USA and China: Condemned to Mutual Success

Posted in United States | 21-Oct-05 | Author: Dieter Farwick

The Pacific - bridge or gap ?

We have covered the relationship between the US and China from various angles. In our newsletter from September 21, we focused on the development of Chinese military power projection. In earlier newsletters, we concentrated on the Chinese media and the overall situation in China.

We believe that the relationship between the US and China is one of the decisive future topics. The question remains as to how both states can design the transition process from the unipolar world of today to a bi- or multipolar world of tomorrow.

After my study tour two years ago to China, I am far from certain that China’s future as the second largest world power is a done deal. The domestic contrast between the one third of rich people in the coastal region and the remaining two thirds of poor people in the country is perhaps the single most pressing issue. This deep rift is widened by economic, financial, social, ethnic and environmental problems.

Economic growth is needed to feed the 1 million Chinese children that are born annually. There is another fundamental issue: Is economic success in the long run possible with a one-party dictatorship with no free media, a politically dependent justice system, massive violations of human rights and suppression of minorities?

In any case, no state in the world has an interest in the collapse of China - including the US. China is already too big and too important in the international economic and financial network. A collapse of China would cause a worldwide tsunami. China is globally interwoven in the net of import and export, direct investments and energy supply.

The bone of real contention remains Taiwan. Taiwan could become a time bomb if one of the main players – the US, China or Taiwan – were to make a serious mistake. All three countries should try to keep the status quo as long as possible. The trade data between mainland China and Taiwan show just how far the very pragmatic financial and economic policy has led. Is there another solution possible such as like with Hong Kong?

The US should acknowledge that China’s way to world power status is very likely. The time for confrontation has gone. The need for cooperation is the message. Both countries' leaders should look for common interests – for example settling the conflict with North Korea.

The US must increase its support of partners and allies in Asia. It should strive to avoid any coalition between China and other emerging powers. US policy toward Japan, Australia, India, Indonesia and the Philippines should aim for more denial of China’s too ambitious ideas than for more deterrence. China’s leaders must readdress the balance within the country. This is the prerequisite for a smooth transition.

The US and China must both avoid a conflict about energy. The competition for raw materials and strategic goods should respect the red line in the sand beyond which a hot conflict for resources might become inevitable. The exchange of knowledge and technology concerning renewable energy might lead to a win-win solution.

We cannot understand the present and the future without knowing the history. Therefore, we present the newsletter written by Dr. Thomas Wiegand, a German academic, who draws the line in the history of US-China relations from past to present and provides us with his outlook for a – hopefully – stable future. His fundamental plea for the future reads: Cooperation.