Monday, April 09, 2012


"China views the United States as a declining power, but at the same time believes that Washington is trying to fight back to undermine, and even disrupt, the economic and military growth that point to China’s becoming the world’s most powerful country, according to the analyst, Wang Jisi, the co-author of “Addressing U.S.-China Strategic Distrust,” a monograph published this week by the Brookings Institution in Washington and the Institute for International and Strategic Studies at Peking University.

Mr. Wang, who has an insider’s view of Chinese foreign policy from his positions on advisory boards of the Chinese Communist Party and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, contributed an assessment of Chinese policy toward the United States. Kenneth Lieberthal, the director of the John L. Thornton Center for China Studies at Brookings, and a former member of the National Security Council under President Bill Clinton, wrote the appraisal of Washington’s attitude toward China.

In a joint conclusion, the authors say the level of strategic distrust between the two countries has become so corrosive that if not corrected the countries risk becoming open antagonists.

The United States is no longer seen as “that awesome, nor is it trustworthy, and its example to the world and admonitions to China should therefore be much discounted,” Mr. Wang writes of the general view of China’s leadership.

In contrast, China has mounting self-confidence in its own economic and military strides, particularly the closing power gap since the start of the Iraq war. In 2003, he argues, America’s gross domestic product was eight times as large as China’s, but today it is less than three times larger.

The candid writing by Mr. Wang is striking because of his influence and access, in Washington as well as in Beijing. Mr. Wang, who is dean of Peking University’s School of International Studies and a guest professor at the National Defense University of the People’s Liberation Army, has wide access to senior American policy makers, making him an unusual repository of information about the thinking in both countries. Mr. Wang said he did not seek approval from the Chinese government to write the study, nor did he consult the government about it.

It is fairly rare for a Chinese analyst who is not part of the strident nationalistic drumbeat to strip away the official talk by both the United States and China about mutual cooperation.

Both Mr. Wang and Mr. Lieberthal argue that beneath the surface, both countries see deep dangers and threatening motivations in the policies of the other.

Mr. Wang writes that the Chinese leadership, backed by the domestic news media and the education system, believes that China’s turn in the world has arrived, and that it is the United States that is “on the wrong side of history.” The period of “keeping a low profile,” a dictum coined by the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1989, and continued until now by the departing president, Hu Jintao, is over, Mr. Wang warns.

“It is now a question of how many years, rather than how many decades, before China replaces the United States as the largest economy in the world,” he adds.

China’s financial successes, starting with weathering the 1998 Asian financial crisis and the 2008 global financial crisis, the execution of events like the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and the Shanghai Expo in 2010, contrast with America’s “alarming” deficit, sluggish economic recovery and polarized domestic politics, Mr. Wang says.

He does not address head on the far superior strength of the United States in military weaponry. But he notes that Beijing has developed advanced rocketry and space technology and sophisticated weapons systems without the “United States or the U.S.-led world order'".

Jane Perlez. "Chinese insider offers rare glimpse of U.S.-China frictions." The New York Times. 3 April 2012, in

One does not need to be an adherent of the anti-Chinese school of thought, to be less than entirely surprised or impressed with the line of thinking displayed by Peking's leadership as per the New York Times story and the Brookings Institute report upon which it is based. Per se, one would have to be the contemporary policy analyst equivalent of 'eyeless in Gaza', to not have picked-up and or notice the type of semi-triumphalist thinking displayed by PRC elites in the past half dozen years. With in particular, Peking's belligerent tone in disputes over the South China Sea, broadcasting loud and clear that Peking views this disputed issue with its neighbors as something which it cannot compromise on. And en faite, sees no reason to do so. A point of view, which would not have been the case, say circa 1992, or even 2002. That being said, and not gainsaying the empirical fact that within sometime in the next decade, Peking will indeed have a GDP larger, than that of the United States, in purely power-political terms, how much of a 'game-changer' (to employ a contemporary vernacular expression) will this fact be? I for one, am skeptical, that ipso facto this will indeed change the geopolitical landscape either in the Orient, much less elsewhere in the world. Simply put, unless and until, Peking is able to utilize its, admittedly considerable economic wealth (in total, not on a per capita basis), for military purposes, then the fact of American hegemony or neo-hegemony will not change in the least. To put the matter in a clear and comparative perspective, currently, there are only four countries in the world, which possess the following, military capabilities: i) "a nuclear power; ii) with a continuous at-sea deterrent; iii) able to project important sea, air and land forces." And the People's Republic is not one of them 1. In short, while the Brookings Report may perhaps frighten those of a particularly panglossian disposition as it relates to the future behavior and views of the PRC elites, the fact of the matter is that as long as the USA and its allies in the region, do not choose to unilaterally disarm or comply with Peking's, then the current status quo ante will no doubt remain 2.

1. Trevor Taylor. "The Limited Capacity of Management to rescue UK defence policy: a review and a word of caution." International Affairs. (March 2012), p. 235.

2. On this fact, see: Robert Kaplan. "America's Pacific logic." Stratfor: Global Intelligence. 4 April 2012, in


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