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Washington must overhaul bipolar way of thinking

By Clifford A. Kiracofe (Global Times)

08:04, July 16, 2013

The annual China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) just concluded. Both sides can now reflect and think about the future. But can Washington put behind its Cold War mind-set, and will current US policy lead to peaceful and constructive relations with China?

Some critics believe the current US policy will lead to confrontation, and that a different US foreign policy and national strategy is needed to suit the emerging multipolar world.

Obama's pivot policy toward the Asia-Pacific represents only one element of the bipartisan consensus of the dominant factions in the US foreign policy elite. In 2008, the incoming Obama administration had the policy recommendations of this elite consensus.

The pivot policy announced in 2009 which impacts the Asia-Pacific is part of a much larger strategic global rebalancing. While it is true that the US and China have had almost continuous relations since the "multipolar" world of 1784, current US global strategy takes a narrow bipolar perspective of the post-WWII era.

The core features of this strategic perspective involve the global financial architecture launched at the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944 and the Cold War geopolitics which began as early as 1946.

US policy today involves an update of these two core features of the post-WWII era. But is such an update the right answer to US security concerns?

Some critics say "no" because US policy maintains the bipolar bloc politics feature of the Cold War era such as the "democracies versus non-democracies" confrontation.

The essence of the global rebalancing strategy is a deepening US cooperation with the EU and NATO in the face of China's rise. Negotiations for a free trade agreement with the EU are under way, and the NATO mission area has been globalized to include the Asia-Pacific.

The process of deepening relations with Europe falls under the concept of the so-called Western order. The present US policy consensus is to fortify the Western order while extending its economic, financial and other "rules" globally.

Countries perceived as not subscribing to what is called the "Washington Consensus" are expected by Washington and by European capitals to succumb over time, voluntarily or not.

Critics say this center-periphery concept is neither sustainable nor appropriate to the emerging multipolar world, and that the policy to impose the so-called Western order globally will lead to confrontation. Time will tell.

The author is an educator and former senior professional staff member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. [email protected]

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