Redefining relations with Beijing – Taipei Times – Community News
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Redefining relations with Beijing – Taipei Times

Since then, US National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger visited China in 1971, commitment to the People’s Republic is a fundamental feature of US diplomacy. Still, the deterioration in US-China relations in recent years suggests that this policy may have come to an end.

The November 15 virtual meeting between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) could be interpreted as a last-ditch effort to salvage the relationship. This is a positive step: engagement has played a vital role in discouraging US-China clashes. Therefore, the US must renew its commitment to engagement, but with an updated approach that takes into account an increasingly global agenda.

During the Cold War, the US saw involvement with China as a way to integrate the country into the international system, rather than contain or isolate it. In a 1967 essay in Foreign Affairs, future US President Richard Nixon wrote: “We simply cannot afford to leave China forever out of the family of nations, there to nurture its fantasies, nurture its hatred, and nurture its neighbors.” to threaten.”

The end of the Cold War put the world in a historically unusual situation: the US was the world’s only hegemon. The nation’s foreign policy, including the export of democracy and liberal values, thus defined the global agenda.

This turn of events gave rise to an effort to promote liberalization in China. “A National Security Strategy for a Global Age,” issued by then-U.S. President Bill Clinton’s administration in 2000, described an engagement approach aimed at encouraging China to “implement significant political and economic reforms.”

Today, involvement with China is unpopular among US policymakers. The administration of former US President Donald Trump flatly rejected it.

Some foreign policy realists have echoed this claim, arguing that China’s entry into the WTO in 2001 facilitated its emergence as a strategic competitor to the US. According to this view, the US was naive to think that economic liberalization would lead to political reform, much less China would become a responsible member of the international community. This perspective has permeated American politics in recent years. At a time when Republicans and Democrats seem to be unable to agree on anything, they agree on the need for tough China policy.

However, this attitude has a fatal flaw. Involvement is valuable not only because of its ability to change China by driving political and economic liberalization. Engagement also shapes the international environment in which China’s rise is taking place in a way that discourages the country from engaging in confrontational behavior.

In fact, the engagement between the US and China has created the necessary, if insufficient, conditions to prevent conflict. By deepening bilateral trade and investment, the engagement has entwined the two economies to an unprecedented degree. Exports to China created 1.2 million US jobs in 2019, while the Rhodium Group estimates that US investors held $1.1 trillion in shares issued by Chinese companies at the end of last year.

As Joseph S. Nye has pointed out, the deterrent effect of interdependence increases the cost of confrontation for both the aggressor and the victim. For example, in 2010, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army urged the government to sell some of the country’s dollar holdings to punish the US for selling weapons to Taiwan. The People’s Bank of China pushed back, citing potentially high costs to the Chinese economy. The government sided with the bank.

While economic interdependence can help deter confrontation, it does not necessarily lead to cooperation. That much has become clear during the COVID-19 crisis. As the pandemic unfolded, the US and China failed to come up with a common response and resorted to mutual guilt, propaganda wars and conspiracy theories.

Today, urgent imperatives that transcend borders—such as the management of global public goods—determine geopolitics. After this month’s UN climate conference in Glasgow, the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels still remains current, but barely. Achieving this will require a massive effort, supported by US-China cooperation.

In this context, it is vital that Washington and Beijing adopt a framework for engagement aimed at solving global problems and supporting cooperation, even in times of disagreement. A detailed science and technology framework developed by Carnegie Mellon University professor Valerie Karplus suggests a strategy to embrace low-risk, high-reward opportunities for collaboration in times of tension, and pursue more ambitious initiatives when relationships fail. be better maintained.

At the same time, the US and China must embed a principle of regularity in their relationship. In uncertain times, the confrontation will most likely happen by accident. To mitigate this risk, the two powers must heed the advice of former US Secretary of State George Shultz, and commit to “maintaining the diplomatic garden” — that is, not diplomacy as an ad hoc pursuit. regard it as a habit.

In the post-Cold War era, the US approach to involvement with China was current, but the US is no longer the world’s only superpower. In the era to come, the US will be one of two superpowers surrounded by geopolitically relevant middle powers. Not only does this mean that the US needs to change its approach, but also that the middle powers – which make up a larger share of the global economy than the US and China combined – must help manage the Sino-US rivalry.

Involvement will therefore have to become a shared responsibility, with other actors having to act. This would have a positive effect on international security, improving humanity’s ability to address pressing global challenges.

Javier Solana, former EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, NATO Secretary General and Spain’s Foreign Minister, is President of EsadeGeo — Center for the World Economy and Geopolitics, and a distinguished fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Copyright: Project Syndicate

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