How to Deal with Beijing-Washington Tensions
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 15, 2014
Summary: The United States has no intention of coming in second. But it cannot contain Mainland China. Beijing hopes to reduce U.S. influence in the Asian-Pacific region. But it has no intention of making an enemy of Washington. As Xi Jinping said, Beijing-Washington confrontation would lead to global catastrophe. Bilateral relations have intensified. Can Taipei seek peaceful coexistence in such a difficult situation? Can it ensure a win-win outcome?
Full Text Below:
The sixth strategic and economic talk between Beijing and Washington was held in Beijing on the 9th and 10th of July. Senior officials from both sides called the talks beneficial and effective. In fact, the bilateral talks yielded little of substance. The strategic dialogue between the two sides addressed 116 issues. They included the South China Sea disputes and Internet security. The two sides found themselves farther apart than ever. The talks ended the very next day. U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Christine Fox immediately issued three recommendations, Fox called on all parties to cease and desist from engaging in certain actions. She accused Beijing of unilateral provocations, and cast doubt on its willingness to comply with international law. The situation does not look promising for Beijing-Washington relations.
Let us return to the root of the problem. Strategic dialogue between Beijing and Washington began in August 2005. The purpose was to increase bilateral cooperation and promote peace in the Asian-Pacific region and the rest of the world. The two sides met a total of six times. They focused on increasing dialogue and mutual trust. They hoped to increase agreement, expand cooperation, and strengthen coordination and consultation. Beijing-Washington Strategic Economic Dialogue began in December 2006. The two sides met a total of five times. They addressed specific economic and trade issues, including aviation, services, banks, securities, RMB exchange rates, energy, environmental protection, trade and investment, food safety, and international economic cooperation. The issues discussed now differed little from what was discussed then.
The Bush administration, which included Bush himself and neoconservative cabinet members, harbored strong animosity and mistrust toward Beijing. Washington even saw Beijing as a strategic competitor. As a result, strategic talks between the two regimes were changed to dialogue between senior officials. The Obama administration eventually merged the two talks. This represented a major shift in Washington's thinking. Both sides sent their respective Secretaries of State. Vice Premier level officials attended. The two presidents gave important talks or interviews. The many high-ranking participants covered a wide range of topics. Clearly both sides attach great importance to the talks.
As in the past, Beijing said that the two sides stand at a turning point in history, and face many new opportunities. Beijing is willing to view the relationship from a strategic, long-term perspective. It is willing to look at the big picture, and seize the opportunity. It is willing to join the United States in creating a new future, It is willing to cooperate in a comprehensive and constructive manner. This reflects Beijing's current position and direction. This shows that it is sincere and has good intentions. This also shows that it remains firm on cerrain issues. Washington realizes that Beiing-Washington relations will shape the 21st century. This relationship is as important as any bilateral relationship in the world. Reality necessitates a partnership between the two. The two must also share responsibility. Beijing should relax controls on yuan exchange rates. It should exercise restraint in the South China Sea and other regions. It should play a role commensurate with its responsibilities. Washington's stance was quite clear.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry criticized what he termed Beijing's unilateral actions in the South China Sea. He said Beijing's "new fait accompli" in the Asian-Pacific region was unacceptable. Following the meeting, Washington immediately recommended three guidelines for the South China Sea, Washington also asked Beijing to resume bilateral negotiations on Internet security. Beijing instructed State Councilor Yang Jechi to express the Mainland position at a series of press conferences. Beijing greeted the new U.S. proposal coldly. As we can see Beijing does not intend to make any concessions on the disputes over territorial waters and other matters.
Washington has agreed to engage in bilateral Strategic and Economic Dialogue with Beijing. It is willing to engage in high level, large scale, high profile, talks. This means that Beijing-Washington relations have undergone a qualitative change as well as a quantitative change. Mainland China's strength can no longer be ignored. Washington cannot ignore Mainland China's growth, It can no longer fight or contain Beijing. Washington is now attempting to adopt a more pragmatic approach. It is attempting to develop constructive and friendly relations with Beijing. It is attempting to make Beijing more reasonable and responsible. It is attempting to further its integration into the international mainstream, and to make it accept international norms of behavior.
But the two sides have many problems. The two regimes have different views on human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. They have different political and economic systems. They are at different stages of development. They have structural differences. The competitive nature of the relationship remains unchanged. The relationship between them is neither enemy nor friend, and both enemy and friend. The two sides realize that cooperation benefits both. Cooperation means win/win. Confrontation means lose/lose. The bilateral relationship involves both cooperation and competition. There is cooperation within the friction. There is friction within the cooperation. Sometimes the struggle overshadows the cooperation. Sometimes the cooperation overshadows the struggle. But the two sides need each other. Good relations between the two may not result in harmony. But bad relations will not necessarily lead to a complete breakdown.
The United States has no intention of coming in second. But it cannot contain Mainland China. Beijing hopes to reduce U.S. influence in the Asian-Pacific region. But it has no intention of making an enemy of Washington. As Xi Jinping said, Beijing-Washington confrontation would lead to global catastrophe. Bilateral relations have intensified. Can Taipei seek peaceful coexistence in such a difficult situation? Can it ensure a win-win outcome? Taipei will need political wisdom and diplomacy. Taipei lacks the wherewithal to achieve this. But it must not undermine Beijing-Washington relations. It must not be blindly optimistic regarding Beijing-Washington relations. It must assess the situation carefully. It must not sacrifice Taiwan's interests. These are the Republic of China's unwavering principles.