A greater engagement between the two countries is helpful, but it is a double-edged sword. Certainly, better understanding between leaders reduces the risk of greater distrust. But it could also expect China to deliver more than it is ready to do. And, not least, as the engagement is strengthened, expectations of each other will increase. Historian Wang Gungwu for the Straits Times.
Interesting times indeed. The Xi-Obama summit sees engagement thrown into the US-China mix while both sides build up respective pivots to contain each other – strategic proxy pieces unveiling in this year alone.
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Greater US-China ties can cut both ways
By Wang Gungwu For The Straits Times
Source – Straits Times, published June 10, 2013
There is rising alarm at the new capacity of the Chinese to buy their way to influence and potential dominance. That was the way many saw the US not long ago. China is now likely to be seen in the same light. — PHOTO: AP
LAST week’s meeting in California between the presidents of China and the United States won the world’s attention. It was convenient for Mr Xi Jinping to stop by after Mexico and it was significant that the meeting was held on American soil. The chance for the two men to get to know each other better is clearly significant for the two countries’ future relationship. The fact that the two have different interests, however, cannot be wished away.
It has been easy for the popular media in each country to portray the other by highlighting what its peoples expect to hear. For example, many Chinese see America as weakening: its liberal capitalist economy is failing, President Barack Obama and his political opponents are fatally divided, and the military planners are determined to contain China in order for America to remain forever dominant in Asia.
At its core, US national interest leads its leaders to think in Cold War terms. Hence the system of alliances from that period is being kept to ensure that ultimately the communist system in China will collapse as it did in the Soviet Union two decades earlier. Most Chinese believe that this factor explains much of what the US is doing in Asia today.
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