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NYTimes.com Article: Has China Become an Ally? (fwd)
by Boris Stremlin
26 October 2002 06:40 UTC
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Subject: NYTimes.com Article: Has China Become an Ally?

This article from NYTimes.com
has been sent to you by bc70219@binghamton.edu.

Has China Become an Ally?

October 25, 2002

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - American relations with China have
improved in a way that few could have imagined when the
Bush administration entered office and declared China a
"strategic competitor." Now signs of serious cooperation
are everywhere.

China has worked with the United States on the global
counterterrorism effort, will not be the spoiler on a new
United Nations resolution on Iraq, has recently adopted
stringent regulations on dual-use missile technology
exports and other proliferation issues, and is discussing
cooperation with the United States on North Korea.

Meanwhile, the White House did not oppose Beijing's bid for
the 2008 Olympic games, supported China's entry into the
World Trade Organization and even acceded to Beijing's
concerns about Islamic terrorist activities in the
country's northwest Xinjiang region, putting a key group
there on the United States' terrorism list.

President Bush's decision to host Jiang Zemin, the Chinese
president, at the Crawford ranch today is another sign of
good relations.

Mr. Bush and Mr. Jiang will then attend the Asia-Pacific
Economic Cooperation conference in Mexico, where Mr. Bush
will see the leaders of our allies Japan and South Korea.
The special treatment for Mr. Jiang highlights the
remarkable development of United States-China relations,
especially since Sept. 11.

The key reasons for this improved relationship are clear.
In the wake of the World Trade Center attacks, Mr. Bush
welcomed China's cooperation in bringing Pakistan into an
anti-Taliban coalition and obtaining a strong United
Nations resolution on terrorism. Mr. Bush has made
counterterrorism the central focus of American foreign
policy, and China has consistently and usefully remained on
the right side of this issue.

Equally important, China's leaders have been eager to
stabilize the relationship. They want to avoid confronting
the United States, especially when their domestic agenda is
full with succession and other issues. They also count on
American trade and investment to help keep their economy
growing fast enough to maintain domestic stability.

In general, China has adopted a more confident overall
approach to foreign policy. Beijing seems now to feel
accepted as a major, respected actor in the international
arena. It is actively pursuing multilateral approaches to
trade and security issues and is rapidly opening its
economy to increased foreign investment.

Its foreign policy is increasingly pragmatic, nuanced and
consistent, eschewing the petulant stances that seemed in
times past to reflect an underlying inferiority complex. In
the last year, China has skillfully evaluated and acted on
its opportunities for strategic cooperation with the United

Yet we should not forget that this relationship has long
been characterized by wide swings of emotion, from amity to
anger. It may be too early to say that the relationship has
stabilized for the long term. Here are three notes of

First, the counterterrorism effort that now provides the
foundation for strategic cooperation could become a source
of serious friction. China has no love for Saddam Hussein,
terrorism or nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula, but
it worries about American tactics in dealing with these
issues. If the United States attacks Iraq without United
Nations approval, for example, Beijing will be deeply

Beijing worries too about the aftermath of an invasion of
Iraq. The effects of a war and occupation could undermine
governments from those in the Middle East to Pakistan to

Beijing also fears a spike in energy prices. It has no
strategic oil reserve and is a substantial oil importer.
High energy prices could produce an extremely unwelcome
drag on China's economic growth.

Indeed, on several fronts, China may find that it will need
to distance itself from American policy. Beijing is also
very much aware that in the name of counterterrorism the
United States has vastly increased its military strategic
posture all around China's periphery. It has established a
military presence in Central Asia, developed military ties
with Pakistan and India and strengthened its relations with
Russia. Against this background, strategic cooperation
could in time slide toward mutual suspicion.

Second, there are vociferous critics of cooperation in both
countries who have been silent but could raise their voices
should circumstances change. In Washington, conservative
Republicans have been loath to criticize a conservative
Republican president, even over warming ties with China.
And liberal Democrats have had trouble finding their
footing on China's human rights record in the wake of new
national security concerns. But they, along with those in
the administration who hold dark views of China as a
potential military adversary, would become vocal should
relations with China begin to unravel.

In China, debate continues over America's long-term goals
and China's security. Should serious leadership rifts
develop over domestic issues, policy toward the United
States could well become part of the political battle. The
Chinese military is already highly suspicious of America's
recent enhancement of its military power in areas
surrounding China, its increased military contacts with and
arms sales to Taiwan, and its adoption of pre-emption as a
core strategic doctrine.

Third, the Taiwan issue is both hopeful and treacherous, as
rapidly growing economic ties across the Taiwan Strait are
being matched by an escalating arms race on both sides. The
possibility of disaster cannot yet be discounted.

  American interests require that we support the
maintenance of Taiwan's democratic freedom, prosperity and
security. We also have long-standing commitments, affirmed
by the Bush administration, not to support a Taiwanese bid
for independence. President Bush declared early on that he
will do "whatever it takes" to defend Taiwan. But the
administration has not taken initiatives to increase the
chances of a peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues.

These issues are intertwined and, although both sides value
cooperation, they will remain central to America's
relations with China long after the Crawford visit is over.

Kenneth Lieberthal is a professor of political science and
business administration at the University of Michigan. He
served as senior director for Asia on the National Security
Council from 1998 to 2000.


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