China: Containment Won't Work
The relationship between the United States and China is beset by ambiguity. On the one hand, it represents perhaps the most consistent expression of a bipartisan, long-range American foreign policy. Starting with Richard Nixon, seven presidents have affirmed the importance of cooperative relations with China and the U.S. commitment to a one-China policy -- albeit with temporary detours at the beginning of the Reagan, Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. President Bush and Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell have described relations with China as the best since the opening to Beijing in 1971. The two presidents, Bush and Hu Jintao, plan to make reciprocal visits and to meet several times at multilateral forums.
Nevertheless, ambivalence has suddenly reemerged. Various officials, members of Congress and the media are attacking China's policies, from the exchange rate to military buildup, much of it in a tone implying China is on some sort of probation. To many, China's rise has become the most significant challenge to U.S. security.
Before dealing with the need of keeping the relationship from becoming hostage to reciprocal pinpricks, I must point out that the consulting company I chair advises clients with business interests around the world, including China. Also, in early May I spent a week in China, much of it as a guest of the government.
The rise of China -- and of Asia -- will, over the next decades, bring about a substantial reordering of the international system. The center of gravity of world affairs is shifting from the Atlantic, where it was lodged for the past three centuries, to the Pacific. The most rapidly developing countries are in Asia, with a growing means to vindicate their perception of the national interest.
China's emerging role is often compared to that of imperial Germany at the beginning of the 20th century, the implication being that a strategic confrontation is inevitable and...