Future of US-China Relations
The hegemony of the United States seems to be increasingly threatened by the rise of China as a major economic force. The past one decade has seen China increase its activities globally reaching out to regions that were before considered a preserve of the western countries. This rise has however occasioned a crisis and it remains no secret that China is sending jitters to the America’s policy makers and many are wondering the direction the future relations between the two nations will take.
A projection of the nature of the future US-Sino relations has to be based on a historical analysis of past relations between the two nations. Such an analysis will reveal that any past conflicts between China and US have been amicably resolved through diplomacy. Taking a look at the currently pressing matters that have fuelled simmering tensions indicates that although the situation is grave, future relations between the two nations are colored with optimism; the world will see more cooperation between china and the United States than confrontation.
The relationship between China and the United States, though devoid of open hostility, can only be described as characterized by an uneasy tension. A look back at the 1960s reveals one of the most difficult era as far as the relationship between the two nations is concerned. This was at the height of the Vietnam War when the two nations found themselves led to different directions by their inherent national interests. Beijing was backing the Vietnamese communists while the United States was fighting tooth and nail to keep communism at bay.
The international system then was duo-polar with Moscow and Washington propagating ideologies that were dialectically opposite each other. Although China had not been entangled into the USSR’s snare, its national interests and political ideologies were more favorable to communism than to the western world. During the Korean War, China fought alongside USSR against the US and the UN led forces. It is only in the 70s that the relations between America and China began to thaw after the Soviet Union attacked Czechoslovakia and China began forging an economic and political partnership with the United States.
Indeed these events would lead to a normalization of the relations and a resumption of diplomatic talks aimed at easing the tension between the two countries. These past events however cannot be used as a predictor of future events. The global system has undergone radical changes since the 60s and the 70s. The need to mend ties between China and US in the 70s was created by the competition and rivalry posed by the Soviet Union. China’s refuge hence was with the US and America reciprocated the goodwill gesture by reducing its military presence in the Far East Asia.
The thawing of the tension can be attributed to President Nixon’s efforts especially with the foreign policy maverick, Henry Kissinger at the forefront. This rapprochement, as many scholars have argued, was made possible by the pressing concerns that each country had in regard to its national interests in the face of raging Soviet’s influence (Peter & Yushuo 1999, 173). One may argue that while a full blown Sino-US conflict was averted in the 60s and in the 70s, a similar fete might not be easily accomplished today as the international system has changed and also the nature of global alliances.
Certainly the global system has changed and rather than being in the sidelines as it was during the cold war, China is at the middle of a major battle with America as it seeks to topple its global dominion. In such a scenario and with each seeking to safeguard and extend its sphere of economic and cultural influence, a conflict between the two nations in not farfetched. However, the nature of the international system today fails to favor a repeat of the cold war playoff. With today’s age of globalization, more emphasis is placed on the need for cooperation than conflict.
Both China and the United States national strategies in the recent years seem emphasized on cooperation. Both these countries, though often having conflicting interests, have resulted to using international organizations to reach their objectives. China for instance, as its economic power grows and as its political influence spreads out, has taken an institutional approach in its bid to position itself in the international system. Rather than resort to what Nazly and Robert’s notion of latent pressure and revisionism (using conflict to expend political influence), China hopes to achieve dominance through international cooperation.
This is an indicator that as long as Chinese interests are not violently challenged, the relations between America and China will remain positive in the foreseeable future. These two nations will seek to utilize the diplomatic avenues and structures established during the Ping Pong Diplomacy era to resolve any arising tensions (Lester and Richard 2003: 800). The Taiwan issue has been a thorn in the flesh of the relations between China and the United States. China has continued to insist on Taiwan being its 23rd province to an extent of threatening to forcefully enjoin it to the mainland.
In essence, the bone of contention lies on the close diplomatic relations that Taiwan enjoys with America. Taiwan has for many years enjoyed US’s benevolence in both economic support and military supplies. The deep felt America’s sympathy for Taiwan lies in the latter’s pluralistic government compared to China’s system which rides on a bedrock of command economy. The issue of Taiwan has threatened to muddy the US-Sino relations and also tilt the balance of power in the region and might one of the most important factors that hasten the possibility of a direct confrontation between the two countries.
The major question revolves around how delicate the situation is in Taiwan and whether a tilt in the existing balance can escalate the worsening relations between America and China (Nancy 2005, 202). To understand the gravity of the situation in the Far East Asia, it is crucial to take a look at the intricate details that govern the ties that exist between Taiwan and US. As aforementioned, Taiwan is one of the most favored countries in Far East Asia due to its liberal democratic system of governance.
However, this notwithstanding, the US stand on the region is dictated by three factors. There is the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) passed by the congress in 1979 that established America’s quasi-diplomatic relations with Taiwan. US hence treats Taiwan as “foreign countries, nations, states, governments, or similar entities” (Albert 1995: 66). The second factor is the Six Assurances that were agreed in 1982 negotiations between PRC, ROC and the United States mostly revolving around Taiwan’s sovereignty and arms sales.
The third factor is the Three Communique which is simply joint statements made by People’s Republic of China and the United States in 1972, 1979 and 1982 respectively. These joint statements had a major impact in the normalization of the Sino-US relations in the 20th century and formed the basis of the strong ties exhibited today. A look at these three stipulations indicates that the United States finds itself in a dilemma in regard to its relationship with Taiwan and PRC.
Each country makes its own demands with the PRC claiming to have an upper hand over Taiwan and expressly expecting the United States to recognize the dominant position. A possible conflict between China and Taiwan therefore could draw America into the flare (pobzeb 2008: 129). Nothing can demonstrate the gravity of the situation better than the current tensions between China and the US over the latter’s sale of arms to Taiwan. For ages, America has had bilateral trade ties with Taiwan and has been the largest, if not the sole, supplier of arms to Taiwan.
Of late, Taiwan has made efforts to pursue mutually beneficial ties with Beijing and the latest arms sale by the United States has been misinterpreted as provocation to China. Due to increased threats of use of military force to capture Taiwan by China, Taiwan has in the recent years embarked on armament dedicating a significant proportion of the national budget towards upgrading its military and weaponry. The key supplier of the military wares is the United States; an issue that has contributed to worsening Sino-US ties especially when the issue of Taiwan is arises (Brad; 1993; pp 388.
While some may be quick to point out that the current scuffle between China and the United States over the arms sale to Taiwan as a normal bickering between nations, it is crucial to indicate that China’s loud protests against the sale is an indicator of the dominant position it holds in the issue. By extension, this might be the sole reason why the relationship between China and the US cannot spiral out of control over Taiwan. The immediate reaction of China was to threaten with the blacklisting of the firms supplying arms to Taiwan.
This is an indicator that while the United States has an upper hand in most of other confrontations with China, the issue of Taiwan has caught it bare footed. American’s national interests dictate that soured relations with China over Taiwan are not favorable to its economy. As Wenran (2010) aptly puts it, “the overall cost-benefit equation of a damaged U. S. -China relationship may not favor long-term U. S. economic interests. ” Any blacklisting of American companies hence may be a huge blow in terms of jobs and exports losses.
It is therefore tenable to assume that US will take every precaution not to antagonize China over Taiwan and thus reducing the likelihood of a confrontation between the two countries. In the economic front, although the two countries hold divergent interests, it is their mutual economic need that will avert any possibilities of a conflict. A look at the economic history of America and China indicates that trade ties were established in earnest after the successes of the Ping Pong Diplomacy. Since then, both nations have had far reaching mutually beneficial economic interests although still tempered with reciprocated suspicions.
United States has interests in China spanning over the hotel industry, manufacturing and petrochemicals amongst others. There are over hundreds of US companies with established ventures with Chinese companies making the United States’ cumulative investment in the China to run into billions of dollars. Indeed trade relations between the two nations have always been shrouded with suspicions and trade conflicts, yet fruitful efforts have always been made to ward off any full blown trade wars. The late 20th century for example was characterized by such skirmishes.
The issue of Intellectual Property Rights for instance almost spiraled out of control and was only resolved after both countries signed a US-China Memorandum of Understanding paving way to the safeguarding of US Intellectual Property. Again, only recently, after a protracted battle and campaign, was China admitted to the WTO. Indeed these are just some of the examples that indicate how the countries have over the years resolved their economic differences (World Bank 2009: 202). From the outset, odds seem to be to the disfavor of the United States should any trade wars between China and the United States ever spiral out of control.
This is a view based on a generalized perception that America needs china and its market more than China does the US. Even though the existence of the many US multinationals doing booming business in China is hinged on the good relations that America has with Beijing, it is crucial to observe that China too gravely needs a strong US economy for its economy to blossom. For a start, China holds more than a trillion dollars in US treasuries and has tied its currency value to the dollar. Additionally, the US being the largest economy in the world represents a significant proportion of market to Chinese products.
For instance, despite the economic woes that hit the world in 2009, China exports to the US stood at more than 300 billion dollars. The hundreds of US multinationals in China too provide impetus to the Chinese economy by delivering the much needed Foreign Direct Investment. Though both these nations may have conflicting economic interests, it is apparent that their economic destinies are tied to each other’s well being and it is to the benefit of both that any conflicting arising as a result of differing economic interests be cordially resolved (Zachary 2010).
The situation in Korean peninsula best explicates the possible nature of relations between China and the United States. In a rare moment, China’s interests in the region are similar to those of the United States and they both share an opinion on the possible outcome. The South- North Korea conflict has permeated for long and has taken much of the global attention in the recent years. Both the United States and China hope to foster peace in the region. The United States interests are deepened by the need to contain North Korea’s nuclear program.
China’s interests are omni-bearing and seek to most importantly ensure peace thrives in the region while still maintaining convivial relations with both South and North Korea. The cooperation exhibited by both US and China has added to the optimistic feeling that these two nations can work together in the pacification of the globe while still pursuing their own self-interest (Yoichi 2007:318). Indeed the 21st century is laden with challenges. The hegemonic power wielded by the United States for the past few decades is being challenged by one of the fastest rising economy in the world; China.
As the competition for influence and for the control of the global resources rages, questions are abound over the threat of global peace as the two nations seemingly edge closer to locking horns. The past few years have seen the tension between these nations rise due to ideological and economic differences. A historical analysis of the Sino-US conflicts and the major efforts and diplomatic talks held in the 20th century indicates that although amicable agreements were reached on the various bothersome issues, there lacked solid establishments of diplomatic and bilateral ties that would avert future conflicts.
The relationship between the two nations has always hence been characterized by mutual distrust and veiled hostility. The dialectically opposing stands taken by each of the nations in regard to Taiwan presents a stiff challenge to the possibility of cordial relations between the two countries. The divergent economic interests and the never ending trade differences could also be possible grounds for a confrontation. Without doubt, a situational analysis of the Sino-US relations reveals a grave state of affairs.
However, putting into consideration past interactions between the two countries, US’s national interests in Taiwan, the mutually beneficial economic ties and the current stand in regard to the South-North Korea conflicts provides enough reasons for optimism; the world will not witness a Sino- US confrontation in the foreseeable future. Bibliography Choucri, N. , North, R. C. & Yamakage S. 1992. The challenge of Japan before World War II and after: a study of national growth and expansion. Routledge. Jiang, Wenran, 2010. U. S. -China Fight over Taiwan Exposes a Perception Gap.
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