Expert to Chinese media: Brace for impact

By Daniel Xu
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, February 27, 2012
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Enjoy the warmth Vice President Xi Jinping brought back from his recent U.S. trip while you can, because it may not last much longer.


As the 2012 U.S. general election draws near, Chinese international relations experts are warning an "uglier than usual" wave of attacks toward China from the two major American political parties.

Speaking at a media seminar in Beijing last Thursday for the 40th Anniversary of the Shanghai Communiqué, Jin Canrong of Renmin University of China called for media professionals in attendance to maintain a level head against hurtful residues of negative campaigns in the U.S.

Jin Canrong [By Chen Boyuan/]

Jin Canrong [By Chen Boyuan/] 

"Be mentally prepared and unflappable," Jin said. "The U.S. election will not result in much impact on China-U.S. relations. There is no need to overreact [to election rhetoric] and rile up the public."

The associate dean of Renmin University's School of International Studies, Jin spent over 20 years studying diplomatic and trade relations between China and the U.S. He has authored hundreds of academic papers, columns and books as well as translated works by such key figures as Bill Clinton and Henry Kissinger.

"It looks like it will be a rather ugly contest for votes between the two parties," Jin said of the upcoming U.S. general election. He said the presidential candidates will likely paint China as a threat when discussing jobs, foreign trade and security.

"There is extreme polarization in the American society right now… the attacks will be vicious."

Jin said although China will unfortunately be caught in the crossfire, the Chinese public needs to understand that's America's business; rather than responding, China should be more concerned about its own development – especially since nothing will change after the election ends.

"The Republicans will be able to hang tough," he said. "But [Barack] Obama has a slight edge and should prevail."

China was relatively unscathed by campaign attacks during the 2008 U.S. presidential election, although both then-candidates Obama and John McCain have called out former president George W. Bush for not pressuring China on the issue of human rights.

Four years later, Obama has become the one under attack by Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney for going too easy on China.

When asked whether Obama would be the preferred victor for a healthy bilateral relationship, Jin said it would be so only because Chinese leaders are more familiar with Obama than Romney. However, he said China traditionally had a more stable relationship with the U.S. when a Republican sat in the White House.

"The U.S. Republicans generally focus a bit more on the economy when dealing with China, so that makes the relationship simpler and easier to manage," Jin said. "On the other hand, the Democrats like to go into the differences of values like freedom and human rights, and that's when things tend to go astray."

A regular at international events such as the World Economic Forum as well as domestic conferences in the media and beyond, Jin was joined at the media seminar by other panel experts including Yu Wanli and Zhu Feng of Peking University, Tao Wenzhao and Ni Feng of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and Da Wei of China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

Panelists discussed the 40 years since the signing of the Shanghai Communiqué, which ended the radio silence between China and the U.S. and set the framework for their diplomatic relations. Assistant Director Ni of CASS's Institute of American Studies zeroed in on various crises in the relationship, most of which were clustered in the 1990s during the administration of Clinton – a Democrat.

Meanwhile, Chinese scholars have often described the Bush years as smooth sailing for China-U.S. relations. Neither has it escaped anyone the fact that it was under former U.S. President Richard Nixon the two countries made their first official contact.

Nevertheless, Jin said stability is an important factor in continued diplomatic exchange, and Xi's tour across America was critical in establishing a level of comfort for high level exchanges in the coming years.

Deputy Director Zhu of Peking University's Center for International and Strategic Studies recently stayed in the U.S. at the time of Xi's state visit. He discussed his observations of U.S. media's coverage of Xi's trip, and described the American public's pleasant surprise at the Chinese leader-in-waiting's fluency in the American culture. Zhu said this personable approach to diplomacy is key to bringing bilateral relations to a new height.

Jin echoed the sentiment. "With globalization, social exchange will become an increasingly larger part of the relationship between the two countries," Jin said. "This makes the discussion of values ever more prominent regardless what kind of issues government leaders want to focus on."

Jin said this was why it remains to be seen whether Xi's level of ease with the American culture can translate to his dealings with U.S. officials. He said the next two years will be a difficult transition with the U.S.'s new "Asia pivot" tactical shift, which could potentially bring such explosive issues as the South China Sea disputes front-and-center in China-U.S. relations.

"After 2014, when China joins or comes close to joining the 'Ten Trillion Dollar Club' where the U.S. is currently the only member (in terms of GDP), much of the antagonism on a range of issues in the China-U.S. relationship will disappear," Jin said. "The U.S. will learn to work with China better then."

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