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Washington is not naïve about Beijing

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This post is part of the US China policy debate thread. To read other posts in this debate, click here.

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29 January 2010 15:44


This post is part of the US China policy debate thread. To read other posts in this debate, click here.

Raoul's reply to my post on America's China policy begins by acknowledging that 'you would be hard pressed to find anyone' who agrees with the proposition that a growing China will necessarily become more deferential to the US. Yet in the next paragraph he says that this assumption 'continues to shape Washington's...approach towards China'.

How can both things be true? If nobody believes the premise, how come it shapes US policy?

I would also like to see evidence of any prominent American scholar or policy-maker who really believes that Chinese economic development would make China 'a bit like Japan' with interests 'virtually indistinguishable from those of the US'. There may be figures who believe such things, but I would be startled if it is a majority view or even a very popular one.

Certainly, various presidents and diplomats have hoped that China's 'coming out' might make them more amenable to American views, but none of them expected it, which is why each successive administration has continued to hedge against China in various diplomatic and military ways.

The reason they have all engaged China is not out of naïve faith that it would transform the place politically (though, again, they might have hoped for it), but because there is widespread agreement among American foreign policy elites that economic globalisation is a tide that lifts all boats. In short, it is in America's economic interest that China get rich.

Photo by Flickr user flickr.Marcus, used under a Creative Commons license.

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