- The China Fallacy: How the U. S. Can Benefit from China’s Rise and Avoid Another Cold War by Donald Gross
In his book, The China Fallacy, Donald Gross appeals for dramatic improvements in Sino-American relations with respect to major security, economic, and political issues. Based on his previous experience as a Department of States official and at the White House, Donald Gross provides insights into the genesis of American policies critical of China, unduly influenced by the hardliners. The combined pressures from military hawks, economic protectionists, and human rights watchdogs have prompted leaders in Washington to adopt ever more confrontational policies to address the “China threat.”
The author calls for a complete resetting of Sino-American relations in order to avert military conflict and to usher in a new era of cooperation and prosperity, i.e., a twenty-first century détente. He urges that both governments negotiate a new diplomatic architecture, referred to throughout the book as a “Framework Agreement,” which clearly establishes common principles and goals. The proposed arrangement would consist of concessions from both sides on sensitive issues, such as Taiwan, trade policy, and human rights.
The book is organized as follows: The introductory chapter describes the forces that have shaped U.S. policy toward China, characterized most recently by “hedging” under George W Bush and the Asia “pivot” under President Obama. The tragedy is the immense security, economic, and political benefits forfeited by the United States due to its determination to characterize China as an enemy rather than as a key partner in the Pacific.
The next several chapters provide an overview of U.S. policy toward China with respect to military, economic, and human rights issues. Recommended policy changes are provided within each chapter and are presented together in the seventh chapter. One proposal for the “Framework Agreement” is a commitment from China to remove short-range ballistic missiles from the vicinity of Taiwan in exchange for U.S. suspension of arms sales to the Taiwan military. Chapters considering Japan and South Korea explain how American allies might expect to benefit from a U.S.-China rapprochement.
A close reading of this book renders two general impressions. The first is a narrative put forward by the author which maligns current [End Page 273] American foreign policy, specifically the hawkish containment strategy that Washington has imposed against Beijing over the past decade. At the same time, the author portrays China as benign and of limited means, downplaying Beijing’s culpability in stirring regional tensions. The result is a lopsided characterization of the relationship, depicting the United States as a menacing hegemon and China as a poor nation merely seeking to rise peacefully.
The second impression is the overwhelming centrality of Taiwan as a factor in the troubled relationship. This point is heavily emphasized. The security partnership between the United States and China’s renegade province has irritated Beijing for more than sixty years. Taiwan is truly the fly in the ointment, precluding the flourishing of U.S.-China friendship and cooperation in other areas. Even seemingly unrelated tensions across the broader Asia-Pacific region are attributed to the unresolved status of Taiwan. In one such sequence, Gross argues that reunification of the Korean peninsula may hinge on resolution of the Taiwan issue.
Traditional realists considering the thesis of this book may react with consternation to the author’s assessment of China’s capabilities, conduct, and long-term intentions. While acknowledging China’s role in conducting cyber-espionage, the author seems reluctant to attribute other obvious misbehavior to the Chinese regime. This willful effort to soften China’s image is apparent. To illustrate, several pages describe the entrenched South China Sea island disputes. Otherwise a perfectly detailed account, Gross omits any reference to the nine-dashed line, which is the basis for China’s outrageous blanket claim and the source of the overlap with five separate states.
Similarly, U.S. military planners will be quick to question the...