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193 United States Policy Toward China: A Timely Restatement James A. Kelly Since 1972 seven U.S. presidents have promoted a remarkably consistent policy of engagement with China. Given the worldwide changes in the past three decades, as well as painful perturbations in China itself, this essential steadiness is all the more remarkable . Skeptics in and out of the United States have raised doubts at every turn, many with entirely valid justification. But U.S. engagement with China, whether in the form of Bill Clinton’s “Strategic Partnership” or George W. Bush’s “Cooperative, Constructive, and Candid” relationship, has contributed to the historic and unprecedented development of China as a global power and trading behemoth. The new speech by Robert Zoellick has now reframed the presentation of the Bush administration’s China policy. Doubts and questions persist. On the one hand, the Bush administration has been frequently and falsely accused of seeking to “contain” China. On the other hand, and more seriously, the huge trade deficit ($163 billion in 2004) that has emerged between China and the United States and the perception of lost U.S. jobs have raised temperatures among increasing numbers of members of the U.S. Congress. In the case of China, economic and political issues quickly intertwine. James A. Kelly is Senior Adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington , D.C., as well as Counselor of the Pacific Forum/CSIS in Honolulu. He was Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs from 2001 to 2005. He can be reached at . nbr analysis 194 China is addressing these concerns directly. Beijing shifted the value of the Chinese currency by some 2% in July, and a recent Foreign Affairs article by Beijing elder and insider Zheng Bijian has sought to reassure that China seeks a peaceful rise. The Zheng article, to which Zoellick refers, outlines a 35-year plan for China to effect a peaceful rise, identifies daunting obstacles that must be overcome, and seeks to reassure agitated observers by noting that China’s breathtaking but uneven 27-year emergence has been accomplished with “capital, technology, and resources acquired through peaceful means.” This timely speech by Mr. Zoellick performs a valuable service in that it carefully articulates the Bush administration’s second-term policies toward China. The speech— given in New York to business leaders and policy wonks, but intended for wider circulation —signals neither policy change nor complacency with the status quo. In his remarks, Deputy Secretary Zoellick—second in command at the Department of State and a former full cabinet member as President Bush’s first-term global trade representative—re-emphasized the cooperative relationship that both nations profess a desire to attain. The speech, however, also provided useful details regarding the Bush administration’s concerns, reservations, and even aspirations. Zoellick specifically rejected the notion that the United States should contain China. He also rejected the suggestion that the United States should recruit Asian countries into some sort of a coalition designed to block or oppose China. According to Zoellick, Asian countries would not join such a coalition and the policy would fail. Most of all, this type of plan is unnecessary. Zoellick did recognize that the rise of China presents political, military, and economic uncertainties, which is precisely why the United States and its allies hedge against possible adverse turns in China’s development. In his speech, Zoellick has endeavored to introduce a new phrase into the sometimes arcane language of China diplomacy. He outlined a policy that goes beyond current U.S. efforts to speed China’s full membership into the international system by urging China to become a responsible stakeholder in that system. This phrase is already eliciting comment in several languages. Zoellick has urged China to assume responsibility. Beijing should aspire to something more than simply pursuing China’s own interests. Some commentators in China have viewed this as a patronizing suggestion, but such comments needed to be stated publicly. By urging China to become a stakeholder in the international world order, Zoellick is calling for Beijing to evince the sort of behavior characteristic of one who 195 “whither u.s.-china relations?” roundtable belongs to, and appreciates belonging to, the international system that has so greatly facilitated China’s soaring rise in wealth. Here I would mildly dispute the language of the speech. China need not be urged to become a stakeholder because Beijing already holds an acute interest in the strength and stability...


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