New direction needed for China-US dialogues
16:44, May 12, 2011
John Milligan-Whyte and Dai Min
The most profound problem in U.S.-China relations is that when China completes the modernization of its economy, the size of the United States and Chinese economies will reflect the size of their populations. China's economy is in the process of becoming five times larger than the US economy. Plans need to be made for this eventuality in the current China-U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogue.
China should reject and move beyond the U.S. agenda in the dialogues to present a truly positive, cooperative and comprehensive grand strategy explaining to President Obama and the Americans how America can remain successful if China's massive modernization of its economy gets much larger.
The current framework of the dialogues, designed before the world suffered a series of global crises, deals with issues one by one, achieving little change. This needs to be altered by China, which must offer a positive, coherent, compressive grand strategy aligning the economic and national security of both nations.
The dialogues lack a workable U.S. grand strategy. They are incoherent and inadequate "all balls in the air" processes of dealing with individual issues rather than a comprehensive alignment of the always interrelated and often unaligned needs and goals of the United States and China. In that respect, the talks are misusing precious time and not recognizing or pursuing opportunities to effectively correct U.S. economic and national security problems. A new grand strategy providing a new framework for the dialogues is essential. The only grand strategy that can be successful is one aligning the economic and national security of the United States and China. The current incoherent and therefore ineffective strategies, tactics, perceptions and assumptions riddle the agenda with hopeless mistakes.
The Obama administration states that it is important to get along with China because of their shared interests in global stability and their deep economic ties. China holds over 1.16 trillion U.S. dollars in U.S. Treasury securities, helping finance the vast U.S. government deficit. But U.S. policymakers continue to see the relationship as a confrontation rather than collaboration. They currently can see and have not been presented by China a scenario or new policies that need to protect the United States' economic interests and this leads to them asserting U.S. military superiority.
Secretary of State Hilary Clinton for example has said, "We are in a competition for influence with China. Let's put aside the humanitarian, do-good side of what we believe in. Let's just talk straight realpolitik. We are in competition with China." She noted a "huge energy find" in Papua New Guinea by a U.S. company, which has begun drilling for natural gas. Clinton said China was jockeying for influence in the region and seeing how it could "come in behind us and come in under us...I mean, if anybody thinks that our retreating on these issues is somehow going to be irrelevant to the maintenance of our leadership in a world where we are competing with China...that is a mistaken notion. The Obama administration has invested much diplomatic effort in firming up ties, including military ones, in the Asia-Pacific. That push has won applause by some governments, particularly in East Asia, because of concerns over China's expanding clout and aggressive claims to disputed islands in the South China Sea.
A key problem for both America and China is that President Obama's current foreign policy team sees the relationship as zero-sum game. However President Obama is capable of accepting the need for different U.S. defense, foreign and economic policies towards China. Before he had his foreign policy team fully in place, he announced he was "launching a new era of partnership" with China. He was sincere, but his advisors and most American experts on China see the Asian nation as a threat rather than a partner in ensuring global economic and national security and stabilizing failed states.
The focus of the agenda for the current dialogue is only on issues important to the United States. U.S. policy proposals typically are a win only for U.S. economic and geopolitical interests and therefore have inadequate value propositions for the Chinese. They seek solutions that will be good only for the United States if implemented. But proposing policies that the Chinese cannot accept undermine U.S. economic and national security. The United States often proposes policies, such as a sudden massive revaluation of the value of China's currency, that no Chinese government could accept because of the catastrophic effect it would have on the Chinese.
Another example is that the U.S. government blocks Chinese oil companies from buying U.S. companies, or interfering with U.S. oil supplies and getting the oil it needs from U.S. enemies. Another example is the current U.S. administration's goal of increasing U.S. exports to China while increasing obstacles to China's exports to the U.S.
U.S. conventional economic and national security goals generally are to preserve U.S. hegemony. That is not necessarily harmful to China, provided the U.S. policymakers develop or China's policymakers present them with a grand strategy that aligns the economic and national security of the two nations with the largest economic and military power. U.S. proposals and negotiations at the dialogues are only about what the U.S. policymakers want. The issues focused on and agenda of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue need fundamental change.
The articles in this column represent the author's views only. They do not represent opinions of People's Daily or People's Daily Online.
John Milligan-Whyte and Dai Min are the executive producers and co-hosts of the Collaboration of Civilizations television series adapted by the eight books they wrote in the America-China Partnership Book Series published in English and Mandarin in 2009-2010. They founded the America-China Partnership Foundation and Forum in 2008 and the Center for America-China Partnership in 2005. E-mail: info@CenterACP.com