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Engagement is Better than Isolation
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US Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN) has recently announced the Senate would establish a group, the Senate China Working Group, in 2006 for a better understanding of China.


Half a year ago, two groups were established by the US Congress for the same purpose. Now a third one -- it seems US lawmakers have never paid so close attention to China before.


In fact, in recent years, China has been taken as a hot spot by the US.


Almost all US major media, think tanks, as well as a number of government officials have actively held discussions on a wide range of topics related to China, showing their unusually intense interest and enthusiasm in China.


Against such a background, the Congress, dedicated to examining foreign policy, also started seeking to get to know and understand China.


According to Coleman, the Senate China Working Group will serve to better understand China and its intention. Americans should improve their skill in negotiation with China and analyze the consequent opportunities and challenges China's rise will bring to the US.


The US House of Representatives took the first step in the group-making, but senators, with a bigger say, not only proposed a more concrete bill, but also asked for US$1.3-billion funds (corresponding to China's 1.3-billion population) for the purpose of boosting bilateral exchanges.


The implications reflected from the measures taken by the US houses to pay intensified attention to China, is multi-faceted.


First, a rising China has drawn attention from outside world.


The Congress has lagged behind in foreign policy-making, which was assigned to administrative departments. Since rising China has grown to be a factor that the US cannot afford to overlook both internally and externally, the dissatisfied Congress started involving itself in the formulation of China policy, on which tit-for-tat Republicans and Democrats sometimes agree with each other.


Second, worries stimulate wish to know China.


In the first half year of 2005, there was a wild fanfare of "China Threat" in the US, leaving a majority of congress members full of concern and worries. Believing an unstoppable rise of China, they are all the more obliged to unravel what a country they are facing, a friend or a foe.


Third, the reality urges a reasonable mind.


Some Congress members who are not so well informed in world affairs are vulnerable to the power of ideology, which naturally infuses them no positive feeling towards the "red China".


The fact, however, is the already formed interdependence between the two countries in terms of economy and trade, and their irreplaceable cooperation in politics and security. As for America, it cannot sustain with the untrue world seen from a pair of colored glasses nor can it benefit most unless it takes the reality reasonably and gets to know the other side better, hence the China groups of both houses.


The US Congress used to be the camp in which negative views on China were formed, therefore it must take some time for it to have a change. Plus the limitations of the group members and the counterbalance of opponent organizations, how big a role the groups will play in the future policy-making is still a question mark.


Nevertheless, it should be seen that the heavy negation over China, largely due to the traditional pattern of party game putting China as the blame and the lawmakers professionally overlooking the national interest when taking care of their own voters; it's also the result of few changes for them to come into contact with the country they make such judgments.


In this regard, such China working groups at least can inject some enthusiasm in their minds while adding objectivity in their views which play an immensurable role.


It has been proved that those US lawmakers, who wished to know China and actually visited China, have improved their attitudes towards China after going back from their tours. In this sense, the China working groups formed one after another are far more significant for laying a foundation in the long run and playing an incomparable role than just passing a couple of bills favorable to China.


(People's Daily January 11, 2006)


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