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US must assure China of its strategic intentions

By CHEN WEIHUA in Washington  (China Daily)

08:44, March 01, 2013

As long as the United States maintains its focus on Asia from military and economic standpoints, it will continue to face an uphill battle to convince many in China of its strategic intentions.

Various polls have shown that many Chinese see the US rebalancing in a negative light, saying it poses a serious threat to China's security.

The Chinese business community says the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free trade agreement that the US has been pushing as the key economic component of its strategy in Asia, is designed to exclude China, the world's second-largest economy.

Yang Yi, former director of the Institute for Strategic Studies at the PLA National Defense University, blames the US rebalancing policy for the worst lack of trust between China and the US since they established diplomatic ties in the late 1970s.

He described the US rebalancing strategy as being based on the misperception that a rising China is a threat and that China wants to keep the US out of Asia.

He complained about increasing US military activity in the Asia-Pacific over the past two years since the rebalancing policy took effect, and said that Washington's Asia-Pacific policies have to some extent been hijacked by its allies in East Asia.

While US officials and pundits often insist that the US has been invited back to Asia by some of China's neighbors who are frightened of an assertive China, many Chinese contend that the US rebalancing strategy has emboldened some of China's neighbors to take advantage of mistrust between the two nations.

"Bilateral relations have been damaged in the last two years. It's time for the US and China to reassure each other. It's critical for the two countries to review the mistrust and to avoid confrontation," Yang said.

He said he hoped the US would include rather than exclude China, and said the US Congress should lift some restrictions imposed on military exchanges between the two countries.

"The most difficult part for you to accept is that (the US) should be prudent in making decisions on undertaking joint military exercises with sensitive countries in sensitive areas at a sensitive time," Yang said, alluding to US allies in the Asia Pacific, such as Japan and the Philippines, embroiled in territorial disputes with China.

In a column for The New York Times last month, Joseph Nye Jr, a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School and a former assistant secretary of defense, warned that the US rebalancing toward Asia must not be aggressive and should make sure China does not feel encircled or endangered.

"The world's two largest economies have much to gain from cooperation on fighting climate change, pandemics, cyberterrorism and nuclear proliferation," Nye wrote.

Citing his experience with the Clinton administration in the 1990s, Nye said that administration rejected the notion of containment.

"If we treated China as an enemy, we were guaranteeing a future enemy. If we treated China as a friend, we kept open the possibility of a more peaceful future," he added.

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