Real threats to China-US relations
allvoices.com, Mar 05, 2011
In the coming decades, the China-US relations will be deteriorating if the US doesn’t adjust its strategic positioning. It seems the Hu-Obama summit held earlier month is unlikely to dramatically ease the tensions between the two countries, let alone change the trajectory. In my eyes, one major threat to the U.S. determination to maintain its global hegemony.
To a great degree, China’s assertiveness is the result of the wishful thinking by some non-Chinese observers. The more determined the US is to maintain its global leadership, the more sensitive it is to China’s growth. It is a new version of a Chinese fable which says one sees a snake when a bow is reflected in a cup full of water. Once you believe China intends to challenge the US global primacy, it is easy to “find” sufficient evidences. In fact, many of the evidences are intentionally or unintentionally fabricated by the observers. A good case in point is that certain American commentators suggest the traditional Chinese culture determines China’s aggressive stance. They cited the example of the implication of “China”, which means “the central kingdom”. This sounds ridiculous to the majority of the Chinese people, because the Chinese people bear in minds the old motto “The moon waxes only to wane, water brims only to overflow”. This partially accounts for Deng Xiaoping’s legacy “Never to be in front”.
Once the US concludes that China is plotting to defy the US, the US is more likely to adopt the strategy to contain China. If China realizes the US is containing it, China will take measures to defend it. Now for many Chinese people, China has been forced to defend itself when the US-led coalition is encircling China. In this context, the US will find further excuses to curb China. One misinterpretation leads to another miscalculation. Understandably, the strategic mistrust between the two countries escalates. It is a spiral of conflicts, which harms the interests of both countries. Unfortunately, this is the case in the Western Pacific region today. In China, many people now believe the US is seeking to contain China even if their governmental officials reiterate that the US welcomes a growing China. To a great extent, the China-US relations is determined by how the US treats China.
Some hardliners in the US may expect to press China to further integrate into the international order designed and led by the US to serve the US interests. Some hawks are so arrogant as to dictate terms to China. They are deadly wrong. In 1900, the Eight-Power Allied Forces invaded China, but China eventually drove them out. I am sure today that the majority of the Chinese people would rather die than surrender. But, is the US today capable to mobilize eight countries to fight against China? I am not sure. Every country knows clearly that the rise of China is unstoppable. When China becomes powerful enough, will China take revenge in certain ways? I am not sure, either. China is far from aggressive, but it is expecting true respect, not only in words, but also in action.
So many problems in China are preventing it from growing into a global leadership: widening social gap, rampant corruption, ecological degradation. The country is richer, but the majority of the people remain poor. Information flow is still restricted, which I believe is a big obstacle to China’s growth. China’s global appeal is so limited while so many people are attempting to immigrate to the US. In a word, China is not so powerful as some outside analysts imagine. So I feel puzzled: How could China challenge the US leadership? Is it a strategy for American politicians to achieve national unity and enhance its legitimacy? If it is the case, the implication is dangerous. No country can be perfect. No country can maintain its primacy forever. In case some day the US lags behind other countries in more fields, how could the American people fit into the new environment? How could the US government legitimize itself then? So, we must keep vigilant: Who is fabricating “China threat”? And why?
(BI Yantao is President of World Society for Strategic Communication, and Director for Center for Communication Studies, Hainan University, China.)
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