Jewish World Review Nov. 18, 2003 / 23 Mar-Cheshvan, 5764
John C. Bersia
U.S. now has right view on China
http://www.jewishworldreview.com | When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991 and the Cold War officially ended, Americans wasted little time in casting about for a new enemy.
Indeed, the international system without an adversary for the United States appeared out of balance. In their search, some myopic people turned their restricted sights on Asia, especially China. To them, the economic successes that the Chinese were racking up year after year could spell only danger for U.S. interests, largely due to Beijing's reluctance to ditch communism.
Some of that misguided thinking tucked itself into the advice that George W. Bush received during the 2000 election and remained embedded well into his first year as president - with predictable results. Among other things, the administration labeled Beijing a strategic competitor, and a chill reminiscent of the old Cold War days settled over the U.S.-China relationship.
Washington should have known better, because the real adversary - global terrorism - proved not so elusive after all. Indeed, it was lurking nearby all along, as numerous terrorism specialists persistently warned. I give full credit to analysts such as the Count de Marenches, who published The Fourth World War in the early 1990s, and Stephen Sloan, the father of terrorism studies in the United States, for their relentless but unheeded warnings about the growing threat.
On Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists struck the United States with merciless, deadly accuracy and the Chinese suddenly looked like long-lost best friends, the message finally hit home.
I agree with the analysts who contend that U.S. foreign policy radically changed course that day, and it particularly did in the sense that the war against terrorism soared to the top of the priority list. But the change was not so extreme that it eclipsed other American interests, such as democratic governments, open markets and stability. And China, though less of a preoccupation, held on to its place as an area of critical interest.
The Chinese, who had long sought America's recognition and markets, delighted in the change. Indeed, they had never fully understood the perplexing, progressive alienation of China in U.S. foreign policy during the period just before 9-11. As I made my way around various governmental, business and academic circles in China during the height of tensions in 2001, questioners at virtually every location zeroed in on a single concern: Why does President Bush dislike us?
Actually, as I told them at the time, the discussion deserved much more than a casual summary, not to mention that it was too early to reach conclusions and that the Bush administration's position would flesh out over time.
Indeed, it has, leading some analysts to declare relations between China and the United States better than at any time since before the Tiananmen Square crisis in 1989.
China has become a staunch ally of the United States in the war against terrorism. The two also are working together to blunt the specter of nuclear proliferation that menaces the Korean peninsula and the surrounding region. And they enjoy robust two-way trade, despite a huge surplus on the Chinese side.
Beijing is not ignorant about the downside of the trade imbalance, as its recent actions demonstrate. China has signed contracts worth billions of dollars with Boeing and General Electric. It also has agreed to ease import restrictions and allow U.S. automakers to sell thousands of vehicles.
Other prickly matters such as Taiwan and human rights also shadow the United States and China and deserve attention. One cannot underestimate their potential to throw the relationship off course.
However, in terms of the big picture, the two nations sit squarely on the same page. Both have the relationship right at this point, notably in understanding that the enemy resides in global terrorism, not in Washington or Beijing.
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