LEADERSHIP CHANGE IN CHINA AND USA COMBATIVE MOOD IN A MUTUALLY ACCEPTABLE COMPETITIVE ENVIRONMENT Keshav Prasad BhattaraiIn a few days American people will decide who will inhabit the White house for another four yearsin the 57th presidential election. The 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China thatwill begin from November 8 will also decide the fate of the person who will reside in Zhongnanhaipalace for one decade. Whoever will be elected or selected, they will have to face the most challengingtime in the history of their relations.In strategic terms America and China compete against each other, they fear each other and theyfight each other in their economic policies relating each other and in almost all geo-strategicregions - prominently in East Asia, South East Asia, in Pacific, Middle East and in South Asia. Theirtussle has continued in United Nations and other global forums. But the good thing is that the nature of global economy they entertained will not let them clashagainst each other to a level beyond some limit. Therefore they have limited options than forging aprudential relationship characterized by mutual trust and commitment in a turbulent time; when notbigger and powerful countries can fight and challenge them, but some poor and weak countries.It is followed by some non state actors rising from some stateless regions of the world and withthe power of terror that when coupled with modern technology can cause horrible damages to theirpeople and their strategic infrastructures.Therefore, politically they may be termed as foes but socially and economically they are partner forpeace and their common prosperity. Consequently, “Multilateral Engagement with Bilateral Vigor"was the correct term used by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to explain his country‟s strategyin dealing with China. During his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on March2009, he stated his strategy to integrate China in international community and invite it to takegreater responsibility in world affairs. Clinton agreeing with him affirmed the U.S. desire for asuccessful China – that ensures rising standard of living for its people and improves democracy at alocal level that is tolerable to its leaders. Indicating challenges posed by China‟s rise and hercountry‟s limitation, she asked Prime Minister Rudd “How do you deal toughly with your banker?” Really, China has emerged as a banker of the world‟s wealthiest country – United States. The Asiangiant that has held some U.S. $ 3.2 trillion in its foreign reserve is the largest amount in the world.
It is quite interesting to note that when China initiated economic reform in 1978 its foreign reservewas mere U.S. $ 2.2 billion. After this, the sharp rise continued. In 2001 it reached $212 billion. In2006 it crossed 2 trillion and within a period of five years one more trillion. Obviously China hasheld 1.2 trillion in U.S. treasury bills, bank notes and bonds and that is said even larger than theamount owned by American households. In such a situation neither Obama nor Romney could ignorethe vital truth.Naturally, this has given China a great leverage over America and emboldened by this Chinese mediaat times ask its government to use its huge reserve as weapon against the United States for thestrategic and political differences between them.1. GREAT DEPARTURES AND GREAT CHALLENGESAbout 50 years ago, China was a country where tens of millions used to go hungry in bed, but nowit is the second largest economy where the largest number of billionaires proudly live and work. Inthe meanwhile it is also predicted that some times within the next two decades it will become thelargest economy, will have completely eradicated poverty in its territory and will become thetechnological powerhouse of the world.The Chinese have demonstrated that they have the quality, competence, confidence, commitmentand resources to achieve it. President Hu Jintao, who is expected to step-down from the GeneralSecretary of Chinese Communist Party after the National Congress and from the presidency inearly next year, has leaded his country during the second phase of the glorious journey when Chinarose from middle ranked power to a global power only next to United States. And the level ofrecognition and global attention China receives is revealed by the mere fact that for some years itis almost impossible for any media to miss China in any of their publication – from news to editorials,in depth news analysis and researches. Educational institutes, think tanks and research bodies alsohave followed the same.And the man expected to lead the next phase of its glorious national history is Xi Jinping as theparty head and President. The man who as the Prime Minister will assist Xi in achieving that aim is LiKeqiang, a popular figure among the Chinese.According to Ezra F. Vogel in 1978, when Deng Xiaoping and several other high ranking officialsreturned from foreign trips, summarizing the effects of these visits Deng made a revealingobservation “The more we see , the more we realize how backward we are”. Further he remarkedthat “many of our ways of doing things are inappropriate and that we need to change” and Chinamust embark on a new path.Under the guidance of Deng, Gu Mu -the senior Chinese Vice Premier led a high level delegation toFrance, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark and Belgium from May 2 to June 6, 1978. The team was tomake a study tour on various sectors of economy in those countries and recommend the neededreforms and policy change to the Chinese government.Perhaps no visit in the contemporary world carried so much import and impact than this one interms of global economic development. After the visit they took several weeks to prepare thereports, then for months - starting from 3. P.M. to 11 P.M., it was debriefed among the top
leadership. Then it was followed by a planning meeting that lasted for another two months inregular morning sessions where the sixty top officials responsible in all aspects of economicdevelopment including senior most leadership including the party Chairman and Prime Minister HuaGuofeng participated with unusual enthusiasm and commitment.In its closing session, on September 9, 1978 Li Xiannian – one of the most influential elderStatesman with overall responsibility of economy who later became President of China, announcedthe beginning of new age of openness . According to Vogel Li explained the situation for China mostfavorable and called for importing foreign technologies, equipment, and capital and managementexperiences to accelerate economic development. During GU Mu‟s historic visit, a group ofEuropeans extended a proposal to lend as much as U.S. $ 20 billion to China and this was thegreatest surprise offer for the delegation. The rest is history and now the country that neverconceal a mood of jubilation when it was offered with a $ 20 billion loan, is now the biggest lenderof the world.2. FROM UNILINEAR TO MULTILINEAR PATH TO DEAL WITH A STRATEGIC RIVAL ANDPROSPERITY PARTNERThe whole world is looking eagerly and in some sense impatiently how these two global economic andmilitary giant will define their relations in one of the most turbulent time in human history. Thechallenges they were adapted to meet along the long history were unilinear, but now it has got amultilinear path.About one week earlier of Xi‟s elevation to the all powerful post of Chinese Communist party, whenAmerican voters will have chosen their next president – the first challenge he has to cope with willbe to initiate bigger policy strides to continue to become the world‟s number one economic andmilitary power or hand over the baton to China.Obviously this will give a deep stimulation to some 2 thousands delegates and its leadership of theNational Congress of Chinese Communist Party to define their strategic policy against the lonesuperpower that they aspire to leave behind them during the Xi‟s tenure as the President and partyleader.China enjoys a special privilege. Although a country of thousands years of history with muchglorious past, China considers itself as a young nation that was carved out of a communist revolutionin 1949. Therefore, it has broken its relation with its past and Prime Minister of China for abouttwo and half decades - Zhao En Lai, the mythically hardworking and one of the greatestadministrator of 20th century told Henry Kissinger during a meeting that while United States had ahistory of 200 years, China was just 22 years old. They did not want to look the world in historicalperspectives and abide by it if it demanded some accountability. This would give them a specialprerogative to reject their history if it means some responsibility, and acknowledge it - if it helpstheir cause. And prudently and cleverly they are doing both. This has given them bigger diplomaticand strategic leverage to initiate greater departures and are exchange every impossible intopossible and lucrative.Closer U.S. - China – relations during Cold War era was the greatest strategic necessity of bothcountries. The strategic map that was groomed out of the mental atlas of the leaders of both
countries prepared the psychological base for the disintegration of Soviet Union, and bag theunlimited pride, power and prosperity for both of them. But it has also opened new horizon oftrickiest and delicate challenges – dealing with a strategic rival and prosperity partner –demandinga new diplomatic skills and competency. Even though they want to fight, even though they havepower to fight and have reasons to fight, they cannot do it because they know the strikingcapability of their fire power but they do not know who will suffer more- themselves or the rival.United States was China‟s declared enemy since the early days of communist rule in China sinceOctober 1949 to U.S. president Richard M Nixon‟s historic visit on February 1972.They also hadfought a war in Korea in 1950. But one of the poorest countries with world‟s largest populationcarried no strategic meaning with any amount of hostility towards America.But highly confident, economically strong and powerful with modern armed forces equipped withadvanced nuclear weapons, far-reaching ballistic missiles, strong blue water navy supported by aircraft carrier and superior space program through all diplomatic overtures poses serious strategicthreat to United States and the global system led by it. Chinese officials have also expressed theirdesire to replace dollar as the reserve currency and have initiated a new global development bank tochallenge the U.S. dominated World Bank. All this have created overriding concern for UnitedStates.3. BILATERAL DISAGREEMENTS OVERRULED BY XI JINPING’S DIPLOMATIC OVERTURESMr. Xi Jinping‟s visit to United States in February this year was a fine initiation in assuring UnitedStates on China‟s strategic intentions. Exhibiting some superior diplomatic skills he met all thosewho had played historical role in improving China‟s relations with United States and expressed hisdeep respects to them. Immediately after his arrival he took part in a meeting with formerSecretaries of State Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright, former national-security advisersZbigniew Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft and Sandy Berger including former Treasury SecretaryHenry Paulson. With exceptional humility he expressed them that “their wise and practicalsuggestions have provided me with much food for thought”. Vice President Xi knowing well that how Deng Xiaoping is popular in United States expressedhis honor to Deng by citing his famous quote “Cross the river by feeling the stones”. Also quotingHillary Clinton - “When confronted by mountains, one finds a way through, when blocked by a river,one finds a way to bridge to the other side”, he made best efforts to define China – U.S relationswith insistence that how the world‟s largest developing country should and will have a new type ofcooperative partnership with “the largest developed country with great and far-reachingsignificance”.Moreover, Vice president Xi did not want to conceal his differences with America. In a writteninterview with the Washington Post just before his U.S. visit, he had agreed that both theircountries have “converging interests in the Asia-Pacific region than in anywhere else”. Indicatingthe U.S. military presence in Asia Pacific Xi had said that “At a time when people long for peace,stability and development, to deliberately give prominence to the military security agenda, scale upmilitary deployment” and strengthen defense alliances is not the things that most countries in theregion really hope to see.
Obviously the high level meeting between the world‟s two most powerful countries with two largesteconomies had to cope with frictions and many challenges. Xi was also greeted by tough Congressmembers and protesters from Tibetan and Uighur activist including people associated withdemocratic and some spiritual movements in China. But Xi accompanied by 200 member strongdelegates, in a polite and pleasing way tried to reassert Chinese positions from trade to human rightsituations including their mutual strategic interests.It provided Xi an excellent opportunity to affirm his authority and test his knowledge skills neededto handle tricky international relations as well. His long hours meeting with US Vice PresidentJoe Biden and Congress members, business leaders and civil society delegates had worked as a rarechance for the United States to know about a man who will take charge of the country that willdefine the international politics and economy in the next decade .Xi‟s U.S. visit was preceded by JoeBiden‟s visit to China while he had more than enough time to know about Xi expected to join the topjob soon.The United States too took Xi‟s visit as one of the most important visit of any Chinese leader. Xi‟sfirst meeting with Barrack Obama in his Oval office during the visit offered him an excellentopportunity to take stock of each other‟s positions on vital issues governing their countries.President Obama while greeting Xi Jinping did not miss to import his mind that a peaceful strongand prosperous China will critically be helpful in bringing stability and prosperity to the region andto the world.Obama also asserted that China‟s expanding power and prosperity also comes with increasedresponsibilities. Further expressing his areas of disagreements with China, he said that as they“want to work with China” this demands everybody working -“by the same rules of the road when itcomes to the world economic system”. He also raised the Human Rights situation in China, howeverthe focus of his speech was that “a strong working relationship” with China is critically important tothe United States to bring and ensure stability, order, and security “that ultimately provides abetter life for both the people of the United States and the people of China”.United States, acknowledging the status and position of Xi – as future Chinese leader, showered anexceptional diplomatic honor that was followed by a 19 gun salute at Pentagon -- the first suchhonor extended to a visiting vice president.4. CHALLENGES TO BILATERAL RELATIONS OR HISTORICAL OPPORTUNITIES FORGLOBAL PEACE AND DEVELOPMENTAccording to Hu Angang one of the great events of the past decades has been the rapid rise ofChina‟s obvious “quick ascent into the ranks of great powers” that outstripped the expectations ofinternational community and of the Chinese government as well. And the economic pragmatism,political consistency and strategic vision of its great leader Deng Xiaoping caused its continuousrise in spite of its political system, strategic location and population challenges.
The exponential rise of Chinese power has indubitably overturned the global balance of power.Because of their differences over political values governing their relations numerous confusing andthreatening zone have emerged including : North Korean nuclear ambition, peaceful resolution ofTaiwan, U.S. military presence in East Asia, peaceful settlement of China‟s land and maritimedisputes with its neighbors and ensuring free merchandise in international waters in China‟s vicinity.This was followed by two other major diplomatic developments in U.S. – China relations. The firstone was the Obama‟s „Asia Pivot‟ theory announced in Hawaii in last November to refocusintegrated U.S. foreign , defense, and economic strategy extending from South Asia to NorthEast and South East Asia. And the other was the joint Sino- Russian stand on Syria and Iran. Boththese developments have been widely regarded as their common obsession leading towardsconflicting global ambition straining their relations.Therefore as mentioned above growth of China‟s power in an exponential proportion has yet toreconcile with creation of modern institutions and rules to govern and manage the power it hasacquired through great economic success. Its monolithic communist party structure still in totalcontrol of state affairs including its worldwide strategic and economic interest, if fails to deliverappropriate institutions and rule based governance to look after its major interests and growingambitions of its populace, China may not sustain its overbearing mass of power.Any U.S. administration does not want to be seemed sluggish in promoting and protecting its corevalues and major national interests, but a powerful China is a great reality and U.S. has no otheroptions than to build a better modality to live and work with China and devise proper policy to dealintensively with China in all areas of its interactions and reflect objectively it in its strategicbehavior.Obviously,China‟s success and strategic intentions as stated by Elizabeth C Economy has bred newchallenges for its foreign policy in negotiating its economic and security interests with globalcommunity which up to now has failed to keep pace with the growing demands of internationalcommunity. According to Dr. Economy China needs to update and reset its foreign policy strategyas a rising power status that demands more accountability and balance in its regional and globalambition.But when people are meant, when peace and development implies, relations between countries cannot be defined in strategic and military terms only. And the economic policy China has adopted thesocial practices China has developed and the history it has shaped since the late 70s wouldinevitably led China closer to United States although their political relations between them willlikely to be strained for the time being. Eurasia Review, November 2, 2012