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169 Whither China: From Membership to Responsibility? Remarks to the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations* Robert B. Zoellick *As prepared for delivery on September 21, 2005, and available at nbr analysis 170 Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Mr. Zheng Bijian, Chair of the China Reform Forum, who over some decades has been a counselor to China’s leaders. We have spent many hours in Beijing and Washington discussing China’s course of development and Sino-American relations. It has been my good fortune to get to know such a thoughtful man who has helped influence, through the Central Party School, the outlook of many officials during a time of tremendous change for China. This month, in anticipation of President Hu’s visit to the United States, Mr. Zheng published the lead article in Foreign Affairs, “China’s ‘Peaceful Rise’ to Great Power Status.” This evening, I would like to give you a sense of the current dialogue between the United States and China by sharing my perspective. Some 27 years ago, Chinese leaders took a hard look at their country and didn’t like what they saw. China was just emerging from the Cultural Revolution. It was desperately poor, deliberately isolated from the world economy, and opposed to nearly every international institution. Under Deng Xiaoping, as Mr. Zheng explains, China’s leaders reversed course and decided “to embrace globalization rather than detach themselves from it.” Seven U.S. presidents of both parties recognized this strategic shift and worked to integrate China as a full member of the international system. Since 1978, the United States has also encouraged China’s economic development through market reforms. Our policy has succeeded remarkably well: the dragon emerged and joined the world. Today, from the United Nations to the World Trade Organization, from agreements on ozone depletion to pacts on nuclear weapons, China is a player at the table. And China has experienced exceptional economic growth. Whether in commodities, clothing, computers, or capital markets, China’s presence is felt every day. China is big, it is growing, and it will influence the world in the years ahead. For the United States and the world, the essential question is—how will China use its influence? “… it is time to take our policy beyond opening doors to China’s membership into the international system: We need to urge China to become a responsible stakeholder in that system …” 171 “whither u.s.-china relations?” roundtable To answer that question, it is time to take our policy beyond opening doors to China’s membership into the international system: We need to urge China to become a responsible stakeholder in that system. China has a responsibility to strengthen the international system that has enabled its success. In doing so, China could achieve the objective identified by Mr. Zheng: “to transcend the traditional ways for great powers to emerge.” As Secretary Rice has stated, the United States welcomes a confident, peaceful, and prosperous China, one that appreciates that its growth and development depends on constructive connections with the rest of the world. Indeed, we hope to intensify work with a China that not only adjusts to the international rules developed over the last century , but also joins us and others to address the challenges of the new century. From China’s perspective, it would seem that its national interest would be much better served by working with us to shape the future international system. If it isn’t clear why the United States should suggest a cooperative relationship with China, consider the alternatives. Picture the wide range of global challenges we face in the years ahead—terrorism and extremists exploiting Islam, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, poverty, disease—and ask whether it would be easier or harder to handle those problems if the United States and China were cooperating or at odds. For fifty years, our policy was to fence in the Soviet Union while its own internal contradictions undermined it. For thirty years, our policy has been to draw out the People’s Republic of China. As a result, the China of today is simply not the Soviet Union of the late 1940s: • It does not seek to spread radical, anti-American ideologies. • While not yet democratic, it does not see itself in a twilight conflict against democracy around the globe. • While at times mercantilist, it does not see itself...


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