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Choices for Sino-American Relations in the 21st Century

The United States as the strongest and wealthiest developed nation and China as the most populous developing country share a special responsibility for the future of humanity. Sino-American relations will be watched closely by the people of the world during the Twenty-First Century. There are important choices to be made. Making a choice and then working hard to implement it is the way history is made. Choices are important because humanity and states sometimes make correct, rational choices but at other time make wrong, irrational choices.

The Countries in This World Most Likely to Make Mistakes

1. The first is the United States. There are four reasons for this.

1) With the ending of the Cold War, the United States has emerged as the world’s only superpower. The United States sees itself as having won a great victory but doesn’t realize how serious and how difficult-to-cure are the wounds inflicted on the United States during the Cold War. As a result, the United States is isolating itself from the rest of the world.

2) The United States went through two hot World Wars and a Cold War to become a strong country. Generations of Americans have grown up with a clear, well-defined enemy. Therefore with the end of the Cold War, a feeling of depression came over many Americans. This lack of a sense of a clear direction affected many policies and their implementation, especially among the groups whose interests had been tied most closely to the Cold War. The proper response to this is to take advantage of the new situation that presents itself. There are many however, who are stuck in the past. These people, caught in the old logic of the Cold War, are looking for a new enemy.

3) Making the most important thing in the ideology of the people of a nation the handling of international affairs was one of the characteristics of the Cold War. The old Soviet Union was a classic example. It used any and all means to support the spread of its model of communism throughout the World. This attitude of the USSR led to the fracturing of the once formidable camp of international communism. This is also one of the principal reasons why the USSR lost the Cold War.

What the United States is doing today, as the victor in the Cold War, is planning to spread its own model of American democracy throughout the world. By making ideology the heart of its foreign policy, the United States is following the track of an overturned cart.

4) The United States is a very closed county and so can easily make false judgments. American openness only goes one way. The whole world understands the United States yet the United States does not understand the whole world. Moreover, the some in the United States don’t care to understand the rest of the world. And those who do have understanding of the world make their judgments based on their own system of values.

Under these conditions, how can there not be errors in judgment?

The book that Richard Bernstein wrote "The Coming Conflict with China" is a kind of balloon blown up based on these four errors.

China can also make mistaken judgments. Here are three reasons:

1) With the end of the Cold War, China became the last remaining large country based on Marxism and Socialism. As a result there are some hackneyed ideologists who would have China pick up the mantle of world revolution. On the international scene, there are some insulted countries who expect to see China take the lead in opposing hegemonic politics. Therefore out of ideological reasons and a sense of responsibility, China could very easily become a force that counterbalances the United States.

2) China has a very long and special cultural tradition which is the binding force that holds this great country together but is also the source of a strong nationalism. An important characteristic of nationalism in Chinese tradition is that during normal times China unfortunately has considerable internal strife but once China is insulted by a foreign power, it unites as one. This nationalism in not focused on invading other countries (this is proved by thousands of years of Chinese history and especially by the history of the last few hundred years) but is a strong reaction to actions taken against it.

Therefore despite one hundred years of depredations against China by the imperialist powers, China was able to survive. Therefore China is very sensitive to certain anti-Chinese and anti-Communist backcurrents in the international arena and to hegemonist politics. China can very easily be provoked into a narrow nationalist response and make an irrational, mistaken choice in its policy. The book "China that Can Say No" reflects this kind of emotion.

3) China carried out a glorious socialist reform movement under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping. Its achievements are acknowledged the world over. For over ten years, China has see double-digit economic growth which has made China’s national social production, national power, and the living standards of the people rise. This is encouraging but it can also give rise to self-satisfaction and arrogance. China must guard against this error.

The Chinese government has conscientiously examined the lessons of the Cold War and drawn lessons from its historical experience. In its international relations with the United States, China has out the policy of "Don’t set out to be an opponent, reduce irritations, strengthen understanding, and increase cooperation" [bu gao duikang, jianshao mafan, jiaqiang liaojie, cengjin hezuo]. This policy avoids the errors set out above. If the United States can also adopt this policy, the prospects for Sino-American friendship will become brighter and brighter. We don’t want the United States to make mistakes because the result will be disaster not only for China, but for the entire world, including the United States.

Lessons Drawn from the History of Sino-American Relations [Summary]

During the Second World War, China and the United States were allies, so relations between the two countries should have been good after the war. After the war there were two forces: the Nationalists of Chiang Kaishek and the Communist Party of Mao Zedong. Chairman Mao had excellent friendly relations with the US military representatives at Yenan.

"As everyone knows, Chairman Mao opposed Stalin’s interference in the Chinese revolution and so was never trusted by the Communist International (Comintern) or by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Chairman Mao wrote in several articles during the 1940s that that the goal of the Chinese communist revolution is to create a democratic republic like the United States of America. When the democratic movement leader Huang Tanbei visited Mao at Yenan, he asked Mao how the Communist Party would avoid the fate of the old Chinese dynasties which got off to a strong start but later became corrupt and collapsed? Mao answered unambiguously: "Democracy". During 1945 - 46 through appropriate channels, Mao expressed his desire to visit the United States. But the US government for ideological reasons and not caring that the interest groups surrounding Chiang Kaishek and his Nationalists were already corrupt, chose Chiang and gave him their full support."

Over just three years the US gave Chiang US 8 million in armaments. This US error pushed the communists and the Chinese people into an anti-American stance. The second mistake is when the KMT fell in not establishing relations with the PRC against the advice of the US ambassador in China and prominent US. China specialists including John Fairbank. The founding of new China should have been an opportunity to make a change in US - China relations. Another factor were militarists in the US such as General MacArthur who declared that the North Korea - China border is not an international border and was not the ending point for the advance of US forces, and had US aircraft bombed targets in northeastern China as part of a scheme to strangle the new-born PRC in its cradle.

So the Chinese government and people fought the United States in Korea for three years.

[Short summary of remainder of article]

The Foundation for US China Cooperation

1. The US and China have not territorial disputes. They are distant neighbors on the Pacific rim.

2. Taking a look from a long historical perspective, the United States and China are friends. The United States and China were allies in two world wars. The United States gave very important support to China in its war against Japan. The de facto strategic alliance between the United States and China that President Nixon established in 1972 made a big contribution to the eventual end of the Cold War.

3. The Chinese and US economies are very complementary. This is true in mineral resources and in industry. China cannot compete with US.

high tech products and is a big market for them. Chinese lower and middle range products find a good market in the United States. This is very different from the situation of China’s trade with Japan and Europe.

The Strategic Interests for China and the US in the Twenty-First Century

1) The fundamental strategic interest for the United States is to maintain its position as the world’s most powerful country. In history, very few countries have maintained dominance for over a century. Can the US maintain its position? With the end of the Cold War, the US is still a strong country, but is suffered wounds and so its position has declined. Japan and the European Community are rising and are now strong enough to say "No". Although the US is the strongest military power in the world, it depending on Europe and Japan to pay the bill when it fought the Gulf War. But the age of gunboat diplomacy is past. The position of world’s strongest country in the 21st Century will be a matter of which country has the greatest economic strength.

Will the United States win this competition in what will become the most intensely competitive economic century ever?

2) China’s task in the 21st Century is to achieve modernization. China with its five thousand years of history and 1.2 billion population is not a superpower but is certainly a super-society. The complexity and difficulty of the modernization of China is unprecedented in world history. China has achieved much over the past two decades but the road is still long.

When we look at how America became came to have the most powerful economy in the world, there are many reasons. Among these are rich natural resources and many immigrants to the US. But the most important reason is that Twentieth Century wars were fought in China and in Europe but not in the USA. The United States cannot count on that advantage in the Twenty-First century. Another very important factor was the great decision America made at the end of the Second World War when Europe and Japan were in ruins and the U.S. economy needed to be revived. That was the Marshall Plan. America spent US 50 billion to assist Europe and Europe bought much advanced technology from the USA.

The lesson of history is that combination of American capital, American technology and a rapidly developing market made the United States the strongest economic power in the world.

The question arise where is there a rapidly developing market that needs capital and technology? The answer unquestionably is China. China has a population of 1.2 billion. If ten percent of the Chinese people attain the Japanese standard of living, that in itself is another market the size of the Japanese market!

If 20 percent of the Chinese people attain the US standard of living, that in itself is another US market!

A Possible Choice for US - China Cooperation

Friendship and cooperation may be just a nice desire. The important thing is to put it into effect. One possible action for friendship and cooperation would be an action like the Marshall Plan for Europe in the form of an assistance plan that amounting to US$ 100 billion or more assistance for China. China by using this money to buy US technology and advanced products would promote both Chinese economic development and the growth of the US economy. Developing the Chinese market would increase its capacity to absorb US capital, technology and products.

This would also guarantee that the US would remain the strongest economic power of the Twenty-First century.

A question: Where is the American Marshall of today?

The Taiwan Problem A Very Sensitive Problem in US - China relations.

1. Chinese unification is non-negotiable. There is no room for accommodation at any price.

2. China cannot accept a splitting off of Taiwan under any formulation.

3. The Chinese people want early unification but they are patient.

Decades of separation cannot end with a single handshake and embrace.

4. A Taiwan declaration of independence would amount to a declaration of war.

Ideology and Cultural Differences

1. Ideological and cultural diversity is better than just one ideology or monoculturalism. The history of humanity proves that the competition of a variety of cultures and ideologies contributes to progress. The US is a pluralistic country. Why can’t it tolerate Chinese culture and socialism with Chinese characteristics?

2. The combination of many different cultures in harmony is a characteristic of Chinese civilization.

3. Culture and ideology to the realm of the spirit and of though.

Thoughts have not boundaries but revolution cannot be exported. Moreover, using revolutionary means, violent means, means of compulsion, or administrative means to export one’s own culture and ideology, even if its is the culture of an advanced civilization, is mistaken and will certainly fail.

4. The Chinese people have chosen socialism with Chinese characteristics. The fundamental goal of the Chinese revolution is to rid China of its weakness, make China rich, and to modernize China. Anyone without ideological prejudices and caught in Cold War thinking will realize the true nature of socialism with Chinese characteristics and will give it understanding and support.

5. America is very confident about its culture and ideology. This is a good thing and we admire them for it. Yet American has its own social problems and is far from being an ideal society. The best choice for Americans is to focus on improving their own society. If America does things really well, their achievement will have the force of truth and Chinese will learn from them. The Chinese people learn readily from other people. There are many influential intellectual works being published in China today. The Chinese people will decide what they want and discard the rest. But if the US does not focus on improving itself but instead tries to make China accept everything American, that the Chinese will naturally ask, "Is this what human rights and democracy means to the Americans?" This will result in conflicts.

Is a Strong China a Threat to the United States?

1. Is a wealthy and powerful country necessarily a threat? Just because America is the strongest country in the world, is it a threat to the world? Japan and Europe are rich and powerful but are they a threat to the United States? China is a peaceful country.

Let’s take a look at the numbers. If 10 percent of the Chinese people become rich, doesn’t this present a great market and economic opportunity for the United States? If China is poor and chaotic, wouldn’t 10 percent of the Chinese fleeing abroad as refugees create a great burden for the world?

2. China has a large population and low per capita resources. Moreover, calculating by the Chinese poverty standard, there are still 67 million people living in absolute poverty of not having enough to wear and eat. It will take at least 100 years for the Chinese to reach the U.S. standard of living.

China’s economic growth still depends upon industrialization rather than the informatization driving the U.S. economy. This is a very big gap!

China’s military only has a defensive capability. China cannot compare to the United States in nuclear weapons, in laser guided or electronically guided weapons or in aircraft carriers. China has one-thirtieth the military spending of the U.S. China could not possibly threaten the United States until the 22nd Century. That is a matter for our grandchildren. We can expect that they will be wiser than us and choose to deepen Sino-American friendship.

Preparing for Sino-American Cooperation in the New Century

The conclusion: China and the United States should choose friendship and cooperation for the Twenty-First Century. Bilateral trade rose from US$ 20 billion in 1990 to US$573 billion in 1995, an increase of 50 percent in just five years. If politicians make irrational choices that bring conflicts between the two countries, that would be a disaster for both China and the United States.

(The article is written by Liu Ji, Vice President of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Liu slightly revised a speech he made at the John Fairbanks Center at Harvard on May 27, 1997 in this article which appeared in the fifth 1997 issue of "Strategy and Management" [Zhanlue yu Guanli]. The article is presented in a shortened form in the January 1998 issue of the mass circulation digest magazine Xinhua Wenzhai on pp. 7 - 11. Below is a summary translation.)

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