Why US Keeps Hedging Over China
Image Credit: White House

Why US Keeps Hedging Over China


Last year saw an unusually tense period in US-China relations.

First there was the large US arms sale to Taiwan in January. Then came US President Barack Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama in February. Meanwhile, there were ongoing differences over alleged currency manipulation, protectionist trade practices, the two countries’ divergent climate change approaches, China’s Internet censorship and cyber espionage activities and mutual concerns about each other’s Korean policies (the United States has been frustrated by China’s refusal to condemn North Korean behavior, while Chinese policymakers worry the US might provoke Pyongyang with its military drills in the region).

All this has meant that China has so far failed to become the regional and global partner the Obama administration was hoping for, while Chinese policymakers for their part have expressed confusion over why the administration would confront Beijing on so many issues in 2010 after being so accommodating just a year earlier.

It’s true of course that the tone of Sino-US ties has improved in recent weeks. But the fact is that this is probably more about the Chinese wanting President Hu Jintao to have a good legacy trip in Washington on what will likely be his last state visit to the United States. Indeed, the decision to finally invite US Defence Robert Gates to China this past weekend can be interpreted as less connected to ending the freeze Beijing imposed on high-level military contacts following the Taiwan arms sale, and more as an attempt by China to ease tensions over bilateral military relations ahead of Hu’s arrival.

So how does China really view its ties with the US? Late last year, the official Xinhua News Agency ran several commentaries assessing the bilateral relationship that likely reflect the views of many Chinese leaders. One that ran at the end of December complained that the ‘return’ of the United States to the Asia-Pacific region had complicated regional relations, especially with Washington’s ‘new-found’ penchant for intervening in bilateral disputes between Asian countries.  The writer(s) presumably had in mind Washington’s diplomatic and military support for South Korea, Vietnam, Japan and other countries, many of which have territorial or other conflicts with Beijing.

Another commentary, published in the People’s Daily in November under the name of Li Hongmei, was even more explicit about Chinese grievances. It expressed, for example, irritation at US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for having ‘waded into the China-Japan dispute over (the) Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea by calling for trilateral talks’ that would include the United States as well as China and Japan. Li also denounced ‘the irresponsible remarks made by some American high-profile officials over the South China Sea issue’ in addition to their support for Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, US arms sales to Taiwan and Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama. 

May 16, 2011 at 02:37

Fell out of bed feeling down. This has brihtgeend my day!

Leonard L.
March 3, 2011 at 09:06

The US should announce a doctrine that any attack by North Korea will be considered an attack by China and the US will retaliate.

North Korea is not a ‘sovereignty’ nation as Yungzi maintains. It is a midget stalking pony for the PRC.

If North Korea launches an ICBM against America, would the US give China the
benefit of plausible deniability?

North Korea is a military arm of China. They should be viewed as a common enemy of the United States.

January 23, 2011 at 01:11

Can Communist China do the same, cut it’s military budget and spend the money in helping poor farmers, improving the lives of Chinese people in the mainland? Help the starving North Koreans. Keep the peace in Angola and African states. Join the United Nations contingent in disaster stricken countries? Let’s not go that far. Can Communist China reduce it’s military spending (period) to help it’s citizens to better themselves. I am sure that Japan, South Korea and the U.S. spends more for their citizens welfare.

January 23, 2011 at 00:35

Japan is re arming because there is cause to defend it self if ever North Korea posed any threat in the region. South Korea needs to arm itself because of the constant threats and skirmishes perpetrated by North Korea. Taiwan needs to re arm itself because of the constant threats by Chinese Generals of invasion. The U.S. is in Asia because the bulk of it’s businesses are in Asia or doing business with Asia. Asia is not only China but a collective of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, The Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, The Middle east(Saudi, UAE, Qatar, Oman) Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, etc. Let me repeat myself China is NOT ASIA, it is just one of the countries of ASIA Nobody is picking on China to be the villain. I think nobody here hates any Chinese on a personal basis or based on their race or origin. So please let us not play the race hate here.

January 23, 2011 at 00:06

It seems impossible for the foreign observer to full catch the complexities of Chinese political landscape.

January 17, 2011 at 02:48

china has tied up with every rogue and terrorist country as its allies.
china’s friends
North Korea

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