Opportunity for change in US-China Relations

December 1, 2012


Opportunity for change in US-China Relations

by Frank Ching (11-30-12) | Frank.ching@gmail.com | @FrankChing1

US China Relations

THE installation of a new generation of leaders in China, albeit still incomplete, provides an opportunity for change in the Sino-American relationship, now that President Barack Obama has been re-elected.

Both countries recognise that the bilateral relationship needs a new anchor. China has called for a “new type of relationship with other major countries in the 21st century” while the United States has defined the task, in the words of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as trying to “write a new answer to the question of what happens when an established power and a rising power meet”.

Clinton posed the question as a need to balance competition between the two powers and cooperation where their interests coincide. China has made it clear that the “new type of relationship” means a sharing of power, with the US making room for China.

It stands to reason that as China’s power increases, it will play a bigger role and the US has repeatedly said that it welcomes a stronger China.But China should understand that more power also means more responsibility, and it cannot expect greater influence without also assuming a part of the burden borne almost exclusively by the US in terms of providing public goods for the rest of the world.

Interestingly, China, in previous decades, had demonstrated that it has no ambition to dominate — at least, no territorial ambitions.

In 1962, after Chinese troops had easily penetrated Indian defences and marched into disputed areas claimed by both countries, Beijing unilaterally announced a ceasefire and pulled back its troops to restore the status quo ante.

Similarly, in 1979, China announced ahead of time that it was going to “teach Vietnam a lesson” for having invaded Cambodia. Again, Chinese troops moved into Vietnam, suffering substantial casualties, to be sure, but after their mission was accomplished, Beijing again pulled the troops back without taking an inch of Vietnamese territory.

Early Chinese leaders, including Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping, used the military to make a point, after which they pointedly withdrew their forces, even though — as in the case of India — the border continues to be disputed.

Today’s Chinese leaders seem to be behaving differently. Where the Philippines is concerned, for example, the Chinese have roped off the only entrance to the lagoon inside Scarborough Shoal and now control access to it.

As for the dispute over the Diaoyu islands with Japan, which calls them the Senkakus, Chinese ships now patrol the disputed area on a daily basis, challenging Japanese coast guard vessels.

The Chinese foreign ministry has made it clear that these patrol boats will not be withdrawn and says that a new status quo has been created.

It is true that in both cases, China can claim it was simply responding to actions by other countries. But that same claim can legitimately be made of China’s attack on India as well, since that was in response to Nehru’s “forward policy” of moving troops into areas controlled by China and refusing to negotiate.

In the old days, China was satisfied with demonstrating its power and then withdrawing its troops. These days, it appears, China is intent on actually gaining territory.

Much has been said of the Obama administration’s announced “pivot to Asia”. BeijingObama2 accuses Washington of stirring up trouble in the region by supporting countries with which China has territorial disputes.But China, by its moves, is very much pivoting to Asia on its own and in a much more provocative manner than the US, which makes no territorial claims.

Washington may already be sending signals to the new Chinese leadership. During Obama’s visit to Cambodia last week to take part in the East Asia Summit, he indicated American interest in cooperation in economic and trade areas and did not dwell on the South China Sea disputes. The state-run China Daily has voiced approval of this.

China, too, needs to tone down. The recent decision by China to issue passports incorporating maps showing all disputed areas as Chinese territory does nothing but infuriate its neighbours. It is another example of an assertive China not being sensitive to other countries’ feelings.

The new Chinese leadership should emulate the nation’s founders and demonstrate that, regardless of who starts a confrontation, China will not take advantage of a crisis by grabbing disputed territory.

That way, Beijing will lessen the apprehension of its neighbours. This will simultaneously create the conditions for a better relationship with Washington.

9 thoughts on “Opportunity for change in US-China Relations

  1. Both US and China must think in terms of partnership and positive engagement with the rest of Asia (ASEAN, Australia, India, Japan and South Korea). China’s handling of the South China Sea and its dispute with Japan over Diaoyu islands is being closely monitored.

    I personally don’t believe that China is a benign power in Asia. She is beginning to assert itself as an emerging superpower with a strong military and naval presence in the South China Sea. US involvement is, therefore, essential for regional security and as a check against China’s territorial ambitions. –Din Merican

  2. But i was told China is the only country which rose to be a superpower WITHOUT colonising other nations. In the days of Cheng Ho, nations paid material tributes to China, in return for military protection. China chose not to colonise those countries. This is different from the British, Dutch, Spaniards, Americans. Doesnt that tell something about China?
    Check again…

  3. Tibet now and Vietnam for a thousand years.
    Their inexorable expansion west was checked by the Muslim Abbasids and the Tang Dynasty in 751CE. A defining moment in the history of this planet.

  4. Frank Ching used to host an opinion programme for ATV in Hong Kong. He protrayed himself as a neutral host, prodding his guests with tough questions. Then he wrote articles for SCMP bashing China, so much so that one often wonder whether SCMP is using him to provoke China. Frank is also very pro-US, yellow on the outside but staunchly white on the inside.

    This article that he wrote has so many holes, he is again trying to put China in a bad light.

    1. US ‘makes no territorial claims’. Well, what are they doing in Iraq and Afghanistan? In the last 20 years, the US probably killed more non-US people around the world through proxy wars than any other nations. Frank chosed to ignore this.

    2. China ‘grabbing disputed territory’. Did he mention that after WW2, it was the US who gave Diaoyu Islands to the Japanese knowing full well that it is Chinese territory. Put aside evidence in ancient Chinese texts, just look at the world map and you will notice that Diaoyu Islands are nowhere near any other Japanese islands but are only a stone throw away from Taiwan and Mainland China. Go figure, Frank!

  5. My take on this is simple, US is Militarily powerful and China is economically powerful,so I guess it balance up,but just a warning,the status quo doesn’t always remain the same, Russia is a good example…post cold war.

  6. I’ve checked. Chinese territory today is the same since Han Dynasty – 206 BC to 24 AD! Recently, In recent decades, China became a huge economic power in a peaceful way. Compare this with Britain, Spain, Portugal, the Dutch – they went to war to become a superpower (in their times). ). Also, these days we don’t hear of China meddling with regime change, in her bid to increase her economic power. Hopefully, China will not use the same tactics as the US (“controlling” other nations), once China becomes economically and militarily powerful.

  7. This writer, Frank, is not even attempting to be frank to himself in undeservedly praising the US by claiming “…the burden borne almost exclusively by the US in terms of providing public goods for the rest of the world.” What about public goods for the Palestinians especially those imprisoned in Gaza? Are the drones killing & mutilating innocent children, women & old folk in Pakistan part of public goods too? Are welcoming this kind of public goods? Ask the others in the Middle East to get the feeling of real answers.

    Apart from those said in relative favour of China, just have a look at the Great Wall of China as the living proof to see who have been in defence and who were those involved in the intrusive attacks. The US should not fiddle around in our relatively peaceful region as they will not be fighting in our interests but in theirs, and theirs first & foremost.

  8. Frank Ching writing ANYTHING that is neutral about China? I have yet to come across it. This author is nothing but a China basher and a crude one at that and I am surprised our host has seen fit to put this piece on his blog.

  9. Last time in mid seventies, they were taught a lesson and kicked out of the region militarily by Vietnam. Now the US wishes to return by having the so-called “pivotal focus” on our peaceful region and some quarters seem to welcome it. The fact is that China has successfully made sizeable conquests economically into the very heart of the US livelihood and the majority of Americans are not happy and jealous about it. One way to attack China economically probably is to force it to incur great costs financially in acquiring more modern and expensive armament beyond its needs by having the US forces posing a threatening presence in this region. That was exactly what the Reagan Administration did to the Soviet which were driven to bankruptcy resulting in its break-up. Should we be welcoming the US forces here in its fight for its selfish interests as any later miscalculations by these two great giants can squash us in between them?

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