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US Scholars: Stronger China Not Security Threat to US

A stronger China does not mean it becomes a threat to the US and the East Asian country's rapid development is to the benefit of the whole world, including America, a US scholar says.


Michael Swaine, an expert on US-China military and security policy at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a leading think-tank in the US, paid tribute to China's rapid growth.


"It is to the benefit of the world, to the benefit of Asia and to the benefit of the US for China to be continuing to grow, to expand economically, to become more prosperous, to become, as a result hopefully, more stable and more involved in the international community," Swaine told Xinhua in a recent interview.


"I myself don't believe that if China is becoming a larger power with more capability, ... it by definition becomes a threat to the US," Swaine said.


"If China's growth were to falter, or it began to decline or to break up, I think many Americans would believe that this would be a very negative consequence for the region, for the world and for the US. It will produce all kinds of difficulties," said Swaine.


Swaine noted that the US and China have "cooperative, convergent and overlapping interests" in many areas.


"They want peace, stability and prosperity in Asia. They want the maintenance of basically market centered economies in Asia. They want to have free access to critical economic products, such as energy. They want to solve peacefully certain problems in the region such as the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, the problems of the Middle East, and the Taiwan issue."


But he also admitted there are certain areas that could become "very conflictual" between the US and China and said the US-China relationship is probably the most complicated bilateral relationship in the world.


"It combines elements of competition and suspicion with elements of cooperation and some level of trust although the level of the trust is far too low for what it should be," said Swaine.


However, the scholar stressed that "it is not inevitable that a stronger China will be equal to a predominantly threatening China that could lead to a confrontation or conflict" with the US.


The potentiality of conflict between the US and China could be averted "through very continuous steady management and engagement by the two sides over a range of the issues that may develop differences about," he said.


Actually, Swaine said, efforts are underway right now by the US and Chinese governments to try to really expand and deepen the dialogue at the senior levels of government to explicitly discuss the areas where they might disagree or agree on strategic questions. "That kind of discussion is essential."


On the US objection to arms sales by some countries to China, Swaine criticized the US blockade as "not logical." "The US does not have a good metric by which to measure what is or is not acceptable in terms of increased Chinese military capabilities," he said.


On the Taiwan issue, Swaine said it is a "very uncertain" factor in the US-China relationship.


"It could be sustained with relatively tolerable levels of stability for quite some time to come," said Swaine.


But he added that the Taiwan issue, which is closely linked to the development of the Sino-American relationship, could become a critical factor. "If Sino-American relations are very bad, then the ability to maintain the stability of Taiwan could become much more difficult."


Michael E. O'Hanlong, a senior fellow of the Brookings Institution, echoed some of Swaine's views on China's growth.


"As China gets richer, it gets more militarily capable, which is worrisome…. Yet it also liberalizes and becomes more integrated into the world community, which is promising," O'Hanlong said in a separate interview with Xinhua.


"The big question for Americans is, which of these trends is stronger, and which will dominate the other. Our strategy overall is to assume the more optimistic outcome, and try to help China develop, which of course is also good for our own standard of living," he said.


"The best bet is to hope engagement and development will make China prosperous, peaceful, and cooperative," O'Hanlong said.


(Xinhua News Agency August 25, 2005)


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