Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Zach Przystup — China-US Relations: The Return of Mao’s Noose

‘The U.S. and China are locked in a great power competition, and their primary goals are incompatible.’…
National visions are powerful motivators. For the U.S., a national vision of liberal democracy and free markets has translated into permanent forward deployment of the U.S. military and the world’s largest alliance system. Underlying this forward strategy is the belief that liberal democracy is the best form of government, and that it must be protected at home and given to others when possible. This American vision is less than three centuries old; China’s view of itself as the center of the universe goes back thousands of years. As scholar Yan Xuetong notes, Chinese people believe China’s fall from preeminence to be “a historical mistake which they should correct.” If it is true that old habits die hard, the main tenets of China’s national vision are unlikely to change. 
By pivoting to Asia, Washington is placing a bet that Beijing desperately wants to avoid a disastrous conflict as much as it does, and that the status quo in the region will endure. By tightening the noose, Beijing is trying to call its bluff. As Sun Tzu might observe, both sides are trying to win without fighting. 
For now, that may be a viable strategy. But even if China continues its steady growth, avoids threatening its neighbors, and generally demonstrates that it is a responsible stakeholder in the international system, it is inconceivable that it would allow another superpower to have the best real estate in its own neighborhood. At some point, the U.S. and China’s national visions will collide. When that happens, Washington and Beijing will both have to make a monumental decision about the future of East Asia, and the rest of the world.
The Diplomat
China-US Relations: The Return of Mao’s Noose
Zach Przystup | Assistant Director for Global Executive and Diplomatic Education at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University

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