China Wary but Skeptical of U.S. Pivot to Asia

作者: Richard Weitz 2012年12月11日 World Politics Review 

I recently had the opportunity to participate in a comprehensive dialogue session at the Chinese Embassy in Washington among Chinese diplomats and American experts   on China-U.S. relations. Several themes that emerged      from engaging with our Chinese colleagues in these discussions deserve wider attention. 
The most interesting among them was the odd juxtaposition between Chinese policymakers' concern about the Asia pivot with their feeling that Washington’s domestic priorities and concerns in the Middle East will ultimately derail the planned strategic rebalancing of U.S. diplomatic and military resources toward the Asia-Pacific region. 

The Chinese also insisted that their nonproliferation policies toward Iran and North Korea were close to those of the United States. Like Washington, they argued, Beijing supports a dual-track policy of sanctions and diplomacy, with the hope that a combination of such sticks and carrots will induce both Tehran and Pyongyang to curtail their proliferation-sensitive activities.

The Chinese diplomats further believed that the recent leadership transitions in both the U.S. and China will make it easier for the two countries to achieve a “new model” for their relationship. Through dialogue and cooperation, they believed that we could overcome distrust to avoid the so-called “rising power problem,” whereby China’s growing economic and military potential might trigger an American response that leads to a confrontation between the rising and currently dominant global powers. 

That Chinese policymakers are paying close attention to the Asia pivot does not seem surprising. President Barack Obama has clearly resolved to make Asia the priority in America’s strategic calculations for the coming century. He sees himself as America’s first Asian president and has, like his other senior national security team, spent more time in East Asia than in any other region. To help reduce American commitments in Europe and the Middle East, he expects U.S. allies and partners in those regions to assume more of the burden of sustaining regional security, such as by strengthening their local defense capabilities and by assuming a more prominent diplomatic role in addressing regional developments such as domestic political transitions and regional economic recovery. 

Meanwhile, Obama has also sought to encourage Asian countries, above all China but also Japan and South Korea, to apply their resources to promoting peace and development in other regions, as illustrated by his efforts to instill a more global focus to the U.S. alliances with Japan and South Korea. He especially believes that the U.S. needs China’s support to deal with the world’s most serious problems, including the domestic challenges of making the U.S. economy more competitive internationally as well as the global challenges of climate change and WMD proliferation. 

Despite the Chinese diplomats’ claims, however, there are clear differences between how China and the United States deal with proliferation problems. It is true that, more than at any time in their history, China and the United States are pursuing similar nonproliferation goals within a shared set of institutions, rules and principles, ranging from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to less formal U.S.-led nonproliferation initiatives. And while disputes and concerns remain in certain areas, the general record of China and Russia regarding the proliferation of WMD and their means of delivery has improved in the past 20 years. Over that time, Beijing has shown an increasing willingness to address U.S. concerns about its WMD-related policies. China has also joined a number of nonproliferation treaties and institutions, while adopting an expanding range of export controls that limit the sale of technologies that could potentially contribute to WMD proliferation. Especially in their declaratory policies, Chinese policymakers emphasize their desire to achieve mutually beneficial “win-win” outcomes that advance both Chinese and U.S. interests.

Yet, China has joined with Russia in 
leading international opposition against imposing rigorous sanctions on Iran, North Korea and other countries that have violated their nonproliferation commitments. In Iran and North Korea, Chinese companies have exploited the WMD-related penalties imposed by the U.N. and Western governments by “backfilling” contracts abandoned by departing foreign firms. And unlike Russia, China refuses to support let alone join the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative, which seeks to curtail the illicit spread of WMD, their technologies and materials, and the means of delivering them. 

Although Chinese leaders have warned Tehran and Pyongyang against acquiring nuclear weapons, Chinese policymakers have stressed the value of engagement with, rather than punishment of, these proliferation-threatening regimes. Fundamentally, Chinese officials want to see changes in these countries’ policies rather than in their regimes.

As for the “rising power problem,” several factors make a deliberate war between China and the United States very unlikely at any time. First, unlike during the U.S. confrontations with Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, the China-U.S. rivalry lacks an ideological dimension. 

Second, globalization has created deeper and wider economic ties between China and the United States than have ever existed in modern history between a rising power and the established power. A war between them would drive the global economy into a depression, taking both countries’ economies with it. The potential causes of conflict between the United States and China are limited, and, in the aggregate, both countries can gain more through cooperation than through competition. 

Finally, both countries have nuclear weapons. They know that any military confrontation between them therefore risks escalating into a global nuclear war, bringing mutually assured destruction as well as mutually assured depression. 

Nevertheless, U.S. officials are rightfully concerned about 
the implications of China’s risefor the regional and global balance of power and the effectiveness of U.S.-backed institutions. Historically, it is often difficult for established powers to accommodate a rising power. The lack of Chinese political and security transparency further complicates this global power transition by deepening uncertainties regarding Beijing’s goals and means. 

Above all, it remains unclear how committed Chinese leaders will be to maintaining freedom of access to the global commons. Many Chinese leaders appear to have a 19th-century view of national sovereignty in a 21st-century world, where leaders accept that they must sacrifice some of their national freedom of action for the greater common goods of international peace and prosperity.

Fortunately, Chinese views on many of these issues still appear in flux, so dialogue sessions like the one I took part in at the Chinese Embassy offer us opportunities to dispel misunderstandings where they exist and to identify, if not necessarily resolve, genuine differences. 

Richard Weitz is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and a World Politics Review senior editor. His weekly WPR column, Global Insights, appears every Tuesday.

美专家:中美极不可能开战 否则引爆全球核战
作者:2012年12月13日 环球网


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