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203 Foreword There is a Chinese (and Indian) proverb well known in the West—Blind Men Feeling the Elephant (盲人摸象)—in which several blind men, each touching a different part of an elephant, seek to identify what is in their hands. One man, holding the tail, declares the object is a rope; another touches the elephant’s side and identifies it as a wall, and so on. The tusk becomes a spear, the trunk a snake, the leg a tree, and the ear a fan. The blind men argue. Each is partly right, and partly wrong, but none “grasps” the full animal. Just as diplomats, companies, and scholars grapple with diverse dimensions of China’s rapid emergence onto the international, Great Power stage, so too do members of the United States Congress. Pulled in different directions by security, trade, and human rights considerations, Congress is caught in an intense debate over whether and when China should be seen as a threat or opportunity, a destabilizing force or a growing stakeholder in the international system. Most importantly, Congress must work with the President to decide how America should respond. Increasingly, members are appreciating that China’s rise may be the most significant event in international affairs in the 21st century. The U.S.-China relationship has grown rapidly in complexity, as revealed in the number of issues on which the two countries are working together. These issues range from critical security threats such as the North Korean nuclear programs to trade disputes , global energy supplies, health threats, scientific research, etc. The first session of the 109th Congress featured a number of highly visible issues relating to China. These included legislative initiatives concerning China’s currency valuation and strong reactions to the proposed acquisition of UNOCAL by the China National Offshore Oil Corporation. Behind the floor debate and public posturing, Congress has been building its capacity to analyze China. Bipartisan coalitions of members have formed to better understand China’s rise and the implications of this enormous development for the United States. Notable among these recent initiatives is the U.S.-China Working Group, founded in June 2005 by two Congressmen, Mark Kirk, a Republican from the Chicago area, and Rick Larsen, a Democrat from Henry M. Jackson’s original district just north of Seattle. In less than six months, 35 other House members have joined this bipartisan effort to educate Congress about China, and to inform China about Congress. We at The National Bureau of Asian Research were pleased to be invited to help develop and chair an Academic Advisory Group for the Kirk/Larsen initiative. In the bipartisan spirit of Senator Jackson, the Academic Advisory Group of more than twenty scholars from around the United States provides a ready resource for the members of the Working Group. We invited Congressmen Kirk and Larsen to pen their views on the state of Congress with regard to the U.S.-China relationship, as well as to put forward a general framework with which to approach the opportunities and challenges ahead. Their essay, which follows, exemplifies the work of optimistic realists who are dedicated to understanding the “whole elephant.” The authors are hopeful that Congress, while protecting American national interests, can assist the two most powerful countries on earth to work together effectively to identify and protect their overlapping interests. These evolving developments in Congress are healthy on several levels. First, because Congress plays an important role in foreign policy, the better informed its members are the better off America’s policies are likely to be. Second, more links between Chinese and American leaders provide more opportunities down the road for diplomatic progress. Third, because Congress reflects the desires and opinions of the American people (the House of Representatives in particular is “the people’s house”), it can best communicate the roots of American policy. The speed at which China is developing and the indeterminate outcome of this process are producing a mix of confusion and hope, of fear and optimism. It is very encouraging to me that so many responsible members of Congress are recognizing the importance of China’s rise and the need to understand it. The new elephant in world affairs will surely attract increasing attention. This essay by these two dynamic young leaders demonstrates that serious expertise is developing in Congress, an expertise that should prove critical as China increasingly exercises international influence consistent with its economic achievements, rising military capability , and diplomatic prowess. Richard J. Ellings President The National...


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