As expected, U.S. President George W. Bush and Chinese President Jiang Zemin agreed at their Oct. 25 summit to strengthen bilateral cooperation. Cooperative relations between the two powers are becoming firmly established, a far cry from early 2001 when Washington viewed Beijing as a “strategic rival.”
For the past year, China has been taking a highly flexible stance toward the United States. It has remained basically neutral regarding Iraq, cooperated with the U.S. regarding North Korea’s nuclear-arms development and restrained itself regarding U.S. weapons exports to Taiwan.
Beijing is adopting a realistic approach to promote friendship with the U.S., the sole military superpower, and foster a peaceful international environment that is indispensable for its economic expansion. This development reflects a new security concept China has been pushing since last spring.
The concept originated at a five-nation summit led by China and Russia and also attended by the leaders of the Central Asian nations of Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The “Shanghai Five,” inaugurated in April 1994, has promoted confidence building in border areas, antiterror activities and economic cooperation. The organization was upgraded to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (“Shanghai Six”) in June 2001 when it was joined by Uzbekistan. Jiang, in a speech at the inaugural meeting of the organization, used the phrase “new security concept” for the first time. He said the group was a new model of regional cooperation based on “a new security concept” of mutual trust, disarmament, cooperation and security.
The Bush administration, begun in 2001, defined China as a “strategic rival,” after the Clinton administration had called for a “constructive and strategic partnership” with China. When the Shanghai Six was established, U.S.-China relations were strained over a collision between a U.S. reconnaissance plane and a Chinese fighter over China’s Hainan Island. Jiang’s proposal for the new security concept was probably intended as constructive criticism of U.S. policy. The concept represented consensus among China, Russia and the four Central Asian nations.
At about the same time, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell visited China to signal an improvement in U.S.-China relations. After the 9/11 attacks, U.S-China relations improved at an accelerated pace, and China promoted its new security concept. Last February, Bush visited China and agreed with Jiang to promote constructive and cooperative relations between their countries. Since last spring, the new security concept has become the cornerstone of Chinese diplomacy.
In a speech last April 10 to the German Association on Diplomatic Policy, Jiang called for the establishment of a new security concept based on “mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and cooperation.” On April 24, Chinese Vice President Hu Jintao used the same words in a speech while visiting Malaysia. These statements were clearly intended as a campaign for the concept aimed at the international community, including Western industrial nations.
At the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia on June 4 in Almaty, Kazakstan, and at the second summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on June 7 in St. Petersburg, Jiang expounded on the security concept. A summit declaration said the international community needed to establish a new security concept based on “mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and cooperation.”
On July 31, at a meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum in Brunei, China published papers on the concept. On Oct. 27, at the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Mexico, Jiang mentioned the concept in his speech.
The concept is based on these ideas:
* Cold War-era views should be abandoned.
* Confidence building is the foundation of security.
* Economic and trade cooperation should enhance security and vice versa.
* A regional collective security system should be established to fight international terrorism and crimes.
* A fair and reasonable international order should be established.
The concept reflects criticism of U.S. unilateralism. China is aware that to prompt a change in U.S. policy it must take the initiative in implementing the concept and influence U.S. public opinion. Since early this year, China has stressed the importance of harmonious relations and taken a neutral stance regarding North Korea, Iraq and Palestine. Mao Zedong stressed philosophies of struggle, based on class struggle; now China is shifting to philosophies of peace, based on the new security concept.
U.S. military strategy calls for establishing a U.S.-led global security system on the basis of regional security systems built on bilateral military alliances with its allies. China had been wary of this strategy, fearing it could lead to a U.S. monopoly of power. However, it has changed its stance and chosen not to confront or challenge the U.S. as long as the latter does not intervene in its domestic issues, such as the Taiwan problem. It tolerates U.S. leadership in the world.
Furthermore, China stresses the importance of cooperation between China, the top developing country, and the U.S., the most advanced country, in the stability and development of the world. China appears ready to replace Japan as a bridge between the industrial and developing worlds.
There is no guarantee, however, that the Chinese-proposed concept will become the foundation of international diplomacy. Some Chinese officials fear that the U.S. siege of the world will intensify. Three different scenarios are now conceivable:
* The new security concept will spread internationally.
* The concept will clash with the U.S. scheme to dominate the world.
* The concept will be abandoned as “unrealistic” for the world today.
The second scenario is most likely. However, in the long term, it is likely to be followed by the first scenario. Depending on international developments, the third scenario cannot be ruled out.
The concept is likely to be accepted internationally when U.S. hawks stop worshipping power. Power politics led by a superpower must be replaced by moral politics led by new global organizations, but it will be a time-consuming process.
The present world is plagued by serious problems such as the widening gap between the North and South, a worsening environment, international terrorism and international drug trafficking. A shift from power politics to moral politics should be expedited. It is hoped that the new concept will be accepted as an interim philosophy in the process. Toward that end, world leaders should coordinate to restrain nationalistic instincts in their countries. U.S., Japanese and Chinese leaders have a grave responsibility in this endeavor in Asia.
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