Sino-US Relations in the 21st Century

Original Presentation: “Sino-US Relations in the 21st Century,” The Contours of Sino-US Competition in the 21st Century and Implications for India, organized by the HQ Integrated Defence Staff, Ministry of Defence, Government of India and the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), 24 November 2010.

 

Summary:

“They’re not enemies, but frenemies, with codependent economies…”

The Sino-US relationship is without doubt the most important bilateral relationship in the world. It is also one of the most complex and difficult ones.

US policy on China appears to be one of whatever works, of “crossing the ocean by feeling the stones”, and it is difficult to say explicitly whether it is one of engagement, or containment or ‘congagement.’ As Kenneth Lieberthal puts it, the American dilemma is that “if China ends up being the one to really capture the economic upside of the region and we capture the security needs of the region, then China captures the [Asia-Pacific] region as a profit center and we capture the region as a cost center.” The Chinese for their part are confused is about the place of China in the world, especially if compared with the US, India, Japan, Russia or Europe and fear that the US could disrupt China’s rising regional influence.

In 2005 Robert Zoellick declared, “China has a responsibility to strengthen the international system that enabled its success.” Implicit in this statement is the US’ central role in creating that system and in running it. The question for the future is whether China does not think the international system required for its continued success might have to be a different one altogether.

Sections

A. Understanding Chinese Self-perceptions – What is the Chinese Worldview?

B. China Watching the US

C. China Watching the US Watching China

D. Principal Actors on the Two Sides

E. Fundamentals of Sino-US Competition – “Frenemies”

F. What to Watch Out For in Future Sino-US Relations

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