Chinese policy analyst strips away official talk about mutual cooperation
Straits Times 4 April 2012
BOAO (CHINA): Beijing’s senior leadership increasingly views the competition between the United States and China as a zero-sum game, with China the likely long-range winner if the US economy and domestic political system continue to stumble, according to an influential Chinese policy analyst.
China views the US as a declining power, but at the same time believes Washington is trying to fight back to undermine, and even to disrupt, the economic and military growth that points to China becoming the world’s most powerful country, says Professor Wang Jisi, the co-author of Addressing US-China Strategic Distrust, a Brookings Institution in Washington and the Institution in Washington and the Institute for International and Strategic Studies at Peking University..
Pro Wang, who has an insider’s view of China’s foreign policy from his positions on advisory boards of the Chinese Communist Part(CCP) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, contributed an assessment of Chinese policy towards the US.
Professor Kenneth Lieberthal, director of the John L. Thornton Centre for China Studies at Brookings, and a former member of the National Security Council under president Bill Clinton, wrote the appraisal of Washington’s attitude towards China.
In a joint conclusion, the authors say the level of strategic distrust between the two countries has become so corrosive that, if not corrected, they risk becoming open antagonists.
The US is no longer seen as”that awesome, nor is it trustworthy, and its example to the world and admonitions to China should therefor be much discounted”, Prof Wang writes.
In contrast, China has mounting self-confidence in its own economic and military strides, particularly the closing power gap since the start of the Iraq War. In 2003, he notes, American’s gross domestic product was eight timers as large as China’s, but today it is less than three times larger.
Prof Wang’s candid writing is striking because of his influence and access in Washington and Beijing.
Prof Wang, who is dean of Peking University’s School of International Studies and a guest professor at the National Defence University of the People’s Liberation army, has wide access to senior US pol;policymakers, making him an unusual repository of information about the thinking in both countries.
He said he did not seek approval from the Chinese government to write the study, nor did he consult them about it.
It is fairly rare for a Chinese analyst who is not part of the strident nationalistic drumbeat to strip away the official talk by both the US and China about mutual cooperation.
Prof Wang and Prof Lieberthal argue that, beneath the surface, both countries see deep dangers and threatening motivations in the policies of the other.
Prof Wang writes that the Chinese leadership, backed by the domestic news media and the education system, believes that China’s turn in the world has arrived, and it is the US that is” on the wrong side of history”. In sum the period of “keeping a low profile” a dictum coined by the Chinese Leader Deng Xiaoping in 11989, and continued until now by outgoing President Hu Jintao, is over, he warns.
“It is now a question of how many years, rather than how many decides before China replaces the US as the largest economy in the world.”
China’s financial successes, starting with weathering the 1998 Asian Financial crisis and the 2008 global financial crisis, the execution of events like the Beijing Olympics and the Shanghai Expo in 2010, contrast with the US’ alarming” deficit, sluggish economic recovery and polarized domestic politics, Prof Wang says.
He does not address head- on the far superior strength of the US in military weaponry. But he notes that China has developed advanced rocketry and space technology and sophisticated weapons systems, without “the United States or the US-led world order”.
In the face of China’s strengths, and worries that the US will be displaced form its premier position in the world, Washington is engaged in various activities, including stepped-up spying by US planes and ships along China’s borders that anger Beijing, Prof Wang writes.
Promotion of human rights in China by US-supported non-governmental organizations is viewed as an effort to Westernize the country and directly undermine the CCP, a stance the party will not stand for, he says.
That China is increasingly confident that it will prevail in the long run against the US is backed, in part, by Prof Lieberthal’s appraisal of US policy towards China.
He cites findings from US intelligence based on internal discussions among crucial Chinese officials who ass,en”very much a zero-sum approach” when discussing issues directly and indirectly related to Us-china relations. Because these are privileged communications not intended for public consumption, US officials interpret them to be :particularly revealing of China’s ‘real’ objectives”, Prof Lieberthal writes.
In turn, America’s enforcement officials see an alarming rise in Chinese counter-espionage and cyber attacks against the US that they conclude are directed by the Chinese authorities to gather information of national interest.
At a seminar last week at Tsinghua University in Beijing, where Brookings funds a study centre, Prof Lieberthal said there was an increasing belief on both sides that the two countries would be “antagonistic in 15 years”. That would mean major military expenditures by both countries to deter the other, and pushing other countries to take sides.
“The worst case is that this could lead to actual armed conflict, although that is by no means a necessary consequence of mutual antagonism,” Prof Lieberthal said in an interview.
NEW YORK TIMES