In the process of politically analyzing the relations between the USA and China it is necessary to emphasize the regional and global levels, since the two states, having absolutely opposite political regimes, do not have the apparent intention to intervene in each other’s domestic policy and to violate another’s sovereignty.
The two states are major actors in the world policy, having appropriate resources often to outline modern international relations as they please. Even though the USA and PRC resources are not symmetric so far, a new intention is noticeable in the foreign policy of China. For years China has led a policy of obvious neutrality and at times containment, initiating only in Eastern regions.
It is not incidental, that China has been named “regional state with global influence” by policy analysts, the USA, in its’ turn, has been trying to use the “Chinese playing cards” to change the weight of players in international relations. Nevertheless, in recent years a refinement of a new doctrine on foreign policy in China is noticeable, which claims to convert the state not only into an economic but also a political state. Taking into account the circumstance, it is necessary to make observations on the primary interests and greatest threats to the two states to visualize the domains of their mutual benefits and conflicts, which is possible through the political analysis of their foreign policy or national security strategies.
The grand strategy of China has been seriously transformed during the last fifty years. Thus, if the “Three Worlds Doctrine” was adopted after the Communist Revolution under Mao Zedong’s regime, which declared the USSR and the USA and the countries in the same boat its arch-rivals, and the Chinese foreign policy was to prevent the harassments against communist regime, then the regime under Deng Xiaoping’s power reviewed the state’s grand strategy opening China to the world, announcing state’s economic development as the main priority. In 2002 in the National Congress of the Communist Party of China the forthcoming 20 years were declared the years of strategic avenues, when China should have focused on domestic policy issues. In 2009 as well, the provision of sovereignty, security and development was announced as the political priority. Hence, up to 2010 China has not declared an issue on foreign policy, except for Taiwan issue which is considered to be China’s home affair. However, it was evident that China could not claim to become world’s top 1 economic country without possessing leading positions in the world policy, as in contemporary international relations the political and economic interests of states are inseparable. Therefore, China begins to convert its foreign policy into a multidirectional one, partaking in most important political events and crises. One of China’s core cards on foreign policy is the lack of permanent allies and enemies, e.g. having serious objections on the Nuclear Program of Iran, China imports oil from that country.
Obama’s regime, as opposed to his prior Bush’s administration, does not have consistent foreign policy doctrine, however, it took only a month from Barack Obama’s regime to formulate the political line related to the relations with the PRC. It had the following principle – more cooperation around more issues more often.
Viewing Barack Obama’s regime policy in the framework of Sino-American relations, it is worth mentioning the “G2” initiative, which was actively discussed in the presidency of the US 44th president. Although the idea entered into active deliberation since 2009, it was risen back in 2005 nonetheless, finding its manifestation in “America in the World Economy” by Fred Bergsten, the director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
Speaking of the necessity to form G2, Bergsten indicated the following factors peculiar to the USA and China:
- 2 largest economies
- the growth of the 2 overall was approximately half of the global growth prior to the crisis
- 2 largest trade countries
- 2 largest polluters
- they are the opposite edges of world financial and trade balance: the USA is the largest issuer and has the largest trade deficit amongst countries, whereas China holds the largest trade surplus and dollar reserve
- they are the leaders of 2 groups: on one hand of high-income, industrialized countries, on the other hand of developing countries.
Initially the mere scientific idea spread widely in the circle of the USA political elite and experts, and yet in January 2009, in the course of the events dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the USA-China diplomatic ties Zbigniew Brzezinski, addressing to the formation of G2, in addition to other advantages remarked the fact that this mechanism would help to more effectively operate in a variety of fields, including the UN.
Nevertheless, China, remaining loyal to the core principles of its foreign policy, one of which is the approval of multipolar world order, during Barack Obama’s visit to China in November 2009, as well as later on unveiled the determination China was not going to bring to life the G2 initiative with the USA. However, this did not denote tension of relations or narrowing of cooperation: regardless of whether the model of the ties between two countries would be named G2 or else, their cooperation continued in any case.
Since 2012 active political discussions proceeded between the PRC and the USA. They had purportedly reached a consensus with the current president of China Xi Jinping, when the parties declared in Washington that the two countries would create a new path for cooperation anchored in harmonious coexistence and “victory-victory” collaboration. Although expressions of mutual trust and “tolerance” are regularly voiced, however, the parties failed to reach the possible consensus because of existing disagreements.
The main reason for disagreement is the incomprehension and the apathy towards each other’s core interests. In 2013 the PRC president has mentioned that China and the USA should find a new path without past conflicts and confrontations and the new cooperation should be built on mutual respect and “victory-victory” collaboration. Saying “mutual respect” he understands the following: mutual respect towards each other’s social systems and development pathways, respect towards each other’s core interests and misgivings and achievement of united development respecting the existing differences. The social system and development pathway refer to conceding the reputation of the Chinese Communist Party, at the same time demanding from the USA to abandon being the protector of Human Rights and democracy ideologies in the relations with China. By saying core interests China means respect towards its sovereignty, security, territorial integrity and national unity, which would assumably lead to the USA’s discard of a number of foreign policy orientations. First of all it refers to the recognition of Taiwan as integral part of China, as well as the acknowledgement of China’s Rights towards the disputed maritime territories in South and East China seas.
National unity particularly refers to the Tibet issue, together with other secessionists in North China. However, Obama’s regime, taking into account the domestic march of events and the significant weakening of Democrats’ positions, cannot compromise China on the one hand to avoid the great recession of its legitimacy, on the other hand to have compromising materials on China. Hence, the new model of the USA-China cooperation was initially intended to backslide.
In 2014 a new process evolved in China which could lead to a redistribution of actors in world policy. President Xi Jinping’s words reveal the main orientation of China’s new primary strategy, which is – China discards “keeping a low profile” policy, adopting “the great leap” strategy, i.e. “great rejuvenation”, which will presumably lead to China’s rise as global power. Namely, China does not adopt “peaceful rise” strategy contrary to Obama’s term, but returning to its roots and using contemporary achievements claims to regain its erstwhile power. China aims at strengthening Asia-Pacific region converting into counterbalance to the developed West. This has served as a base for various policy analysts to assert China is on its way to become the world’s top superpower. China’s central role in APEC, G20 and other important summits held in prior year evidences the aforementioned factor. Chinese “Marshall Plan” – the New Silk Road is one of the projects which uncovers China’s claims.
Simultaneously, in recent times the existing reciprocal mistrust between the USA and China continues to increase related to the PRC-RF rapprochement. The mistrust is natural, as apparent contradictions on Taiwan issue exist between the parties, China views the USA-Japan pivot, the USA support to Tibet leader and Uighur secessionists as a threat, the USA, on its account, cannot tolerate China’s economic, human, military, mobilization and consolidation great potential. The foreign policy of China continues to become more pretentious in the authority of the new president. This cannot leave the USA without concerns. The radical difference of the existing political, social, economic systems between the two countries creates the illusion of USSR-USA mistrust existing in the period of Cold War, even though it is obvious that the relations between the two countries cannot be reviewed from the angle of overt confrontation. The USA develops cooperative relations with China expanding the scopes of collaboration spheres, at the same time indicating the existing issues in mutual relations, hence, it would be better to characterize the Sino-American relations as “cooperative-competitive”.
Authors: Anna Gasparyan, Victoria Aydinyan: © All rights are reserved
Translated by Marine Ohanjanyan