Thu, Jul 31, 2014 - Page 8 News List

Spoiling China-US tango dangerous

By Lee In-ming 李英明

Sino-US relations have seen astonishing developments over the past few months. On July 9 and 10, the sixth round of the China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue was held in Beijing, and on July 13, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) set off on a trip to Latin America during which he took part in the sixth BRICS summit in Brazil. At the summit, he directed talks about establishing a new central bank, dubbed the New Development Bank. In addition, China is considering the establishment of an international financial institution as an alternative to the World Bank, called the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

China was for the first time invited to join the US Navy in the Rim of the Pacific Exercise, which started on June 25. Then, on July 1, the Japanese government formally lifted the ban on its right to “collective self-defense,” which the US voiced support for the very next day.

Over the past few years, China has constantly emphasized that it wants to establish a new relationship with the US, while Washington has been busy putting its “return to the Asia-Pacific” strategy into action. However, many people are confused about the meaning of “a new major-power relationship between the US and China,” Washington’s return to an Asia Pacific strategy and Sino-US relations in general. A closer look at the interactions between China and the US over the past few years reveals that they have been engaged in a nonstop, postmodern strategic tango.

The strategic maneuvering between Beijing and Washington is characterized by strength and softness, and heavy and light moves as they each struggle to take the lead as well as communicate with an eye to cooperation. As all of this is going on, there is tension, as the negotiations are mixed with a sense of imminent slaughter.

The tango consists of three main parts:

First, in the post-Cold War era, neither Beijing nor Washington can act like they did during the days of the former Soviet Union, waving a moral flag, stating what is right and wrong, and creating simplistic and opposing alliances.

Second, in a globalized world, politics and military affairs as well as economic and cultural issues are all interrelated and can no longer be separated from each other. This means that no one is likely to engage in unilateral confrontation that ignores all other aspects, and that no unilateral confrontation would ever be undertaken without also including cooperative aspects or dialogue.

Third, neither China nor the US is so strong that it can oppose the other without also looking for ways to cooperate.

Washington’s strategic moves in the Asia Pacific, especially in East Asia, can be characterized by the following few points:

First, the US hopes that relations between China and the countries with which it has territorial disputes, like Japan, Vietnam and Philippines, will remain in a state of incomplete conflict resolution — somewhere between war and political dialogue or reconciliation — because this would give the US a reason to continue getting involved in East Asian affairs. It would also allow the US not to have to risk direct conflict with China, while also avoiding the great pressure of having to decide whether to give China’s competitors direct military assistance and get involved in potential conflicts.

Second, the US hopes that cross-strait relations will remain in a state of incomplete resolution, somewhere between war and political dialogue or reconciliation. This is why the US on the one hand opposes Taiwanese independence and supports cross-strait economic interaction, integration and dialogue, while it at the same time does not support the establishment of a cross-strait military confidence-building mechanism or political dialogue.

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