A Balance of Power Tilting towards Beijing
by Charles Lemos, Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 06:22:35 PM EDT
Yesterday, President Obama addressed the opening session of the first US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, noting that the relationship between the two countries will shape the 21st century. If there is such a thing as a G2, there is little doubt that grouping is the United States and China. Certainly as the President opined Sino-American relations are as "important as any bilateral relationship in the world."
With this in mind, US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (SED) going forward will be a bi-annual event rotating between Washington and Beijing. The SED is a successor to a wide-ranging consultation begun under the Bush administration by the former Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr, aimed at coordinating economic and trade issues. Secretary Clinton pushed successfully to have these bilateral engagements broadened to include strategic geo-political concerns.
If the world axis has centered on the Atlantic for the past few centuries, that axis has certainly shifted to some degree first with the rise of Japan as the world's second largest economy but in the coming century the transformation of China from an economic backwater to an economic powerhouse seems to augur for a paradigm shift in the world's economic order. Even if a billion Chinese remain in endemic poverty, 400 million have escaped that crushing load. This is the most significant development of the post Cold War period and it will have lasting repercussions. The world's center of gravity is increasingly in East Asia, not just China, though increasingly China is at the center of events in the region.
More from the New York Times:
"The United States and China share mutual interests," Mr. Obama declared at the opening ceremony for the two days of talks, which will be led by both the secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and the Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, and their Chinese counterparts.
"If we advance those interests through cooperation," he said, "our people will be better off -- because our ability to partner with each other is a prerequisite for progress on many of the most pressing global challenges."
Ticking off those challenges, he said the two countries would discuss how to work together on economic policy, climate change, clean energy technology, nuclear nonproliferation, cracking down on terrorism and other threats, and tackling humanitarian crises like that in Darfur.
"All of these issues are rooted in the fact that no one nation can meet the challenges of the 21st century on its own," Mr. Obama said. "It is this fundamental truth that compels us to cooperate."
Mr. Obama referred to disagreements between the United States and China over human rights, saying the "religion and culture of all peoples must be respected, and that all peoples should be free to speak their minds -- and that includes ethnic and religious minorities in China."
But he said the two countries could narrow their differences with a wide range of exchanges between their governments and growing connections between individuals. The United States, Mr. Obama said, is enriched by its ties with China, a society he described as "at once ancient and dynamic."
"Let's be honest," the president said, "Some in China think that America will try to contain China's ambitions; some in America that think there is something to fear in a rising China. I take a different view."
Mr. Obama said he wanted to see China be a "strong, prosperous, and successful member of the community of nations."
Let's be honest, we should have no illusions as to the character of the Chinese regime in Beijing. China is a repressive regime that is committing or abetting acts of genocide the world over but we are hardly in a position to dictate. As a measure of the shift in the bilateral relationship, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner felt obliged to reassure Chinese official that the United States will take steps to address rising budget deficits once the economic recovery is firmly in place. China has expressed concerns that rising inflation might threaten the value of its investments in US debt.
Last year, China surpassed Japan as the largest US creditor. An estimated 10% of all US debt securities are now in Chinese-controlled accounts. This growing dependence on Chinese cash to finance our largesse and an Empire we can ill afford is granting Beijing extraordinary sway over US economic policies. This growing dependence is another legacy of misguided economic policies, pursued mostly by GOP Administrations but one can hardly exculpate the Clinton Administration in this as well, that have compromised US national security.