Monday, November 23, 2009

Obama Visits China

US President Barack Obama headed for Beijing and continued his historical first trip to China. Some media commentaries say the impact and significance of President Obama's first official trip to China can be comparable to former US President Richard Nixon's first official trip to China in 1972 and former US President Clinton's first official visit to China in 1997. This is because all the three US presidential trips to China carried with them the respective US President's intention to create a new chapter in US-Sino ties.

Balance of Power
Since the course of world events shifted from the bipolar confrontational Cold War era into the post-Cold War multi-polar era characterized by balance of power, the US-China relationship has been rebuilt all over again in the form of strategic partnership relationship. Of course, in between those past years, of note was that the US-Sino ties did go through some setback due to the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown frustration.
In the future, political ideological or political dogma will no longer be the key element in the new international order structure. Instead, the pragmatic economic strength of major powers will become the base of international order and power in the coming days. How the United States can continue to play its leading and dominant role in the international new order will depend on whether the United States can display its decisive influential power in the international economic new map that is gradually taking the form in regional regrouping and integration.
Before leaving the United States, President Obama said that the United States planned to conduct friendly competition with China focusing on consumers and competition in the trade market. The so-called friendly competition should include the RMB appreciation, trade liberalization, trade balance, intellectual property rights and other issues. But these are all highly controversial issues. It would be difficult for President Obama to reap concrete gains within short period of visit. President Obama's visit to China is but a symbolic tour. There are more to be done.

US National Interest
Thiry-seven years ago, When Nixon's plane touched down in Beijing, Nixon said: "I came for US interest!" 12 years ago, when Bill Clinton defended his China policy, he said: "I went to Beijing because of US national interest!" This time, President Obama also pledged to protect US interests for this China trip. He even said that the Democratic Party would as always, and be more attentive than the Republican Party to attend zero level of trade pattern with China. Because of the reality that economic power has become a dominant factor in future international order, and since the Asia-Pacific countries, especially China have shown strong economic growth force from the beginning of this new century, President Obama has to make his way to knock at the gate of the East.
The mission of President Obama's Asian trip is to reduce trade friction with China. It is also the US intention to build a 'containment' defense line along Asia-Pacific to protest the US interests. This containment line will begin from Australia in down south going through Singapore along the Straits of Malacca and turn north to link up the southern Korea Peninsula until the Japanese archipelago. The target of this US containment line is self-evidently pointing to China. Before President Obama left Washington, he stressed that "within the clear framework of international rules, the United States and China should each bear their corresponding responsibility."
It is obvious that the United States expects the Beijing authority to undertake the responsibility to protect global environment, human rights, etc. At the same time, President Obama also pledged to "intensify the efforts for the United States to involve in Asian affairs." This shows that the United States still wants to maintain its status as a military strong power in Asia to ensure the security and peace in the Asia-Pacific region and to continue taking up its role to maintain the balance of power in the region.

Change in US Strategy
This change in US strategy in the Asia Pacific region is reflected in the transformation of foreign intelligence gathering tasks of the US Central Intelligence Agency (USCIA) which puts emphasis on the intelligence collection and research analysis on China and Japan. This is probably because there are many unpredictable variables in China's future. The United States naturally does not want to take China lightly. On the other hand, the penetration and invasion of Japan's economic and trade power in the United States have also resulted in the USCIA having the need to strengthen Japan's industrial intelligence gathering research effort.
In the past, cooperation of the United States, Japan and Asian countries is rooted in the common interests of wanting to ward off the threat coming from former Soviet Union. Now the Soviet Union as a major power does not exist anymore. With the emergence of China, the common interests between the United States and Japan will need to re-adjust and re-position. Precisely at this time, the difference in the economic strength between of the United States and China, its Asian economic rival, is also getting larger. Therefore, from Washington's perspective, the most important calculations for the United States to establish a new international order will include on how the United States can reduce trade and economic difference with China, how the United States can regain trade balance with China, and how the United States can cooperate with China to form an interactive strategic partnership relationship.

Strategic Partnership
From President Obama's China trip to Hu Jintao's later US trip, we should by now understand that the "strategic partnership" of both nations will continue to improve as the result of change in international situation. The United States' "constructive engagement" with China will also become more pragmatic when it is driven by national interest.
As for the substantive issues of concern to the United States, we trust the United States will hold on tightly to them. But as for non-substantive issues the United States will gradually let go when dealing with China. We cannot expect President Obama' first visit to China can make concrete gains. This is also the intricate of the US-Sino Strategic Partnership spirit that amid friendliness diplomatic visits, there are also competition.

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