US Needs Clear and Consistent Set of Policies for China
by Leon Hadar
you've been following the news in recent days you might have concluded
that China resides in two parallel universes. First, there is the
geo-economic universe in which China, the rising economic power
with a huge current account surplus that is being urged by members
of the Group of Seven (G-7) leading industrialized nations (whose
finance officials met in Washington two weeks ago) to adopt a more
flexible exchange rates.
there is the geo-strategic universe in which China the emerging
Asian military power is targeted by the US as a potential strategic
competitor while it is viewed by many Japanese as a future threat
to core national interests, a perception that has been accentuated
by the recent anti-Japanese demonstrations in China.
indeed, one sometimes gets the impression that whether it's in Washington
or for that matter in Tokyo or Brussels, policymakers seem to believe
that there is no linkage whatsoever between what is happening in
their relationship with China on the geopolitical front and the
developments that are taking place in the geo-economic arena.
conventional wisdom assumes that the US and other nations can trade
with and invest in China and deal with the policy repercussions
of those economic exchanges that help transform China into a global
political power without considering their impact on their diplomatic
and military ties with Beijing.
more amazing is the way American officials tend to de-link certain
policy issues even when they operate in these parallel geo-strategic
and geo-economic universes. Hence the Americans expect the Chinese
to go out of their way to press their ally Pyongyang to rejoin the
five-party talks on the North Korean nuclear crisis, while at the
same time they are trying to project a tough American posture on
Taiwan and even encouraging Japan to form with the US a common front
over the issue.
as US policymakers had concluded during the Cold War as they managed
their relationship with the former Soviet Union, you cannot avoid
employing a policy linkage when you are dealing with other powers.
It didn't make sense then to de-link US nuclear arms negotiations
with Moscow from the issue of Soviet expansionist policies in the
third world regions of the world. In fact, such linkages permitted
the Americans to deal more effectively with the Soviets and provided
opportunities for "package deals."
US markets to exports from Japan and East Asia was part of a strategy
to strengthen the economies of America's anti-Communist allies in
the Pacific. Even agreements by America's economic partners to stabilize
the US dollar or the price of oil were very much part of the Western
strategy to assert their power vis-à-vis the Soviets and
a way, what seems to be missing from the diplomatic and economic
policies towards China that have been pursued by the US and its
partners is a coherent vision of their national and common interests
vis-à-vis between the two sides. The result is a mishmash
of policy attitudes towards the Chinese that don't make a lot of
sense if you take a look at the broad picture: China as a place
where American companies can make a lot of money. China as a threat
to the American economy. China as a threat to American interests
in Asia. China as a partner of the US in resolving the North Korean
crisis. And the list of inconsistent policy tracks goes on and on.
what is needed now more than ever, is a construction of a clear
US policy that would articulate Washington's view of China's rise
as an economic and political-military power and would provide for
a set of consistent policies that could also serve as a focus for
a discussion of US allies in East Asia and Europe. That in turn
will create an environment where policy linkages and "package deals"
with China can be agreed on.
Washington shouldn't allow its somewhat confusing positions on Taiwan
and North Korea to determine its policies towards China. Its approach
towards China should create the basis for its policies towards those
two regional problems and produce opportunities for bilateral and
multilateral package deals.
the US and other leading economic powers want China to respond to
their concerns they should treat it like a leading economic power
and invite it to join the G-7/8 club and ASAP.
Hadar [send him mail] is
Washington correspondent for the Business
Times of Singapore and the author of the forthcoming Sandstorm:
Policy Failure in the Middle East (Palgrave Macmillan).
© 2005 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved. Reprinted
with permission of the author.