Fareed Zakaria: U.S.-China Growing Pains





Despite the recent squall in U.S.-Chinese relations, both countries have powerful reasons to cooperate with one another. These have grown over the past two decades, a progression that both countries seem to recognize....

...[T]here are two trends that could take a manageable situation and make it something more worrisome. The first is a growing perception in China that it is no longer as reliant on the West, and in particular the United States, as it was. In the 1980s, Deng Xiaoping brought China out of the cold by embracing America and opening up to foreign investment. This was different from the somewhat predatory, export-driven strategy of Japan and South Korea. But, the China scholar Minxin Pei argues, this was not an ideological conversion to free-market capitalism....

Today, China is awash in capital; it has many top-notch local companies; and this year forthe first time, the primary engine of Chinese growth has been its domestic market, not exports. As China expands, that internal market will probably become its dominant concern.

A similar reality applies in foreign policy. Mao restored relations with the United States in some measure to buy himself an ally against the Soviet Union. China has needed the United States as a political ally ever since; Jiang Zemin's fuzzy embrace of the United States was part of a strategy whose goal was concrete: membership in the World Trade Organization. Today, China commands respect across the globe. It is confident, even cocky, in bilateral and multilateral fora.

None of this is nefarious. But Beijing's newfound arrogance is not joined with a broader vision. The country does not appear ready to play a global role. In international summits Beijing has been largely focused on pursuing its interests in a fairly narrow sense....

The second factor that could exacerbate Sino-U.S. tensions is America's economic fate. There's great fear that the U.S. economy is in deep structural decline... Of course, if that happens, America will have plenty else to worry about as well.

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