Sat, Feb 25, 2006 - Page 8 News List

US mulling solutions to the `China challenge'

By Tsai Ming-yen 蔡明彥

Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) is expected to make an official visit to the US as soon as April. Currently, officials of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs are negotiating with officials of the US Department of State and the US Congress on the details of the visit.

On the structural level, the US has begun to face up to the impact of China's rise on various issues. This is most evident in the attitude the US has adopted in looking at the rapid modernization of China's military. It is now looking at China's impact on security in the Asia-Pacific region.

In the post-Iraq-war period, when handling international security matters including international anti-terror efforts and preventing nuclear proliferation in North Korea and Iran, the US needs to establish China's diplomatic cooperation. The US has not yet made its final judgement on China's strategic intentions. Instead, it simply regards China as being at a "strategic crossroads" and describes the complexity of relations between China and the US as the "China challenge."

There are two responses to the China challenge. One, advocated by the US Department of State, proposes that the US should strengthen its cooperation with China through bilateral cooperation to encourage China to develop in a positive way. The other, advocated by the US Department of Defense, proposes adopting a worst-case-scenario approach and resorting to substantive military measures to prevent China from developing in a negative way.

One thing that the US' Republican Party and the Democratic Party agree about is that the US should maintain a policy of engagement toward China. But when dealing with the issues of China-US relations, the Republican Party tends to emphasize realism. In other words, it is concerned about the security implications of "China's rise" and is skeptical about China's intentions in developing its military capabilities. It therefore calls for greater transparency in China's military build-up. The Democratic Party, with its more liberal stance that attaches considerable importance to cooperation between China and the US, has taken the initiative in demanding that China further promote economic liberalization and act to resolve the trade deficit with China.

Before the US makes any final judgments on China's strategic intentions, the debate over how to respond to the "China challenge" will continue. In the mean time, the key to handling China-US relations is to demand that China cooperate on international issues, increase its military transparency, and speed up the course of its economic liberalization. These will be some of the issues on which the US government seeks to exert pressure during Hu's visit.

Tsai Ming-yen is an associate professor at National Chung Hsing University's Graduate Institute of International Politics and a visiting scholar to the US on a Fulbright scholarship.


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