US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick told China on Wednesday that it should take concrete steps to assure the world it will use its power responsibly and said Beijing's approach to Iran would prove its seriousness on combating nuclear proliferation.
The "essential question" for the US and the world was "how will China use its influence," because the answer would have a profound effect on international development for years to come, he said.
In a speech to the National Committee on US-China Relations, which promotes ties between the two countries, Zoellick acknowledged that "many Americans worry that the Chinese dragon will be a firebreather. There is a cauldron of anxiety about China."
China must become a "responsible stakeholder" in the international system that has enabled its success because "uncertainties about how China will use its power will lead the US, and others as well, to hedge relations with China," he said.
Noting rising protectionist pressures in the US fueled by a huge trade deficit with China, Zoellick said Beijing "cannot take access to the US market for granted."
"The United States will not be able to sustain an open international economic system -- or domestic US support for such a system -- without greater cooperation from China," the former US trade representative said.
He also urged China to open its political system, saying those who believed they could secure the Communist Party's power monopoly through economic growth and heightened nationalism were following a "risky and mistaken" course.
Zoellick, in charge of what Washington calls a new US strategic dialogue with Beijing, discussed key issues facing the two powers in the week after US President George W. Bush met Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) in the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
Amid rising US concern over China's growing military, economic and political clout, Zoellick made a strong argument for fostering greater cooperation.
"You hear the voices that perceive China solely through the lens of fear. But America succeeds when we look to the future as an opportunity, not when we fear what the future might bring," he said.
In an apparent reference to suggestions that the US seek closer ties with India as a counterweight to China, Zoellick said, "We are too interconnected to try to hold China at arm's length, hoping to promote other powers in Asia at its expense."
"Nor would the other powers hold China at bay," he added.
Zoellick said China had a strong interest in working with the US on halting the spread of weapons of mass destruction and its "actions on Iran's nuclear program will reveal the seriousness of China's commitment to non-proliferation."
Zoellick said that China needed to realize how its actions were perceived.
"China's involvement with troublesome states indicates at best a blindness to consequences and at worst something more ominous," he said.
In addition to Iran, the US is anxious about China's ties, spurred mostly by energy needs, with Sudan, Venezuela, Myanmar and Zimbabwe.
For all of China's shortcomings under communist rule, however, Zoellick said it would be a mistake to compare the country with the Soviet Union of the late 1940s.
He pointed out that China does not seek to spread "radical, anti-American ideologies," nor does it see itself in a "death throes struggle" with capitalism.