China is not the world’s other superpower






By Fareed Zakaria,


In February 1972, Richard Nixon went to China and restored Sino-U.S. relations that had been broken for 23 years. During that visit, Nixon held a series of critical meetings with China’s premier, Zhou Enlai, and they discussed the broad strategic framework that would guide bilateral relations. President Obama’s meetings with President Xi Jinping this weekend have the potential to be a similarly historic summit — but with an important caveat.


China has always played a weak hand brilliantly. When Mao Zedong and Zhou met with Nixon and Henry Kissinger, China was in the midst of economic, political and cultural chaos. Its per capita gross domestic product had fallen below that of Uganda and Sierra Leone. Yet Beijing negotiated as if from commanding heights. Today, it has tremendous assets — but it is not the world’s other superpower, and we should not treat it as such.The United States has been accused of having a confused, contradictory foreign policy, as each administration reverses its predecessor. This is often a mischaracterization, never more so than with China policy. Since Nixon and Kissinger opened the door, U.S. foreign policy toward China has been remarkably consistent over 40 years and eight presidents. Washington has sought to integrate China into the world, economically and politically. This policy has been good for the United States, good for the world and extremely good for China.


But many of the forces that pushed the two countries together are waning. For the first two decades of relations, Washington had strategic reasons to align with Beijing and shift the balance of power against the Soviet Union. While China was in its early years of development, it desperately needed access to U.S. capital, technology and political assistance to expand its economy. Today, China is much stronger and is acting in ways — from cyberattacks to its policies in Africa — that are counter to U.S. interests and values. For its part, Washington must respond to the realities of Asia, where its historic allies are nervous about China’s rise.


That’s why the meetings between Obama and Xi are important. Both countries need to take a clear-eyed look at the relationship and find a new path that could define a cooperative framework for the future, as Nixon and Zhou did in 1972. Both sides should seek to create a broad atmosphere of trust rather than to work through a “to-do” list.


Some Americans want to see these meetings as a “G-2” alliance of sorts between the world’s largest economies. That would not serve U.S. interests nor those of broader global stability and integration.


China is the world’s second-largest economy and, because of its size, will one day become the largest. (On a per-capita basis, it is a middle-income country, and it might never surpass the United States in that regard.) But power is defined along many dimensions, and by most political, military, strategic and cultural measures, China is a great but not global power. For now, it lacks the intellectual ambition to set the global agenda.


The scholar David Shambaugh, who has always been well-disposed toward China, put it this way in a recent book: “China is, in essence, a very narrow-minded, self-interested, realist state, seeking only to maximize its own national interests and power. It cares little for global governance and enforcing global standards of behavior (except its much-vaunted doctrine of noninterference in the internal affairs of countries). Its economic policies are mercantilist and its diplomacy is passive. China is also a lonely strategic power, with no allies and experiencing distrust and strained relationships with much of the world.”

学者 David Shambaugh(沈大伟)一直对中国抱有好感,在最近的书中写道:“中国,从本质上来说,是一个非常保守,自私自利,现实主义的国家。它只寻求自己国家利益和力量的最大化。对管理全球或者给全球强行制定行为准则漠不关心(除了它那过分自夸的不干涉别国内政政策)。经济政策则是重商主义,而外交方面则是消极的。中国也是一个孤独的战略力量,没有盟友,不被信任,并与世界上大部分都关系紧张。”

Beijing wants good relations with the United States and a general climate of external stability. That’s partly because it faces huge internal challenges. Chinese leaders want to embark on serious reform at home (described as “rectification”) and are searching for a way to generate greater legitimacy for the Communist Party, experimenting with both a return to Maoist rhetoric and a revival of nationalism. Beijing wants to rise without creating a powerful anti-Chinese backlash among Asia’s other powers.


The United States should seek good and deep relations with China. They would mean a more stable, prosperous and peaceful world. Further integrating China into an open global system would help maintain that system and the open world economy that rests on it. But this can happen only if China recognizes and respects that system and operates from the perspective of a global power and not that of a “narrow-minded” state seeking only to maximize its interests.


In other words, when China starts acting like a superpower, we should treat it like one.




6/6/2013 7:53 AM GMT+0800

China has a global vision. Their plan is obvious. They will take Tiawan by force--the US will blink--and the entire Pacific will fall to China. This will happen within 10 years. China does not have to defeat America. It just has to make us hesitate to fight them over a piece of land we already agree is theirs. Strange that no one ever discusses this.



6/7/2013 12:51 AM GMT+0800

The same force China used to conquer Hong Kong?

I think the Taiwanese Chinese will cut a good deal, and the Mainland Chinese will be very happy to pay them for the keys to the world's computer factory. China and Taiwan will fight, but for parking spaces.

Played right, it could be the Joyous Reunion, the event of the century in China. Why mess things up? The Red Army doesn't want war (no real communist does). They believe time is on their side and that all they have to do is survive to beat us in the end.

And look how their "long" strategy of waiting us out has been vindicated so far, from their perspective, and how well they're doing out of it, too. Communists who can find a way not only to have their cake and eat it too but sell cake to you bear watching, all right





6/7/2013 3:49 AM GMT+0800

@kaintuck, cannot argue your points.



6/6/2013 7:54 AM GMT+0800

In 1890 America was a great, but not global power. That changed overnight with the Spanish-American War. In 1939, America was a global power, but not a superpower. WW II changed that.

It's the underlying economy which determines a country's potential military might. Given the rapid growth in Chinese defense spending, in a decade or so, they will be a superpower.




6/6/2013 7:59 AM GMT+0800

To put China in perspective: they hold $1.2 trillion dollars of our debt. Suppose they do not show up at the next auction of treasury notes? Or if they want to cash in?

They better not be a superpower.

We hope.





6/6/2013 8:06 AM GMT+0800

But remember the Donald Trump principle. When you owe the bank $1 million the bank has you by the b*lls. When you owe the bank $1 billion, you have the bank by the b*lls. We owe China $1 trillion.



6/6/2013 8:04 AM GMT+0800

China has a pretty clear foreign policy outside its relations with the US, which is to assure its access to the energy and raw materials its economy needs. At present, that means cutting deals with the local regimes, while leaving the US with the burden of maintaining the broader international order under which China's economy operates. Unless and until the US interferes with the free international movement of goods and capital, China has no reason to act like a superpower.



6/6/2013 8:08 AM GMT+0800

China has been around for over 2000 years, several times longer than the US, and it has been focused inwardly. It could have, for instance, easily beaten Europe to the New World but it turned its back on that. I expect that China will look to its traditions, more than to Westerners' opinions, to determine how it will engage with the world. In the main that has worked well for China, after all. And it could be that it has worked well for the world, too, whatever we call or decline to call China.



6/6/2013 8:17 AM GMT+0800

China is regularly provoking its neighbors. They are attacking and stealing data from networks here and abroad in both the public and private sectors. China executes its own people for using wrong words. They are still a Communist country with the largest private army in the world. Yet no change in policy is proposed by either democrats or republicans other than to just maintain the status quo with business as usual.

I don't know how that is good for anyone here or there.



6/6/2013 8:29 AM GMT+0800

You listened to too much propaganda from CIA & NSA. usa



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