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  • Incompatible Partners:The Role of Identity and Self-Image in the Sino-U.S. Relationship

This article examines identity as an underexplored factor complicating U.S.-China relations and concludes that the identity variable contributes to mutual suspicion and frustrates efforts in conflict resolution.


China, identity, nationalism, International Relations

Executive Summary

This article examines identity as an underexplored factor complicating U.S.-China relations and concludes that the identity variable contributes to mutual suspicion and frustrates efforts in conflict resolution.

Main Argument

Many scholars and pundits have concluded that the noticeable downturn in U.S.-China relations in 2010 was merely an intermittent low in the broader "high-low" dynamic that characterizes the relationship. This article argues that recent tensions can also be understood as part of larger, macro-level suspicions stemming from the disparate identities that pervade bilateral relations. Analyzing the historical processes that have helped shape these identities and using four case studies to illustrate this phenomenon in action, this article argues that China and the U.S. have produced incompatible self-images, which, when interfaced, work at cross-purposes with each other. These dueling identities, if unmanaged, have the capacity to undermine cooperative relations in the long term. However, both countries could mitigate the identity variable by acknowledging the historical and cultural barriers precluding greater cooperation, as well as by utilizing multilateral mechanisms to address issues of common interest.

Policy Implications

  • • Policymakers on both sides underappreciate how much the identity factor militates against long-term, healthy relations between the U.S. and China.

  • • China plays up its victim identity during times of conflict with the U.S. to seek leverage and legitimacy, which increases the likelihood of prolonged tension and misinterpretation.

  • • Future events in East Asia and beyond have a high likelihood of arousing reactions related to the identities of the U.S. and China, which could frustrate efforts in conflict resolution.

  • • Multilateral platforms, such as the UN and the ASEAN Regional Forum, offer promise for diffusing identity tensions in the pursuit of cooperation on issues of common concern.

  • • U.S. policymakers should understand that Chinas strong rhetoric is often meant to assuage an increasingly nationalistic and hawkish domestic audience rather than as a signal of conflict escalation directed at the U.S. [End Page 134]

More than half a century since the founding of the Peoples Republic of China, it is still widely believed among Chinas political elites that the United States, joined by other hostile external forces, is intent on efforts to conquer, divide, destabilize, and demonize China.1

— Wang Jisi, Dean of the School of International Studies, Peking University

Two major incidents in 2010 soured relations and increased mutual consternation between the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) and the United States: joint naval exercises between the United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK) off the Korean Peninsula following the sinking of the Cheonan and Secretary of State Hillary Clintons speech at the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) affirming U.S. "national interest" in the peaceful resolution of territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Both events, albeit for different reasons, elicited strong negative reactions from Beijing, further aggravating a relationship already struggling to find areas of mutual interest. Some scholars and pundits attributed this discord to the "ups and downs" of a complex relationship characterized by varying degrees of cooperation and conflict.2 However, such an explanation only highlights the manifestations, not the drivers, of increasing tension.

This article explores identity and self-image in the Sino-U.S. relationship as underexamined factors that help provide context for understanding why both countries continue to view each other with suspicion. China and the United States have, over time, created and burnished fundamentally distinct identities for themselves, which, when interfaced, work at cross-purposes with each other.

China has built what I call a "repressed victim"3 identity, perceiving the West, and more specifically the United States, as treating China unfairly and seeking to contain it. Beijing fears U.S. manipulation in international strategic terms, exploitation in economic terms, and subversion in political and ideological terms and frequently draws parallels between U.S. hegemonic action and China's [End Page 135] "century of humiliation" (1842-1949) to justify this narrative. At times, such a perception can breed a conspiratorial view, which predisposes Beijing to see ill intentions behind U.S. policy toward China. China has chosen to perpetuate this identity in apparent contradiction with its successful emergence as a powerful, prosperous nation. It also accentuates this victim identity during times of conflict with the United States to seek leverage and legitimacy. This adds a level of complexity to U.S. negotiating tactics that increases the likelihood of prolonged tension and misinterpretation.

Alternatively, the United States has created what I call a "global protector" identity, seeing its role in the world as necessary for maintaining global peace and prosperity. This is an image forged out of the ruins of World War II, when the United States performed the role of security guarantor in many parts of Asia and Europe. From the U.S. perspective, this role is derived from and inspired by a unique responsibility in the world to actively maintain and promote the Western liberal economic order (maintenance of free trade and unimpeded access to shipping lanes) and democratic peace (allowing open, democratic societies to exist free from coercion and belligerence). This identity is reflected in U.S. "interventionist" behavior abroad and the continued sustenance of bilateral and multilateral security alliances.

These two identities work in subtle but influential ways to produce actions and reactions that hinder the development of positive bilateral relations. The contours of these identity structures are not fully appreciated by policymakers in either country and are often misinterpreted as aggressive or antagonistic stances toward each other. Examining identity and perception can help illuminate how the actions of states are perceived fundamentally differently by other states, depending on the prism through which the intent of those actions is discerned. Historically, there has been a marked inability of the United States and China to appropriately gauge their identities and understand the ways in which they produce unintended conflict. Each country tends to fall into a pattern of filtering the other's actions through its own framework of understanding. This often opens expectation gaps, breeds misunderstanding and mistrust, and in some cases leads to conflict.

Calling attention to the role of identity in the U.S.-China relationship does not require discounting other equally important factors that contribute to mutual mistrust, such as divergent national interests or power transition dynamics. Scholars and policymakers involved in the study of U.S.-China relations have offered important analytic models that help us better understand [End Page 136] this multilayered and complex relationship.4 The goal of this article is to examine identity as an underappreciated element that complicates the abilities of Chinese and U.S. decisionmakers to resolve differences when tension arises. Specialists, policymakers, and students of U.S.-China relations need to take into account how incongruent identities add to the policy difficulties the two sides face as they deal with a wide range of issues.

Any attempt to analyze identity in international politics is admittedly fraught with analytical challenges. The term itself can encompass a wide variety of disparate indicators such as culture, beliefs, civilization, ideology, and emotions, all easily cloaked in monolithic terms. For the purposes of this analysis, therefore, "state identity" is defined as a set of broadly accepted representations of a country's cultural and societal beliefs about its own orientation in the international political arena, as manifested by the rhetoric of official policy, academia, and popular culture. This interactive view necessitates exploring not only the rhetoric of political elites but also reaction from a broad swath of the public, including commentary from scholars in the press, public opinion polls, and posts by netizens in Internet chat rooms. These unofficial voices are useful in illuminating the emotional factors at play behind the official rhetoric from policy elites and commentators in the media. In this regard, it is important to point out that while this analysis attempts to highlight an important analytic strand in the identity structures of the United States and China, it does not seek to discount the identity constructs and interpretations suggested by other scholars.5

The article is broken into four parts. First, it provides a brief overview of the literature on identity in international relations. Second, it analyzes how historical, cultural, and political factors have shaped the self-images of the [End Page 137] United States and China. Third, it provides four case studies that illustrate the interplay of these two identities in practice: the 1999 U.S. bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, the 2010 U.S. "national interest" policy statement on the South China Sea, the 2010 U.S.-ROK joint naval exercises in response to the Cheonan sinking, and U.S.-Chinese cooperation in 2009 on UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1874. Finally, the article concludes by analyzing what these case studies tell us about the future of U.S.-China relations.

"State Identity" in International Relations

State identity can be broken down into two dimensions: the internal dimension, which refers to the representations of the beliefs held by elites and the general public within the state itself; and the external dimension, which are the representations of and beliefs about that state among the elites and publics in other states.6 This article will focus primarily on the internal dimension—that is, on how China and the United States understand their own places in the international sphere and the factors that have led to those understandings—and argues that major historical events have been catalysts for shaping the internal character of both countries. The world the United States inherited after World War II was crucial in shaping its identity, just as the century of humiliation has continued to produce lasting negative effects on the Chinese psyche and state.

By itself, identity cannot act as a causal determinant of state interest and policies. It always requires interpretation and linkage to particular actions. Only through the broadly understood process of "state identity politics" can identity shape the articulation of interests and actual policies.7 The term state identity politics refers to various attempts by state representatives and other political actors to reinforce, weaken, or redefine the current representations of the state and the beliefs about appropriate behavior in order to influence the states foreign policy or its relations with other states. As will be illuminated in the case studies, policymakers from the United States and China frequently use state identity politics to legitimize their actions, which tends to increase tensions during times of bilateral conflict. [End Page 138]

Slightly reframed then, state identity, especially as it relates to the interpretation of history and culture, affects every country's interactions with other states. A state's identity not only bequeaths some of the substantive issues on its foreign policy agenda but also affects foreign policy decisionmaking when leaders draw from past experience or invoke analogical reasoning that places a country's current circumstances within a broader cultural and historical context.

Scholars have recently started examining how intangible cultural and ideational factors affect tangible foreign policy decisions. Historians such as Akira Iriye practice a cultural approach to diplomatic history that recognizes that "nations, like individuals...develop visions, dreams and prejudices about themselves and the world that shape their interactions."8 International relations (IR) theory has seen parallel developments, with scholars employing constructivist notions of "perception" and "image" to explain cooperation and conflict in the international arena.9 Robert Scalapino points out how national identity has become a focus not so much on the state itself but rather on the "way in which people, and especially policy-making elite[s], perceive the essence of their nation in relation to others, which becomes the psychological foundation for the role and behavior patterns of a country in the international arena."10 Such a focus on images and identity in IR studies offers a new approach for examining the origins of conflict and cooperation in the global system. While intangible factors such as the thoughts and feelings of a country's leaders or citizens are difficult to decipher empirically, many theorists are beginning [End Page 139] to examine how emotions, history, and culture mix together and influence a country's foreign policy decisions in subtle but important ways.11

Identities are not formed simply in a vacuum, however. In addition to states forming distinct internal identities, they also develop perceptions about their national identity through a complex web of interactions with other states and the international system. Based on their perceptions of how other states view them, states then recalibrate their own views of "self." Michael Ng-Quinn argues that while "a state's identity is collectively constructed by its members," it is also "a function of the state's changing interaction with other states." Therefore, discrepancies between internal and external expectations and realities may cause identity confusion and incongruent policies.12 Similarly, Samuel Kim remarks that "a state actor in the international system understands other states based on the identity it ascribes to them, and it often responds accordingly."13

Thus, to understand how actors in international relations are perceived, it is important to examine not only the self-image that an actor has fashioned for itself, but also how the perceiver, or external actor, apprehends that image. In the U.S.-China context, both self-perceptions and external perceptions continue to shape each country's expectations for the other, which guide the interpretation of actions and intentions.

China: The Repressed Victim

To the international community, China is a superpower. It is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has acceded to the World Trade Organization, and hosted the 2008 Summer Olympic Games to great fanfare and success. It has a modern military that is becoming capable of asserting power beyond its borders. It has overseen a period of economic growth unprecedented in modern history, sustaining annual GDP growth rates of 8%-10% for [End Page 140] over three decades and surpassing Japan as the second-largest economy in the world.14

Yet beneath this success exists a negative internal identity that persists to this day, grounded in feelings of disrespect and victimization at the hands of Western nations and Japan. This victim narrative has been actively nurtured by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). During conflicts with other states, in particular the United States, the CCP frequently gives significant latitude to nationalist protests highly tinged with a victim mentality to bolster Chinese legitimacy and moral righteousness.

The key to understanding the persistence of China's victim identity can be traced back to its experience during the century of humiliation, when it suffered defeat and loss of territory at the hands of Western powers and Japan. These events deeply scarred China's national self-perception and shattered the preexisting Chinese view of the world, precipitating what psychologist Vamik Volkan describes as "the struggle of the indomitable Chinese people against imperialism and a tragic history of suffering, beatings, and extraordinary humiliations."15 The current CCP leadership takes pains to remind the Chinese citizenry that the century of humiliation should be remembered as an important and painful lesson of how Western powers, particularly the United States, have treated China in the past.

The China we see today is a vastly changed nation—powerful, prosperous, and hugely influential in global politics. Yet it still views the West and the United States with suspicion. Four factors help explain the endurance of such suspicion. First, in the post-Cold War era the major powers of the international system, confident of their liberal democratic identities and their political and social achievements, have increasingly labeled China as "the last bastion of Communism" standing against liberal democracy and democratization. China is thus defined as the "other."16 Second, China's poor record on human rights has provoked frequent criticism of the country's legitimacy as a responsible power by the Western powers that continue to dominate the international system and set its normative agendas.17 Third, the rise of Chinese economic and military [End Page 141] power has sparked fear among a number of Western observers, resulting in the "China threat" thesis. Fourth, the CCP's "patriotic education campaign," initiated in the early 1990s, continues to highlight China's traumatic experiences at the hands of the West and Japan as a means of legitimizing CCP rule.18

China was and still is seen by many scholars and pundits as a revisionist power bent on altering the Western-centric status quo of the international system and reluctant to conform to its norms.19 To these observers, this latter point is demonstrated by China's numerous political disputes with other members of the international community, such as its maritime and border disputes with countries in Southeast Asia, its sometimes bellicose reaction to U.S. presence in the South China Sea, and its threat to use force to unify Taiwan with the mainland.

Conversely, the "China threat" thesis has created a strong sense among Chinese elites that the PRC is being unjustly treated within the international system.20 Many believe that "the proponents of the thesis are in fact unwilling to see an independent, powerful, prosperous China stand proudly in the East,"21 and that China is being targeted because "Westerners often subconsciously judge whether a nation is a friend or enemy by its racial or cultural attributes and national power, just as they did in the nineteenth century, when they unfairly humiliated China based on racial and civilizational characteristics."22 Chinese policymakers still remember a time in the not-too-distant past when China was alienated from key members of the international system, in many cases as a direct result of efforts and actions by the United States. The perceived [End Page 142] grievances include preventing the PRCs territorial unification with Taiwan, creating "threatening" military alliances with some of China's neighbors, obstructing Beijing's establishment of diplomatic relations with a number of states, imposing a strict trading embargo upon the country, and organizing a coalition that sought to deny it the China seat in the United Nations until 1971.

China's political isolation following the Tiananmen Square incident served to strengthen popular Chinese perceptions that the country continues to be persecuted by the great powers of the international system. Deng Xiaoping noted the following in November 1989, when China faced international condemnation and sanctions for its brutal suppression of the demonstrations:

I am Chinese, and understand the history of foreign invasions of China. When I heard that sanctions against China had been decided at the G-7 summit, I immediately thought of the time when the Eight-Nation Alliance [sent to suppress the Boxer Rebellion] invaded China in 1900. With the exception of Canada, all the countries [in the G-7], with the addition of Tsarist Russia, were members of the Alliance.23

By using the historical analogy of the century of humiliation to contextualize the international situation that China faced in 1989, Deng's interpretation implies that China continues to suffer from the interference of Western powers in its internal affairs, just as it had one hundred years ago, and in this sense he contributes to strengthening China's sense of victimhood.24 During a speech at the sixth plenary session of the seventeenth CPC Central Committee in October 2011, President Hu Jintao evoked a similar historical narrative when he warned CCP members to "see clearly that international hostile forces are intensifying the strategic plot of Westernizing and dividing China, and ideological and cultural fields are the focal areas of their long-term infiltration,"25

The 2008 riots in Tibet offer a more recent example of perceptions among Chinese citizens of alienation from the international system and mistreatment by the U.S. media, which many Chinese believe represents the sentiments of the U.S. government. U.S. reporting on the event galvanized the Chinese populace into linking foreign criticism with Western and U.S. intentions to "split China apart." Many in China perceived an orchestrated Western smear campaign to delegitimize and humiliate Beijing before the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, [End Page 143] believing that such treatment fit squarely in a long historical narrative of Western countries "interfering in China's sovereignty" and "frustrating China's efforts in becoming a great power."26

China resists such criticism by attempting to regain the moral high ground, and its victim identity plays a critical role in this effort. The term "victim" denotes that the international system's actions toward China are unjust and thereby creates a narrative that the country is undeserving of such treatment. Consequently, the Chinese state is depicted as a principled, moral actor in international politics. Many Chinese commentators argue that China has always upheld values such as peace, justice, and harmony in international relations and that any dissenting interpretation represents an attempt to make China out as an enemy.27 In referring to this illustrious dynastic heritage, Chinese policymakers maintain that China was never a hegemonic ruler that relied on force or coercion (qiang po) but rather was a great power that attracted other countries by virtue of its economic wealth, superior culture, and benevolent moral rule (wang dao).28

Finally, there is a powerful linkage between China's identity as a victim and its historical experience with territorial loss and intrusion. Under contemporary discursive conceptions of statehood, sovereignty is at the core of a nation's identity. It is "the gauge and emblem of a nation's freedom."29 Thus, not only is the establishment of a sovereign state essential for a people to retain material control of its homeland, but sovereignty is also a symbol of a people's ability to resist outside oppression and ensure the safety and perpetuation of its political and cultural existence. According to this understanding, the concept of sovereignty over territory provides the ultimate defense against threats to the survival of the community by legitimizing the exclusion of outside powers deemed threatening.30 By extension, then, a loss of sovereignty, as China experienced during its century of humiliation, delegitimizes the state and its sense of selfhood. This concept is important for understanding China's acute sensitivity to issues of territorial integrity. Anxieties about state legitimacy contribute to China's strong reaction to territorial disputes that threaten to [End Page 144] impinge on its sovereignty and help explain the country's strong aversion to perceived foreign interference around its periphery.

The United States: The Global Protector and Pacifier in East Asia

The world order and security structure that emerged after World War II fundamentally changed U.S. engagement and intentions in global politics. The United States saw itself as acting with the heavy responsibility of underwriting security and peace throughout many parts of the world, including in East Asia, where security alliances with Japan and South Korea necessitated the continued presence of U.S. peacekeeping troops. This identity is sustained by the United States' ongoing role as security guarantor in many parts of the globe.31

The most explicit manifestation of the United States' post-World War II mission was the Truman Doctrine, first articulated in 1947. President Harry Truman believed that merely providing an example for the rest of the world to follow was no longer sufficient. He argued that the United States, as the "chosen nation," must take up the gauntlet and defend the rights of free peoples everywhere, against what Americans regarded as totalitarian aggression and subversion. The Truman Doctrine helped define the policy of containment toward the Soviet Union and its allies during the Cold War, and its rhetoric describing the United States as a "global protector" in the world has remained a central tenet of U.S. foreign policy.

After Truman, successive presidents and other public officials and opinion leaders persistently portrayed the Cold War in stark, binary terms: as a battle between good and evil. The United States was "the leader of the free world" that must prevail and save humanity from the "evils" of Communism. Consequentially, an important psychological byproduct, as well as material reality, of the post-World War II period was that the United States, for better or worse, was the only great power with the means and fortitude to assume the responsibility of securing and maintaining the free world. [End Page 145]

Similarly, the secret National Security Council paper no. 68 (NSC 68), the document that defined the course of U.S. Cold War policy in 1950, declared that "the position as the center of power in the free world places a heavy responsibility upon the United States for leadership." NSC 68 described the Cold War as "a basic conflict between the idea of freedom under a government of laws, and the idea of slavery under the grim oligarchy of the Kremlin."32 To ensure that the forces of freedom prevail, it was imperative that the United States build up its political, economic, and military strength.33 This document was designed only for the eyes of other policymakers, yet the idea of the United States as leader of the free world, protector of democracy, and the pacifier of a war-torn world became the dominant metaphor in U.S. foreign policy discourse throughout the postwar period. Although adapted to changing times, this is a metaphor and image that the United States retains today.

East Asia has and continues to occupy an important geopolitical piece in the United States' global protector strategy. The Cold War pitted Communist China against the United States in a battle of both ideologies and competing alliances. Beginning with U.S. involvement in Japan's post-World War II reconstruction and the Korean War, the Asia-Pacific became an important pillar of U.S. power and influence alongside Western Europe. Unlike U.S. engagement in Europe, however, where membership in NATO commits the United States to the security of all members, most of the United States' Asia-Pacific commitments took the form of bilateral security agreements and a less formal but nonetheless robust economic and diplomatic presence—termed the "hub and spoke" system—in which countries have established important links to the United States but are not formally bound to each other for their security.

This system manifests itself today in formal bilateral military ties with Japan and South Korea, where over 70,000 U.S. troops and several dozen military bases are hosted, as well as in political, diplomatic, and economic ties. East Asia has undergone a dramatic transformation over the past several decades, marked by war, political upheaval, democratization, and economic boom and crisis. Yet from the perspective of many U.S. policymakers, the post-World War II and post-Cold War order in the region has stayed remarkably fixed and peaceful due to the presence of U.S. forward-deployed troops as a security buffer. Many U.S. scholars and strategists believe that such a robust military presence has precluded any serious arms competition in the region and created [End Page 146] an environment conducive to economic development.34 This relative peace enabled Japan to devote its resources to economic development with the ROK, Taiwan, and eventually China and thereby achieve even faster rates of economic growth and higher levels of prosperity.

The United States' identity as a global protector and pacifier is reflected in U.S. opinion polls. Over several decades, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs has polled Americans on their feelings toward democracy-promotion and the United States' active role in world affairs and found consistent support for both. For example, when asked how important the goal of helping bring a democratic form of government to other nations should be for U.S. foreign policy, a large majority of U.S. citizens—between 70% and 80%—have consistently said that it is "important." The same trend holds true when asked the question, "Do you think the U.S. should take an active part in world affairs?" A majority of respondents (60%-80%) have embraced the position that the United States should take an "active part." Even in the 1990s, after the end of the Cold War, a solid majority held this attitude, which not surprisingly was strongest during the year after the September 11 attacks.35

Upon conclusion of the Cold War, American strategists, excited by the prospect of the United States being the only remaining superpower after the fall of the Soviet Union, sought to consolidate U.S. power in the world, particularly in East Asia. The Defense Department's 1992 strategic framework articulated U.S. policy toward East Asia as a strategy to "shape the security environment in ways favorable to the U.S. and to our allies and friends" while opposing "the emergence of a regional hegemony."36 This strategy has been consistent in its desire to maintain a preeminent role in the security and economic structure of the region, with the 2001 and 2006 U.S. quadrennial defense reviews stating that such a policy not only serves the interests of the United States but also protects "the peace and prosperity of the region at large."37 [End Page 147]

This global protector identity is also manifest in the notion that the United States has and will continue to safeguard the "global commons."38 Since World War II, the global commons—a free and open system allowing the unimpeded flow of goods and services around the world through air, land, space, and cyberspace—has been sustained by overwhelming U.S. military dominance. The U.S. Navy and Coast Guard have dissuaded naval aggression and fought piracy, thereby ensuring unparalleled freedom of the seas and allowing countries to rely on safe and secure commercial passageways to prosper economically. Thus, the international global economy is tremendously reliant upon the sustained protection of international transport channels by the U.S. military. Moreover, the United States sees itself as the only country capable and willing to expend the military and political resources for this task. There is a broad consensus among U.S. military and civilian strategists that a drastic reduction of U.S. power in the region would likely lead to counterbalancing among the various countries and create a more precarious security environment. As will be discussed in the following case studies, this American self-perception conflicts with China's identity and engenders mistrust toward U.S. intentions.

U.S. and Chinese Identities in Action: Four Case Studies

The first three cases illustrate how the identities described in the preceding sections overtly and covertly exert a negative influence in the bilateral relationship. These cases include: (1) the 1999 U.S. bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, (2) the 2010 U.S. policy statement over territorial disputes in the South China Sea, and (3) the 2010 U.S.-ROK joint naval exercises in response to the Cheonan sinking. A fourth case analyzing U.S.-Chinese cooperation in 2009 on UNSC Resolution 1874 is highlighted as an example of when and under what conditions the two countries can mitigate the identity factor. These four cases were explicitly chosen because they illustrate how the identity structures of each country do or do not come into play when conflict arises. [End Page 148]

The 1999 Bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade

On May 7,1999, the U.S. Air Force, under NATO command, inadvertently bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade as part of the ongoing NATO air campaign against the Yugoslav government. Targeting a Yugoslav military compound, a U.S. B-2 bomber instead struck the embassy with five precision-guided bombs, killing three Chinese citizens and injuring twenty others. The official explanation from the U.S. Department of Defense blamed the mishap on outdated maps and poor communication.39

While this was admittedly an embarrassing and costly error on the part of the United States, the scope and duration of Chinese nationalistic backlash proved far more intense and harder to rein in than many U.S. officials anticipated. The attacks struck at the core of China's victim identity and added fuel for Chinese conspiracy theorists who suspected a covert U.S. plot to bully and test China's resolve. Most U.S. policymakers at the time underestimated this backlash and were taken aback by what was to follow.

After the incident, the U.S. government immediately orchestrated a comprehensive official apology campaign. President Bill Clinton telephoned Chinese president Jiang Zemin to offer an apology, but Jiang refused to accept the call. The next day, both Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and U.S. ambassador James Sasser went to the Chinese embassies in Beijing and Washington to apologize in person and deliver the message that it was a "tragic mistake," not an intentional act.40 Secretary of Defense William Cohen and CIA director George Tenet also issued a joint statement explaining how the error occurred and that the United States "deeply regretted the loss of life and injuries from the bombing."41

According to U.S. citizens living in China at the time, as well as Susan Shirk, then deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs, the official Chinese media delayed reporting the U.S. apology and instead focused on the massive protests that followed.42 The streets of Beijing, Chengdu, and Guangzhou soon were filled with tens of thousands of young Chinese protesters, shouting anti-American slogans and throwing bricks and Molotov cocktails. Protestors burned the U.S. Consul General's residence [End Page 149] in Chengdu and shouted slogans like "blood for blood," calling on China to boycott all American products and to "turn grief into strength" (hua beitong wei liliang), so that "in the not so distant future, no hostile force will dare or be able to take military action against China."43

China's official media44 described the incident as an "intentional, brazen, and barbaric" act.45 One newspaper compared the bombing to a "Nazi war crime."46 A front-page story in the Peoples Daily lambasted the attack as a modern version of the imperialist invasion of China during the Boxer Rebellion:

This is 1999, not 1899. This is not...the age when people can barge about in the world just by sending a few gunboats...It is not the age when the Western powers plundered the Imperial Palace at will, destroyed the Old Summer Palace, and seized Hong Kong and Macao...China is a China that has stood up.47

Moderate voices were quickly pushed to the side as a singular narrative of the attacks as being "an intentional act of war" carried the day.48 The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, along with subsequent interviews with Chinese academics, reinforced this narrative by concluding that it was "impossible" that the most "modern, technologically advanced military" could make such a major error.49 Officials in the Chinese government and media encouraged this narrative to take hold, arousing anti-American sentiment to a level not seen in decades.

The Western media was shocked by the excessively volatile protests and by the fact that many in China believed the bombing was intentional. A Washington Post editorial concluded: "The Big Lie is alive and well in Beijing... It should come as no surprise, after weeks of internal propaganda, that many ordinary Chinese now believe the embassy bombing was deliberate."50 A Boston Globe article blamed the "brutes in Beijing" for manufacturing a belief among China's citizens that the bombing was intentional, declaring the protests to be [End Page 150] "another example of Communist menace."51 In an interview on PBSs NewsHour, Chinese ambassador Li Zhaoxing expressed skepticism that the bombing was an accident. This stunned anchor Jim Lehrer, who followed up several times to get Ambassador Li to articulate why China would doubt the official U.S. explanation that it was a terrible mistake. U.S. House majority leader Tom DeLay, waiting to be interviewed next on the show, reportedly admonished the ambassador to "not take the weakness of this President as the weakness of the American people."52

The U.S. bombing of the Chinese embassy was without question one of the most serious setbacks for U.S.-China relations in decades. U.S. actions and Chinese reactions largely conformed to both countries' identity structures and served to complicate efforts in conflict management. U.S. policymakers and pundits were taken aback by the scope and duration of China's nationalistic backlash, and many did not expect the narrative of an intentional U.S. plot to gain traction among a wide swath of Chinese society. Chinese political elites saw a nefarious conspiracy not only to incite social chaos but to bully and intimidate China. This anger had the opposite effect in the United States of making the CCP appear as if it were exploiting and manipulating the incident by unleashing popular Chinese nationalism at an external enemy.

The U.S. decision to intervene in Kosovo on humanitarian grounds also resonated strongly with Chinese policymakers who undoubtedly worried about China's own sovereignty issues regarding Taiwan, Tibet, and Xinjiang. From their perspective, the United States now advocated a view of "limited sovereignty," with human rights overriding state sovereignty. The ulterior motive was, in their view, to justify the United States' aggressive interference in other countries' domestic affairs, to demonize certain countries that defy U.S. plans, and ultimately to provide a pretext for power politics. In search for reasons to oppose American hegemony, one Chinese scholar contended that U.S. unipolarity "by necessity threatens freedom," suggesting that unchecked unipolar hegemony is no less prone to abusive power than totalitarianism.53 As another Chinese scholar observed, "after NATO started the air strike against Yugoslavia, the Chinese leaders and the public began to ask the same question: [End Page 151] if they are bombing Yugoslavia today for the issue of Kosovo, will they bomb China someday if a crisis arises on Tibet, Xinjiang, or Taiwan?"54

The U.S. Policy Statement on Territorial Disputes in the South China Sea

On July 23, 2010, at the ARF in Hanoi, Secretary of State Clinton gave a speech outlining U.S. policy on the South China Sea, stating that the U.S. had a "national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia's maritime commons, and respect for international law in the South China Sea." She expressed support for the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DoC), and offered assistance "to facilitate initiatives and confidence-building measures consistent with the declaration." Lost in the coverage was the fact that Clinton did not alter the long-standing U.S. position of neutrality on territorial disputes in the region and did not take a position on how the disputes should be resolved. Rather, she emphasized the need to resolve disputes without the use or threat of force and stated "claimants should pursue their territorial claims and accompanying rights to maritime space in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)."55

Caught off guard by Secretary Clinton's address and the large number of countries that aired concerns about the situation, Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi followed with a strongly worded rebuttal, arguing that the situation in the South China Sea was peaceful and that the rapid growth of trade was evidence that navigational freedom had "obviously not been hindered." Yang also insisted that "channels of discussion" between China and ASEAN were "open and smooth." Finally, he cautioned other countries against internationalizing the South China Sea territorial disputes, saying it will "only make matters worse and the resolution more difficult."56 Days later, a statement posted on China's Foreign Ministry website accused Secretary Clinton of launching an "attack" on China that was "designed to give the international community a wrong impression that the situation in the South China Sea is a cause for grave concern."57 [End Page 152]

Secretary Clinton's articulation of a more detailed U.S policy on the South China Sea was a result of several developments. First, many countries in the region, concerned about the potentially destabilizing consequences of China staking unilateral claims to territory in the area, had urged the United States to speak out on the issue. As part of its military modernization, China has increased naval patrols, pressured foreign oil corporations to cease operations in contested waters, established administrative units to oversee its claims to the Paracel and Spratly Islands, and arrested and detained civilian fishing vessels in "violation" of Chinese jurisdiction.58

Perhaps more importantly, there were worrisome signs that China's stance on the South China Sea was hardening. According to widespread reports, high-ranking Chinese officials told U.S. counterparts in closed-door meetings that the issue was one of China's "core interests," suggesting that from Beijing's perspective the South China Sea had been elevated to the same category as Tibet, Xinjiang, and Taiwan and constituted an "inalienable part of China."59 This caused much consternation in the United States and among China's Southeast Asian neighbors that Beijing was hardening its stance and might begin to assert sovereignty over more of the disputed territory.60

From China's perspective, the U.S. decision to reassert itself on the South China Sea issue was part of the Obama administration's strategy to consolidate U.S. influence in the region. Secretary Clinton's speech further exacerbated Chinese suspicions that the United States was attempting to tighten its strategic encirclement of China and undermine relations between China and its neighbors. One Xinhua article accused the United States of using "divide and rule" tactics to deal with disputes and warned that "Washington's strategy is to play the old trick again in the South China Sea, in its bid to maintain America's 'long-held sway' in the Western Pacific Ocean."61 A China Daily article criticized the Obama administration as attempting "to cozy up to ASEAN countries" and "strengthen its influence in the region so as to contain China by forcing countries to take sides." The article concluded by asserting that "all parties in [End Page 153] the region covet the comparatively rich oil and gas reserves in the South China Sea, especially the U.S., which is keen to control energy resources all over the world, for which it never hesitates to launch a war."62

Chinese netizens saw even more insidious intentions. One user remarked that Clinton's remarks "vilified" China's "legitimate interests" in the South China Sea. The author claimed that this particular U.S. policy stance was in line with a larger goal of "jeopardizing PRC ties with surrounding countries, supporting Tibetan and Taiwan independence, and presenting military threats against China in a bid to disintegrate it."63 Another user commented that the United States "has always been hostile to China and sought to subvert it from the start," claiming that China is being "encircled by the United States over water from the Yellow Sea to the South China Sea and across land from India to Afghanistan in the name of counter-terrorism." The author concluded that this "C-shaped" encirclement was aimed at establishing U.S. dominance around China, thus putting the country on the defensive. Other users claimed that this was just another U.S. excuse to cast China as the enemy and that China should stop "fantasizing that the U.S. regards it as a friend."64

Some in the U.S. media interpreted China's aggressive reaction as further evidence of an "assertive Chinese posture" aimed at testing U.S. resolve. Patrick Cronin, a former U.S. government official and a scholar at the Center for New American Security, wrote that China's posture in the South China Sea was "creating a Monroe Doctrine for Asia's seas and threatening longstanding freedom of navigation."65 A Wall Street Journal article described how Foreign Minister Yang "lashed out" at Clinton with "dyspeptic editorials" in Chinese state media.66 Others regarded Chinese rhetoric and actions as evidence that the South China Sea would be the battlefield of the future, with the potential for armed conflict among the United States, China, and other Asian nations.67

In this case study, both countries employed actions and rhetoric that hewed closely to their identity constructs, which greatly complicated how each country perceived the intent behind the other's action. The U.S. statement on the South China Sea issue can be understood as not only an effort to maintain [End Page 154] open access to sea lanes, but more broadly as an opportunity to leverage its regional power status to both diplomatically and militarily reassert its role as balancer in the region. China's strong negative reaction, while expected to some extent by U.S. officials, invoked overt references to an "American plot to contain China" and an "attack" on China's territorial integrity. Thus, to China, Clinton's overture to mediate a multilateral approach to resolving the dispute was not a gesture of goodwill but nothing more than an excuse by the United States to insert itself into the issue.

U.S.-ROK Joint Naval Exercises

On March 26, 2010, a South Korean naval ship carrying 104 personnel was torpedoed and sank off the country's western coast near Baengnyeong Island in the Yellow Sea, killing 46 sailors. In May, South Korea formally accused North Korea of responsibility for the sinking of the warship, one of the deadliest provocations since the two countries ended the Korean War in a truce in 1953. The multinational committee tasked with investigating the incident found strong evidence linking a torpedo belonging to a North Korean submarine to the attack. China and Russia, citing insufficient evidence, did not sign on to the findings and remained unconvinced of North Korean culpability.

In response to the attack, the U.S. and South Korean militaries announced a series of joint naval exercises to begin June 8 in the Yellow Sea—a show of force displaying the U.S. commitment to the U.S.-ROK security alliance as well as an admonishment to North Korea against future provocations. Soon after, South Korean news outlets leaked unsubstantiated reports that the USS George Washington aircraft carrier would also participate in the exercises. However, the U.S. Department of Defense did not issue a formal announcement of the participation of the carrier until July 20, stating it would be sent as part the U.S.-ROK exercise, "Invincible Spirit."68

Initially, China's Foreign Ministry released a measured statement, calling on "relevant parties to remain calm and exercise restraint."69 Soon after, however, commentators took on a noticeably harsher tone, with voices within the People's Liberation Army (PLA) constituting the vocal majority. On July 1, in an interview with Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV, General Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of staff of the PLA, said that China "extremely opposes" (feichang [End Page 155] fandui) the drill in the Yellow Sea because of its close proximity to Chinese territorial waters. A week later, reflecting the harsher, outspoken PLA stance, the Foreign Ministry spokesman adopted tougher language, stating that China "firmly opposes foreign warships and military aircraft carrying out activities in the Yellow Sea and other Chinese coastal waters that affect China's security interests."70 Meanwhile, between June and July 2010, the PLA Navy conducted four live-ammunition fire and long-range strike drills in the East China, South China, and Yellow seas. While PRC military officials downplayed any link to the U.S.-ROK naval exercises, observers in the region took notice of both the intensity and high volume of the drills in a short time span, which seemed to be an implicit but strategic signal to the United States and the ROK.71 Major General Luo Yuan responded in a Peoples Daily interview that the inclusion of a U.S. aircraft carrier would give China an opportunity to conduct "counter-reconnaissance" and use the carrier as a "target in red-blue simulations."72 Luo believed that the U.S.-ROK exercises were aimed not just at deterring North Korea but also at conducting strategic reconnaissance against China and therefore posed a threat. He reminded Chinese readers that "China is a nation of memories and history, and the Yellow Sea has been an area used to invade China during the Opium and Sino-Japanese Wars." Luo concluded by asking rhetorically, "What reasons do they have to conduct a joint military drill right in our front yard and threaten our security? How can China permit this?"73 Soon after, the Global Times published an online poll that seemingly confirmed China's displeasure with the exercises, in which more than 96% of respondents agreed that the exercises "posed a threat to China."74 [End Page 156]

Fudan University professor Shen Dingli took this interpretation one step farther by arguing that U.S. action in the Yellow Sea was analogous to the Cuban Missile Crisis: "Threat-posing military exercises are occurring in our 'interest waters' by the outer world [waibu guojia], and Chinese objections are no different than U.S. military action during the Cuban Missile Crisis to prevent the Soviet Union from threatening its interests along its periphery"75 Similarly, Xinhua warned the United States to reconsider its plan because "offending the Chinese people is not in the fundamental interest of the U.S." The article explained: "Any activity aimed at pushing a country with a 1.3 billion populace with enormous potential would be inadvisable. The United States cannot ignore China's self-esteem and drive their aircraft carrier straight to the front of China's doorstep to flex their muscles."76

Online message boards continued the anti-American nationalist campaign. One netizen described the "plot" of the Yellow Sea military exercise as "touching on a bottom line that the Chinese cannot tolerate, which violates China's 'soul of sovereignty'"77 Others adopted a more hawkish stance, calling on the PLA to sink the U.S. aircraft carrier were it to get too close to China's territorial waters.78

Beijing's strident reaction once again caught U.S. officials off guard. From the U.S. perspective, the objectives of the U.S.-ROK exercises were strictly limited to deterring further North Korean provocations and were to be conducted off of South Korea's territorial waters. Seemingly taking notice of negative reactions in China, U.S. defense secretary Robert Gates held a press conference restating that the exercises were "off the coast of Korea, not China," and insisting that there is thus "nothing provocative about them at all."79 Admiral Mike Mullen stated that the United States would not cancel the exercises to placate Chinese concerns and reasserted that the Yellow Sea is "an international body of water, and the United States always reserves the right to international waters." He added that the United States has long held exercises in the Yellow Sea and that he "fully expects that we'll do so in the future."80 [End Page 157]

In this dispute, both countries were once again acting and reacting in conformity with their respective identities. The Cheonan sinking confronted the U.S.-ROK alliance with a major challenge, calling the fundamental strength and cohesiveness of the alliance into question and warranting swift action in the face of blatant provocation. The United States believed that it had to answer such provocations with a show of force as an admonishment against future hostile acts in order to fulfill its responsibility toward South Korea vis-à-vis their security alliance. China's reaction, on the other hand, illustrates just how easily Chinese policymakers and citizens perceive U.S. military actions as a threat not only to the region but to Chinese core interests.

This also illustrates a scenario in which the United States and China were acting and reacting to the situation with the implicit expectation that the motivation behind their behavior would be self-evident to the other party. Chinese leaders had hoped that the United States would recognize China's acute territorial sensitivity in the Yellow Sea and not dispatch an aircraft carrier so close to China's shores. Washington, meanwhile, believed that such a joint military exercise was entirely appropriate after such provocative actions by North Korea, especially considering the fact that the exercises were to take place in South Korean territorial waters. The result, however, was a clashing not only of interests but of identities, which severely hampered the ability of officials in both countries to cooperate and resolve their differences expeditiously.

U.S.-Chinese Cooperation on UNSC Resolution 1874

In 2009 the most urgent regional security concern for the United States and China was North Korea, which undertook a series of destabilizing actions that induced a high degree of U.S.-China cooperation. In late May 2009, following a provocative long-range missile test a month earlier, North Korea conducted its second nuclear test in less than three years. Furious at the move, Beijing and Washington worked closely in the UN Security Council, along with Japan and South Korea, to forge a consensus first on a presidential statement condemning the missile launch and subsequently on a new resolution in response to the nuclear test which tightened sanctions against North Korea. That resolution, UNSC Resolution (UNSCR) 1874, remains one of the toughest and most interventionist resolutions on North Korea to date.81 Among other provisions, it authorizes member states to inspect North Korean cargo that is suspected of [End Page 158] carrying illicit nuclear and missile-producing material and urges them to freeze financial assets associated with North Korea's nuclear program.

Considering Beijing's traditional principle of noninterference in the internal affairs of sovereign states, UNSCR 1874 represented a major shift in Chinese thinking. Partly under pressure from the United States to draft a resolution that "had teeth," but more out of frustration at Pyongyang's blatant flouting of Chinese efforts to convince North Korea to denuclearize, Beijing broke from its traditional foreign policy stance by softening its position against sanctions and punitive measures toward its only ally in the region. More importantly, U.S.-China cooperation during this period illustrates how under certain conditions the two countries can cooperate in spite of their identity structures.

After passing UNSCR 1874, Chinese and U.S. officials worked closely to coordinate execution of the resolution. First, joint U.S. and Chinese efforts commenced to persuade Pyongyang to return to the six-party talks and reaffirm its commitment to denuclearization. In early July 2009, U.S. ambassador Philip Goldberg, coordinator for implementation of UNSCR 1874, led an interagency delegation to Beijing. Representatives from Chinese government, military, and intelligence bureaus, including China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Central Bank, and General Administration of Customs, met with Goldberg to discuss implementation of the resolution. At the same time, Beijing's negotiator for the six-party talks, Wu Dawei, visited Washington for talks on how to coordinate U.S.-Chinese efforts. Less than two weeks later, Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell met Wu and other Chinese officials in Beijing. Finally, in early September, the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy Stephen Bosworth visited China to discuss how to advance the process of denuclearization.

An important test of U.S.-Chinese cooperation on UNSCR 1874 arose in late June when a North Korean freighter, the Kang Nam 1, was cited by the United States as possibly carrying illicit cargo. The freighter was tracked by U.S. naval ships for several weeks as it traveled through the South China Sea toward Myanmar and then suddenly turned around and returned to a port in North Korea. Speaking at a press conference in Phuket, Thailand, Secretary of State Clinton singled out China in describing the successful conclusion of the incident and called China's pressure a "proximate cause."82

To be sure, China had reservations about the legitimacy of many of UNSCR 1874's mandates under international law and made numerous statements following the resolution's passage emphasizing that sanctions were not meant [End Page 159] to punish Pyongyang but rather to persuade it to reconsider its actions and return to negotiations. But China's decision to vote in favor of the resolution, and in some cases actively participate in its implementation, nonetheless represents a departure from China's historically cautious approach to foreign policy. First, Beijing did not object to the language used to condemn North Korea's action as in "violation and flagrant disregard of Council resolutions," specific wording that was insisted upon by the United States and South Korea. In the past, Beijing had shown a willingness to protect its Cold War neighbor against what it regarded as "antagonistic actions and rhetoric" by Western nations led by the United States. UNSCR 1874 thus was a rare instance of China signing on to a strongly worded rebuke of its once stalwart ally. Second, and more importantly, UNSCR 1874 mandated actions that were highly interventionist in nature and could have easily touched on Beijing's sensitivity over principles of sovereignty and aversion to sanctions. China could have watered down the resolution on noninterventionist grounds so as to render it entirely toothless. Given that it had vetoed or abstained from previous U.S.-led measures in the UNSC—most notably, resolutions on Iran and Myanmar—China's full-fledged support of UNSCR 1874 can be regarded as a break from its policy of nonintervention in the affairs of sovereign states.83

U.S.-China cooperation on UNSCR 1874 thus offers important lessons for mitigating the identity variable. Chief among them is understanding why Beijing cooperated so closely with the United States and agreed to tough sanctions against North Korea, despite the presence of many ingredients with the potential to inflame Chinese insecurities. First, China had a significant stake in peacefully resolving the North Korean nuclear issue. Because Beijing had taken the lead in the six-party talks and invested substantial material and diplomatic resources toward achieving denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, China was one of the biggest losers when North Korea flouted the international community by conducting a nuclear test. Second, the problem was addressed multilaterally, which exerted pressure on China to "fall in line" to punish North Korea when it was apparent that the patience of the international community had worn thin.

This case thus has important implications for how China and the United States might achieve limited success pursuing cooperation in spite of the identity factor. The concluding section argues that this should at least provide U.S. [End Page 160] policymakers with some useful lessons on how identity might be defused in pursuit of greater cooperation.

Lessons for U.S.-China Relations

Beyond the obvious national interest and sovereignty issues at play, the first three cases offer important illustrations of the ways in which Chinese and American identities can complicate efforts in crisis management and in cooperating on issues of mutual concern. In each example, U.S. action was a function of a larger historical imperative either to intervene or respond in a fashion that maintained peace or to admonish others not to act in ways that threaten peace, thus conforming to the United States' global protector image. China's reaction was likewise noteworthy for its overtly aggressive response to perceived infringement on its territorial sovereignty, hewing closely to its victim image.

In all three cases, U.S. action, or the context leading up to that action, was not directed explicitly at China, yet Chinese officials, commentators, and netizens reacted as if it were, showing a strong propensity to link U.S. action to a grand scheme to contain or infringe on China. The rhetoric employed among these various groups sought to juxtapose the assertive, hegemonic actions of the United States with a vulnerable and morally justified Chinese posture in regional affairs. Chinese commentators invoked memories of the century of humiliation or the Cold War to justify their feelings of injustice toward hegemonic behavior by the United States. Such strong reactions on the part of the Chinese had the counter effect of appearing belligerent or bombastic to the United States. American policymakers and commentators regarded the legitimacy behind U.S. action as axiomatic and Chinese reaction as unnecessarily strident.

Such a scenario—where both countries perceive the motivation behind their behavior as not respected or understood by the other party—spawns a circular dynamic in which one country's action, reaction, and interpretation feeds into the other's sense that the first country is acting inappropriately. This dynamic will in all likelihood persist as long as China chooses to invoke the past in interpreting present U.S. action and as long as the United States continues to perceive its actions and presence in East Asia as a force for peace and prosperity. Both countries are thus trapped in their own identities, not fully cognizant of how these identities negatively affect U.S.-China relations.

Furthermore, the first three case studies, which dealt with military and territorial issues, offer only a small slice of perceived mistreatment of China by the United States. China's preoccupation with nefarious intent on the part [End Page 161] of the United States goes well beyond issues of security and sovereignty and occupies the whole spectrum of political, economic, and cultural spheres. For example, recent U.S.-led efforts at pressuring China to revalue its currency have prompted some Chinese commentators and officials to suspect ulterior motives. A recent bestseller in China is a book called Currency Wars [Huobi zhanzheng], which argues that governments, in particular the U.S. government, have historically used currency regimes and manipulation as weapons for international economic espionage. China, the author concludes, must realize that the real motive behind U.S. demands for the renminbi's appreciation is a desire to control the Chinese economy by weakening it. The book is a huge success and reportedly has been read by several senior leaders in China.84 Other actions that from Beijing's point of view substantiate its perceptions of U.S. malevolence toward China include U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, visits with the Dalai Lama, the State Department's annual report on Chinese human rights violations, tariffs on Chinese imports, Secretary Clinton's speech criticizing China's Internet censorship, and Liu Xiaobo winning the Nobel Peace Prize, which some high-level Chinese officials believe was awarded under pressure from the United States.85

This tension between U.S. and Chinese identities has important and potentially foreboding implications for future developments in East Asia. In a region still replete with hot spots that could elicit a U.S. military response—from further North Korean provocations to an escalation of conflict over the myriad territorial disputes in the South China Sea—numerous scenarios exist under which China could feel threatened and react with rhetoric or action that puts the United States on edge and risks unintended conflict.

The UNSCR 1874 case, however, offers an important counterexample in which the two countries were able to compartmentalize identity in pursuit of cooperation. This case then provides important policy-relevant lessons for how and under what circumstances the United States and China might mitigate the identity factor in their relationship. First, as UNSCR 1874 illustrated, when China has a significant political or diplomatic investment in an issue, it is naturally more prone to cooperation and flexibility to achieve a positive outcome. The disadvantages of a negative outcome were clear to Beijing; a nuclear North Korea would add unwanted tension and a revitalized U.S. military presence in a highly strategic area bordering Chinese territory. When North [End Page 162] Korea acted in blatant disregard to the international community and to Beijing's efforts at denuclearization, it was noteworthy how quickly China came on board to punish North Korea and cooperate with the United States. Second, and perhaps more importantly, U.S.-Chinese cooperation in addressing the North Korean issue occurred in a multilateral forum—in this case the UN. China has historically shown a greater propensity to attach legitimacy to and fall in line with solutions agreed to in multilateral organizations, even when such solutions are in reality conceived or heavily influenced by the United States or other countries.86

Of course, in this and other examples, some sort of stimulus—typically a provocative act criticized by the international community—is usually necessary to elicit Chinese action. Nonetheless, China having a significant political investment in an issue and the existence of a multilateral framework seem to be two important preconditions that help mitigate and defuse the identity factor in bilateral relations.

U.S.-China cooperation on UNSCR 1874 offers hope that certain tensionladen issues of bilateral importance, such as territorial disputes in the South China Sea, can be successfully tackled in multilateral institutions like ASEAN or the UN rather than between policymakers in Washington and Beijing. Indeed, recent scholarship on the issue provides evidence that prospects for multilateral cooperation with China are increasing and should be pursued further.87 Hillary Clinton's 2010 statement at the ARF, while eliciting strong pushback from China, is a good example of the United States utilizing a multilateral forum to address growing wariness among leaders in both Washington and the region of China's increasing assertiveness on territorial issues in the South China Sea. President Obama's effort to compel China to address the South China Sea issue at the November 2011 East Asia Summit, despite Beijing's repeated warnings that it would not be discussed, represents another instance of successfully addressing the South China Sea through multilateral means.88 [End Page 163]

Overall, one should not misinterpret tension between U.S. and Chinese identities as inherently unmanageable. While both countries hold vastly different cultural and historical conceptions of themselves and the form that the future international order should take, they are not necessarily preordained to perceive each other as adversaries. Policymakers on both sides need to soberly acknowledge the significant intangible factors—identity being an important one—working against positive bilateral relations. This reality needs to be factored into the policymaking equation of both parties to a greater degree, especially as the two sides become further enmeshed in an interconnected economic and military relationship.

Both China and the United States can undertake nuanced, albeit limited, adjustments in policy to deal with these identity incompatibilities. It would be unrealistic for the United States to adopt an overly cautious approach on issues that may be perceived by Beijing as sensitive simply because they touch on China's sense of victimhood. Precisely because future U.S. contingencies in Northeast and Southeast Asia will inevitably come into contact with an increasingly assertive and confident Chinese naval force, clear and consistent signals of U.S. national interest and resolve in these pivotal geostrategic regions should be sent to Beijing from policymakers in Washington. From a diplomatic perspective, however, U.S. policymakers need to show patience and be willing to look beyond the knee-jerk reactions from official and unofficial voices in China and not misconstrue such reactions as being inherently malevolent. U.S. policymakers should be aware that the purpose of this rhetoric is often to assuage an increasingly nationalistic Chinese domestic audience that demands hawkish responses to perceived infringements to national sovereignty rather than to antagonize and intimidate the United States directly.

For China, overcoming its predisposition to view itself as a victim would require state-led efforts to heal, not perpetuate, historical wounds. Elites in the educational and political establishments need to de-emphasize China's unrequited moral outrage over past atrocities by Western imperialists. While China has admittedly been subjected to foreign interference throughout its history, this is an image that has taken on a life of its own and works against positive relations with the United States as well as China's neighbors in Asia. As the PRCs diplomatic and military power increases, one would hope that a more powerful, confident Beijing will no longer see the need to play up a victim image as a politically expedient method of gaining domestic legitimacy during conflict.

China and the United States have shown that they can cooperate on many bilateral and international issues without allowing the identity variable [End Page 164] to sabotage collaboration. However, the four cases highlighted in this article should act as a reminder that potent historical, cultural, and political forces drive each country's actions and responses in subtle but influential ways. A better understanding of the factors that animate the United States and China can help prepare each country for the bumpy road that lies ahead, even if such knowledge will not mitigate all areas of incompatible interests and strategic mistrust. [End Page 165]

Lyle J. Morris

Lyle J. Morris is a Research Assistant at the RAND Corporation. In 2010-11, he was a Next Generation Fellow at The National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR). He can be reached at <>.


inline graphic The author is greatly indebted to Robert G. Sutter, Andrew L. Oros, Andrew Scobell, and three anonymous reviewers for their comments on earlier drafts.


1. Wang Jisi, "China-U.S. Relations at a Crossroads," in China-United States Sustained Dialogue: 1986-2001, ed. Zhao Mei and Maxine Thomas (Dayton: Kettering Foundation and the Institute of American Studies, 2001).

2. For example, see Elizabeth Economy, "The U.S. and China Have at It Again; but It's Much Ado about Nothing," Council on Foreign Relations, Asia Unbound blog, February 2, 2010,; "U.S. Moves to Counter China's Growing Assertiveness" Arizona Daily Star, October 26, 2010; William Ide, "Analysts: China Growing Increasingly Assertive Along its Coast," Voice of America, September 24, 2010; and Michael Wines, "Behind a Military Chill: A More Forceful China," New York Times, June 8, 2010.

3. This is not to preclude other interpretations of China's identity. For example, scholars have pointed out how negative images of humiliation and victimization in China also coexist with positive images of its rapid economic growth and five thousand years of civilization, forming a positive-negative "identity dilemma." See William A. Callahan, China: The Pessoptimist Nation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010). Others assert that China has "outgrown its victim complex." See Bates Gill, Rising Star: China's New Security Diplomacy (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2007).

4. For example, see David M. Lampton, Same Bed, Different Dreams: Managing U.S.-China Relations 1989-2000 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002); Aaron Friedberg, "The Future of U.S.-China Relations: Is Conflict Inevitable?" International Security 30, no. 2 (2005); Thomas Christensen, "Fostering Stability or Creating a Monster? The Rise of China and U.S. Policy toward East Asia," International Security 31, no. 1 (2006); Robert G. Sutter, U.S.-Chinese Relations: Perilous Past, Pragmatic Present (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2010); Yan Xuetong, "The Instability of China-U.S. Relations," Chinese Journal of International Politics 3, no. 3 (2010): 263-92; and Aaron Friedberg, A Contest For Supremacy: China, America, and the Struggle for Mastery in Asia (New York: W.W. Norton, 2011). For more on power transition theory, see Robert Gilpin, War and Change in World Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983); and John J. Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (New York: W. W. Norton, 2003).

5. See, for example, Jie Chen, Ideology in U.S. Foreign Policy: Case Studies in U.S. China Policy (Westport: Praeger, 1992); Peter Hays Gries, "Social Psychology and the Identity-Conflict Debate: Is a 'China Threat' Inevitable?" European Journal of International Relations 11, no. 2 (2005); Rex Li, A Rising China and Security in East Asia: Identity Construction and Security Discourse (New York: Routledge, 2009), 171-90; and Peter Hays Gries, Qingmin Zhang, H. Michael Crowson, and Huajian Cai, "Patriotism, Nationalism and China's U.S. Policy: Structures and Consequences of Chinese National Identity," China Quarterly 205 (2011): 1-17.

6. For more on this internal-external dimension of state identity, see William Bloom, Personal Identity, National Identity and International Relations, Cambridge Studies in International Relations 9 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993).

7. This discussion draws from Maxym Alexandrov, "The Concept of State Identity in International Relations: A Theoretical Analysis," Journal of International Development and Cooperation 10, no. 1 (2003): 33-46.

8. Akira Iriye, "Culture" Journal of American History 77, no.1 (1990): 100-101; Martin Sampson, "Cultural Influences on Foreign Policy," in New Directions in the Study of Foreign Policy, ed. Charles Hermann (Boston: Allen & Unwin, 1987), 386-87; Wang Jisi, "International Relations Theory and the Study of Chinese Foreign Policy: A Chinese Perspective," in Chinese Foreign Policy: Theory and Practice, ed. Thomas Robinson and David Shambaugh (New York: Clarendon Press, 1998), 501.

9. Harold Isaac looked at perceptions and how "images get cranked into the process of policymaking." Robert Jervis argued that "logic" and "image" had tangible impacts on foreign policy decisions. In a regional focus, David Shambaugh looked at "image structures" and "perception gaps" in the U.S.-China relationship. Others have used similar methods to look at China's relations with the Soviet Union and Japan. See, for example, Harold R. Isaacs, Scratches on Our Minds: American Views of China and India (New York: John Day, 1958), 28; Robert Jervis, Perception and Misperception in International Politics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976); David Shambaugh, Beautiful Imperialist: China Perceives America, 1972-1990 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991); Gilbert Rozman, The Chinese Debate about Soviet Socialism, 1978-1985 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987); and Allen S. Whiting, China Eyes Japan (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989). For a systemic approach to identity in international politics, see Bloom, Personal Identity, National Identity and International Relations; Jill Krause and Neil Renwick, eds., Identities in International Relations (New York: St. Martins, 1996); and Rodney Hall, National Collective Identity: Social Constructs and International Systems (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999).

10. Robert Scalapino, "China's Multiple Identities in East Asia: China as a Regional Force," in China's Quest for a National Identity, ed. Lowell Dittmer and Samuel Kim (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993), 215.

11. Peter Katzenstein argues that "issues dealing with norms, identities, and culture are becoming more salient" in consideration of national security issues. Similarly, Masaru Tamamoto highlights his sense of "culture and identity having more salient and obvious factors in shaping the history of international relations than given credit." See Peter Katzenstein, "Introduction: Alternative Perspectives on National Security," in The Culture of National Security: Norms and Identity in World Politics, ed. Peter Katzenstein (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), 2; and Masaru Tamamoto, "Ambiguous Japan," in International Relations Theory and the Asia-Pacific, ed. John Ikenberry and Michael Mastanduno (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), 193.

12. Michael Ng-Quinn, "National Identity and Premodern China: Formation and Role Enactment," in Dittmer and Kim, China's Quest for National Identity, 32-33.

13. Samuel S. Kim, "Northeast Asia in the Local-Regional-Global Nexus: Multiple Challenges and Contending Explanations," in The International Relations of Northeast Asia, ed. Samuel S. Kim (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003), 41.

14. David Barboza, "China Passes Japan as Second Largest Economy," New York Times, August 15, 2010.

15. Peter Hays Gries, China's New Nationalism: Pride, Politics, and Diplomacy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004), 50.

16. Francis Fukuyama, "The End of History?" National Interest 16 (Summer 1989): 3-18; and Yongjin Zhang, "Problematizing China's Security: Sociological Insights," Pacifica Review 13, no. 3 (2001): 252.

17. Jack Donnelly, "Human Rights: A New Standard of Civilization?" International Affairs 74, no. 1 (1998): 1-24; Gerrit W. Gong, The Standard of "Civilization" in International Society (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984); and Ian Clark, Tegitimacy in International Society (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).

18. Zheng Wang, "National Humiliation, History Education, and the Politics of Historical Memory: Patriotic Education Campaign in China," International Studies Quarterly 52, no. 4. (2008): 783-806.

19. Richard Bernstein and Ross H. Munro, "China I: The Coming Conflict with America," Foreign Affairs 76, no. 2 (1997): 18-32; Samuel P. Huntington, "The Clash of Civilizations?" Foreign Affairs 72, no. 3 (1993): 22-49; Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics; Dan Blumenthal, "Not So Reassuring...," American Enterprise Institute, Center for Defense Studies, web log, September 25, 2009,; and Hugh White, "China and the Status Quo" Interpreter, Lowy Institute for International Policy, web log, January 28, 2010,

20. How widespread or marginal these "China threat" sentiments were and continue to be among U.S. and Western policymakers is unimportant. The mere existence of such sentiment is sufficient for Chinese citizens and leaders to harbor strong suspicions toward the intentions of Western and U.S. policies toward China. For more on Chinese reactions, see Liu Jinghua, "Ershiyi shiji ershi-sanshi niandai zhongguo jueqi ji waijiao zhanlue xuanze" [Diplomatic Strategic Alternatives for a Rising China in 2020 to 2030], Zhanlue yu guanli 3 (1994): 119-20; and Yongjin Zhang, "Problematizing Chinas Security: Sociological Insights," Pacific Review 13, no. 3 (2001): 247.

21. Xing Shizhong, '"Zhongguo weixie lun' keyi xiuyi" [The "China Threat Theory" Can Be Laid to Rest], Qiushi 3 (1996): 20. See also Zi Shui and Xiao Shi, Jingti Riben diguo zhuyi [Beware of Japanese Militarism] (Beijing: Jincheng c hubanshe, 1997), 286-89.

22. Shi Yinhong, "Why Against China?" Beijing Review, October 21, 1996, 11. See also Xing, "'Zhongguo weixie lun,'" 20; and Zheng Yongnian, Discovering Chinese Nationalism in China: Modernization, Identity, and International Relations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999): 96-97.

23. Deng Xiaoping, Deng Xiaoping wenxuan [Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping], vol. 3 (Beijing: Renmin chubanshe, 1993), 358.

24. Yuen Foong Khong, Analogies at War: Korea, Munich, Dien Bien Phu, and the Vietnam Decisions of 1965 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 20.

25. Edward Wong, "China's President Lashes Out at Western Culture," New York Times, January 3, 2012. The full text of the speech in Chinese is available at

26. Evan Osnos, "Angry Youth: The New Generation's Neocon Nationalists," New Yorker, July 28, 2008.

27. Steven I. Levine, "Perception and Ideology in Chinese Foreign Policy," in Chinese Foreign Policy: Theory and Practice, ed. Thomas W. Robinson and David Shambaugh (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994), 30-46.

28. Yan Xuetong, "The Rise of China in Chinese Eyes," Journal of Contemporary China 10, no. 26 (2001): 33-39.

29. Denisa Kostovicova, Kosovo: The Politics of Identity and Space (London: Routledge, 2005), 4, 11.

30. Ger Duijzings, Religion and the Politics of Identity in Kosovo (London: Hurst, 2000), 22-25.

31. Certainly U.S. foreign policy identity structures characterized by moralism, democracy-promotion, and belief in a providential mission can be traced to the legacy of "Wilsonianism" and even to the days of the American Revolution. I argue, however, that the post-World War II era, more than any other time period, helped define the United States' "global protector" identity. See Michael H. Hunt, Ideology and U.S. Foreign Policy (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988); Walter Russell Mead, Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World (New York: Routledge, 2002), 16-22; and Andrew J. Bacevich, "Prophets and Poseurs: Niebuhr and Our Times," World Affairs 170, no. 3 (2008), 24-37.

32. S. Nelson Drew, ed., NSC-68: Forging the Strategy of Containment (Washington, D.C.: National Defense University Press, 1994), 40.

33. Ernest R. May, American Cold War Strategy: Interpreting NSC 68 (Boston, New York: Bedford/St. Martins, 1993): 24-44.

34. G. John Ikenberry and Chung-in Moon, "Introduction: The Dynamics of Transition in Northeast Asia," in The United States and Northeast Asia: Debates, Issues and New Order, ed. G. John Ikenberry and Chung-in Moon (Plymouth: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008), 1-18. See also Ashley J. Tellis, "Power Shift: How the West Can Adapt and Thrive in an Asian Century," German Marshall Fund of the United States, Asia Papers Series, January 22, 2010.

36. A Strategic Framework for the Asian Pacific Rim: Report to the Congress (Washington, D.C.: Department of Defense, 1992).

37. For example, the 2001 and 2006 Department of Defense quadrennial defense reviews use varied rhetoric stating the essential role of the United States in maintaining security and prosperity in East Asia. See Quadrennial Defense Review Report (Washington, D.C.: Department of Defense, 2001), 4,; and Quadrennial Defense Review Report (Washington, D.C.: Department of Defense, 2006), 30,

38. Barry Posen, "Command of the Commons: The Military Foundation of U.S. Hegemony," International Security 28, no. 1 (2003); Michele Flournoy and Shawn Brimley, "The Contested Commons," U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 135, no. 7 (2009); and Abraham M. Denmark, "Managing the Global Commons," Washington Quarterly 33, no. 3 (2010).

39. "Secretary of Defense Cohen's News Briefing on Chinese Embassy Bombing" U.S. Department of Defense, News Transcript, May 10, 1999,

40. Kerry Dumbaugh, "Chinese Embassy Bombing in Belgrade: Compensation Issues," Congressional Research Service, CRS Report for Congress, RS20547, April 12, 2000.

41. "Joint Statement by Secretary Cohen and DCI Tenet," CIA, Press Release, May 8, 1999,

42. Susan L. Shirk, China: Fragile Superpower (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 214.

43. Gries, Chinas New Nationalism, 100-105.

44. I cite state-run Chinese news sources knowing that they might not always reflect official state policy or capture the spectrum of opinion among Chinese foreign policy strategists. Nevertheless, Chinese leaders often issue opinion essays and commentary in official PRC newspapers to signal China's foreign policy preferences.

45. Stephanie Ho, "China Condemns 'Barbaric' Act," Voice of America, May 8, 1999.

46. Wu Baiyi, "Zhongguo dui 'zha guan' shijian de wenti guanli" [A Case Study of China's Crisis Management of the Embassy Bombing Incident], Shijie Jingji yu Zhengzhi, no. 3 (2005): 22-29.

47. Gries, China's New Nationalism, 17.

48. Wu, "Zhongguo dui 'zha guan' shijian de wenti guanli" 27.

49. "U.S.-Led NATO's Attack on the Chinese Embassy in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia," PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs, November 15, 2000,; also see Wu, "Zhongguo dui 'zha guan' shijian de wenti guanli," 26-28.

50. Joel Blocker and Anthony Georgieff, "China's True Colors," Washington Post, May 11, 1999.

51. Peter Hays Gries, "Tears of Rage: Chinese Nationalist Reactions to the Belgrade Embassy Bombing," China Journal, no. 46 (2001): 25-43.

52. Gries, China's New Nationalism, 21.

53. Wang Xiaodong, "On Liberalism and Hegemony," Jianchuan Zhishi, in FBIS-China, July 17, 1999.

54. Wu Xinbo, "Four Contradictions Constraining China's Foreign Policy Behavior," Journal of Contemporary China 10, no. 27 (2001): 295.

55. "Remarks at Press Availability," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, July 23, 2010,

56. Li Xiaokun and Zhang Ting, "Foreign Minister Warns of South China Sea Issue," China Daily, July 26, 2010,

57. "Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi Refutes Fallacies on the South China Sea Issue," Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the PRC, July 26, 2010,

58. John Pomfret, "Concerned about China's Rise, Southeast Asian Nations Build Up Militaries," Washington Post, August 9, 2010; "BP Halts Vietnam Exploration Plan Due to China Dispute," Reuters, June 15, 2007; and Ben Thomas, "Vietnam Opposes China's Tourism Plan in Disputed Area," Bloomberg Businessweek, June 25, 2010.

59. Edward Wong, "China's Disputes in Asia Buttress Influence of U.S.," New York Times, September 22, 2010.

60. See, for example, Michael D. Swaine and M. Taylor Fravel, "China's Assertive Behavior Part Two: the Maritime Periphery," Hoover Institution, China Leadership Monitor, no. 35, Summer 2011; and Roberto R. Romulo, "The South China Sea Disputes," Philippine Star, January 21, 2011.

61. Wu Liming and Chen Yong, "U.S. Involvement Will Only Complicate South China Sea Issue," Xinhua, July 27, 2010.

62. "China Daily 'Opinion': U.S. Hampering Peaceful Settlement of South China Sea Issue," China Daily, July 29, 2010.

63. "PRC Netizens Criticize U.S.-ROK Exercise, Link with South China Sea Issue" OSC CPP20100803572001, 7/10/10-7/29/10.

64. Ibid.

65. Patrick Cronin and Paul Giarra, "Chinas Dangerous Arrogance" Diplomat, July 23, 2010.

66. "Battle of the South China Sea," Wall Street Journal, July 28, 2010.

67. Robert D. Kaplan, "The South China Sea Is the Future of Conflict," Foreign Policy, September/October 2011.

68. "Media Availability with Geoff Morrell, Adm. Willard and a Senior Defense Official from Seoul, South Korea," U.S. Department of Defense, News Transcript, July 20, 2010,

69. Andrew Quinn and Phil Stewart, "U.S. Announces New Sanctions Against North Korea," Reuters, July 21, 2010.

70. "HK Phoenix TV: PLA Deputy Chief of Staff Opposes US-ROK Drill, Welcomes Gates' Visit," OSC CPP20100702572002, July 2, 2010; and Patrick Goodenough, "China Bristles at Prospect of U.S. Aircraft Carrier in the Yellow Sea," CNS News, July 12, 2010.

71. "PLA Navy Starts Live-Ammunition Training in the West Pacific," Xinhua, June 30, 2010,; "China Launches War Games in Yellow Sea" Agence France-Presse, September 1, 2010,; and Liu Yue-shan, "Stealth Assassin Goes into Action During Four Troop Training Exercises within a Month - Frequent Drills of Long-Range Strikes," OSC CPP20100730788007, July 30, 2010.

72. "Major General Luo Yuan Discusses U.S.-ROK Military Exercise in Yellow Sea," OSC CPP20100713787008, July 13, 2010. Luo Yuan, now retired (a fact not acknowledged in the Chinese press), is quoted widely in the Chinese media as advocating hawkish policies toward the United States and other countries. I operate under the assumption that as long as China's propaganda department permits voices from the PLA to publish such views in major domestic media outlets, it is legitimate to interpret these views as representative of at least one strand of PLA sentiment, which is not to be misconstrued as official PLA policy.

73. Ibid., 2-3.

74. "Angered Over U.S. Aircraft Carriers Entering the Yellow Sea, Chinese Netizens' Image of Korea Is Worrying," Global Times, June 9, 2010,

75. "PRC Scholar: US-ROK Yellow Sea Military Exercises 'Provocative' Against China," Dongfang Zaobao Online, OSC CPP 20100718138044, July 12, 2010.

76. Liang Jun, "U.S. Must Restrain Provocative Military Actions," People's Daily, June 12, 2010.

77. "Guangming Guancha Article Criticizes U.S.-ROK Military Exercise in Yellow Sea" Guangming Wang, OSC CPP20100818718001, August 17, 2010.

78. "HKSP: PRC Netizens Call for Sinking U.S. Carrier upon Approaching Coastline," Hsiang Kang Shang Pao Online, OSC CPP20100814716017, August 14, 2010.

79. "Media Availability with Secretary Gates at Camp Casey, South Korea," U.S. Department of Defense, News Transcript, July 20, 2010,

80. Al Pessin, "U.S. Won't Bow to Chinese Concerns on Yellow Sea Exercises," Voice of America, July 20, 2010.

81. The full text of UNSCR 1874 can found at

82. Mark Landler, "Clinton Trades Jibes with North Korea," New York Times, July 23, 2009.

83. "China and Russia Veto US/UK-backed Security Council Draft Resolution on Myanmar," UN News Centre, January 12, 2007; and Luis Charbonneau, "Russia, China Snub U.N. Council Talks on Syria -Envoys," Reuters, June 12, 2011.

84. Edward Wong "Booming, China Faults U.S. Policy on the Economy," New York Times, June 17, 2008.

85. "Chinese General Says U.S. Was Behind Nobel Peace Prize for Dissident," Deutsche Presse-Agentur, November 3, 2010.

86. See, for example, Banning Garrett and Jonathan Adams, "U.S.-China Cooperation on the Problem of Failing States and Transnational Threats," United States Institute of Peace, Special Report, no. 126, September 2004; and Kuik Cheng-Chwee, "Multilateralism in China's ASEAN Policy: Its Evolution, Characteristics and Aspiration" Contemporary Southeast Asia 27, no. 1 (2005): 102-22.

87. Daryl Morini, "Preventing U.S.-China War, Towards Multilateral Preventative Diplomacy in the South China Sea," Forward, Extended Policy Report, August 2, 2011; Raoul Heinrichs, Justin Jones, and Rory Medcalf, "Crisis and Confidence: Major Powers and Maritime Security in Indo-Pacific Asia," Lowy Institute for International Policy, June 27, 2011; and Mingjiang Li, "Reconciling Assertiveness and Cooperation? Chinas Changing Approach to the South China Sea Dispute," Security Challenges 6, no. 2 (2010): 49-68.

88. Jackie Calmes, "Obama and Asian Leaders Confront China's Premier," New York Times, November 19, 2011.

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