but will most probably be triggered by uncontrolled contradictions between a large country and a small country. As long as great powers keep calm and show self-restraint, regional stability will generally be maintained.

Third, some countries believe that China and the United States will not cooperate strategically with each other again after the United States' "return to Asia." They even have made some new policies in an effort to benefit from it. In fact, that is a strategic misjudgment. The numerous strategic talks and communications between China and the United states are not unpractical performances but have practically decreased the strategic misjudgments between the two countries.

Fourth, countries, including China and the United States, should never ignore the urgency of unconventional security threats at any time.

Based on the aforementioned reasons, it could be said that the foundation for the strategic cooperation between China and the Untied States is quite solid and will be more solid in the future. No individual or force can change this trend.

By Wang Fan, Professor from the Institute of International Relations Studies under China Foreign Affairs University, translated by People's Daily Online

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