United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
September 23, 2016
Executive Summary: Following the G20 meeting in Hangzhou, the domestic and foreign media began paying closer attention to the Mainland's analysis of global political and economic issues. As Gideon Rachman, author of "Orientalism" noted, following the global financial crisis, political and economic forces shifted toward the East, in particular Mainland China. The rapid rise of China has the potential of lifting up emerging Asian nations. China's rise and theirs go hand in hand. As a result some Western nations have become increasingly apprehensive about Mainland China's international influence. Then there are the United States and China, which some believe are caught in a Thucydides Trap.
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Following the G20 meeting in Hangzhou, the domestic and foreign media began paying closer attention to the Mainland's analysis of global political and economic issues. As Gideon Rachman, author of "Orientalism" noted, following the global financial crisis, political and economic forces shifted toward the East, in particular Mainland China. The rapid rise of China has the potential of lifting up emerging Asian nations. China's rise and theirs go hand in hand. As a result some Western nations have become increasingly apprehensive about Mainland China's international influence. Then there are the United States and China, which some believe are caught in a Thucydides Trap.
In 2012 Harvard University political science professor Graham Allison published an article related to this in the Financial Times. But a truly thought-provoking incident took place last September. Xi Jinping visited the United States and made reference to the “Thucydides Trap”, something familiar only to Western political elites. Xi showed that Chinese leaders are increasingly comfortable with Western political rhetoric and global communications. Athenian historian Thucydides noted how fifth century BC Sparta found itself faced with the rise of Athens. Allison touted the term "Thucydides Trap", and noted how the rise of new powers provokes fear among existing powers. Both sides respond by attempting to seize the initiative. Allison warned about a head on collision between the current US hegemon and a rising China. China's political system remains highly centralized. Yet its leaders invoke Western historical precedents to challenge Western hegemony and advocate mutual respect and win-win. This is a highly intriguing situation.
Xi Jinping used the Thucydides Trap to make another important point. This one hit Western powers squarely in their sore spot. Upon entering the 21st century, long term global economic power has apparently shifted from West to East. The focus of economic thought has similarly turned to the East. After 2008, the United States, European nations, and other developed nations have been subject to internal bottlenecks. They have found it difficult to sustain their past economic advantages, and their military, political, and ideological dominance. First, the US hegemon once supported political democracy and economic freedom. In recent years however, nationalism, isolationism, and protectionism have gained traction. This year's US presidential election focuses on its loss of global dominance. Furthermore, Mainland China hosted the G20. This provided it with its first opportunity since joining the WTO to promote tariff reduction for new WTO members. The hope is that new members may help China become the world's largest market, and show that the United States is conservative while China is open.
Second, US allies have their own difficulties. Europe must deal with radical right wingers. The refugee problem amounts to riding a tiger. Economic growth remains sluggish. Brexit has rendered Europe unable to help the United States. Japan, in the Asian Pacific, remains in dire economic straits. Southeast Asian nations have now adopted a two-pronged strategy. They are friendly with both major powers. US allies are either unable to cope with their own problems, or they have their own plans. China is gathering economic strength. It is bringing benefits to its neighbors. It is accumulating power, making US political and economic dominance harder to maintain.
Previous CCP leaders resorted to more authoritarian language to depict China as one of the world's major powers. Xi Jinping put it bluntly. The US should not fall into the foregoing trap. He stressed that under the new big power relationship, China seeks to avoid conflicts and confrontation, to promote mutual respect and win-win cooperation. It advocates the avoidance of error, deceit, and emotionalism. It argues that bilateral cooperation at all levels will ensure a better understanding of each others' positions. Xi exhibited a more "mature" political style that shrugged off Western nations' stereotype of Mainland China as a nation “beyond the pale”.
Consider the matter pragmatically. The key to preventing the Thucydides Trap from becoming a reality, is seeking common interests between the two nations, and subjecting the power struggle to risk management. On the eve of this year's G20 meeting, the two nations announced the approval of the Paris Climate Accord. That is one example. Nevertheless the rise and expansion of a new power continues to inspire fear and reaction on the part of the current hegemon. If in the future nationalist arguments prevail, or neither side is willing to compromise, war could erupt. By then, Washington, Beijing, and Taipei, constrained by political and economic considerations, will face a very dangerous predicament.
For this reason, Taipei must adopt a strategic overview of the situation. It must communicate with the Mainland much better than it has. It must formulate its own foreign policy vision, knowledge, and skills, as soon as possible. Otherwise, Taiwan will find itself relegated to the margins. By then it will be too late.
2016-09-23 03:55 聯合報 聯合報社論
杭州G20會議後，國內外媒體對中國大陸在全球政經話語權的引導及詮釋能力的評估似乎更上層樓，多所討論。一如《東方化》一書作者拉赫曼（G. Rachman）所說，金融海嘯後的全球政經趨勢更朝向東方聚焦，尤以中國為重。而中國大陸快速崛起，又有潛力日增的亞洲新興國家相隨，令西方國家對中國的國際影響力感到憂懼，遂有美、中兩國陷入「修昔底德陷阱」（the Thucydides trap）的說法。