'New Model' seeks to redefine US-China ties

By Zhao Minghao
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, October 30, 2015
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Just days after President Xi Jinping ended his state visit to the United States, the Obama Administration announced the conclusion of the TPP negotiation. The U.S. military announced there would be more actions in the South China Sea targeting China. Apparently, the challenges facing China-U.S. relations will not disappear simply because of one presidential meeting. There will still be times when they get upset by the other decisions. Beijing and Washington need to think of ways to translate the important agreements reached at the top level into reality, and stop the relationship from slipping into strategic confrontation.

The concept of "new model of major-country relationship" proposed by Beijing got a cold response from many in the U.S. foreign policy circles. Some even appealed to the Obama Administration to completely reject it. Last July, at a congressional hearing on the South China Sea, Andrew S. Erickson said, "Two particularly problematic formulations favored by Beijing (and their variants) must be banished from the lexicon of American official discourse: 'The Thucydides Trap' and 'New-Type Great Power Relations.'" Such sentiments, especially those from the younger generation of policy makers and analysts, have got Beijing's attention.

It is interesting to note the generational difference among American experts on China. This is an important factor which can have an impact on the future trend of China-U.S. relations. Seasoned diplomats and scholars such as Stapleton Roy, Kenneth Lieberthal and David Lampton represent the generation who witnessed how China left behind its anger and isolation of the Mao era in the 1970s, and integrated itself into the global community. But Andrew S. Erickson belongs to the younger generation which knows China as an emerging power. His generation includes Abraham Denmark, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia, and Ely Ratner, Deputy National Security Adviser to Vice President Joe Biden.

The younger generation might not be familiar with what China was like more than 30 years ago, but they sure have seen how China has changed in the past ten, or even three years. They tend to be much more hardline in dealing with China. Whatever China does, they see it in the context of the rise of a big power and power politics. China, in their eyes, is a 21st-century version of Germany, Japan, and the Soviet Union.

On the other hand, to many in China, the definition of "major country" or "great power" remains the same as it was in the 20th or even 19th century. However, with the passage of time, that definition needs to be, and is being, rewritten. Restraint and cooperation rather than trying to defeat one another in the battlefield is the only way to ensure shared success and prosperity for all big countries. Turning the South China Sea into its own "lake" will only thwart China's rise. In this day and age, it would be a mistake for China to embrace the concept of "sea power" established by 19th-century Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan. The United States needs to wake up to the reality that the primacy it has enjoyed in the Asia-Pacific in the past few decades will not last forever. It must remember that responsibility-sharing can only be achieved through power-sharing.

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