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Competing rather than Fighting with China

January 4, 2011


For readers who follow Tom Barnett’s Globlogization, you are probably aware that he was recently in China where he helped draft and present a “term sheet” that he and fellow authors, John Milligan-Whyte and Dai Min, hope Presidents Obama and Hu will seriously considering signing during President Hu’s visit to the United States. A press release published by Tom in his blog, provides a brief overview of the term sheet:

“A proposed China-US Grand Strategy Executive Agreement between Presidents Hu and Obama formally delivered today to the China’s State Council and U.S. Ambassador was drafted by John Milligan-Whyte, Dai Min and Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett with input from China’s:

– Former Minister of Foreign Affairs
– Former UN ambassador
– Former U.S. ambassador
– Former Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the PLA
– Former Military Attaché to North Korea and Israel
– Former Vice Minister of Commerce
– President of Shanghai Institutes of International Studies
– China’s Central Party School Institute of International Strategic Studies
– Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs
– China Center for International Economic Exchanges
– China Institute For International Strategic Studies
– China Foundation for International & Strategic Studies
– Boao Forum
– China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

“The resulting final text of the proposed executive agreement published in China Daily Online, World Politics Review and Seeking Alpha is posted for free download in the publication section at www.CenterACP.com. The purpose of the executive agreement is to ensure that U.S. and China balance their bilateral investment and trade, never go to war with each other, the US will refrain from seeking regime change and interference in China’s internal affairs and China will continue its political, legal, economic reforms. It combines in three pages a comprehensive package of bilateral and multilateral breakthroughs not otherwise achievable in 2011 for:

– U.S. economic recovery
– Increasing U.S. exports to China
– Balancing China-US trade
– Creating 12 million US jobs
– Reducing U.S. government deficits and debt
– Stabilizing the dollar, global currency and bond markets
– Protecting the security of sea transport
– Rebuilding failed states
– Reforming international institutions
– Ensuring collaboration on climate change remediation, energy efficiency, and affordable green technologies essential for rapid and effective pollution remediation globally.

“To achieve greater economic stability it provides the new grand strategy and framework that align the economic and national security of the U.S. and China, which 192 other nations depend upon for economic recovery. Creating 12 million jobs for Americans in 2011-2012is essential for the U.S.’s economic recovery and creating support for the executive agreement among Democratic and Republican members of Congress, governors, mayors and the American people. In order to create the12 million U.S. jobs:

– Chinese companies will invest up to 1 trillion U.S. dollars at the request of the U.S. President
– The U.S. will lift export bans on high technology
– China will purchase sufficient U.S. goods and services to balance their bilateral trade each year
– The Strategic and Economic Dialogues will become a permanently sitting commission for constant senior-level collaboration
– U.S. companies’ access to the Chinese market will be equal to the access that Chinese companies have in the U.S. market
– The U.S. and China will encourage global joint ventures between U.S. and Chinese companies.

To achieve greater geopolitical stability the executive agreement provides that:

– The U.S. and China will hold regular joint naval exercises in Asian waters, with invitations to other regional navies; have permanent officer-exchange programs and create a joint peacekeeping force and command; and establish a joint commission collaborating constantly on U.S. and PRC technology sharing and budget expenditures.
– There will be a reduction of China’s strike forces arrayed against Taiwan, a U.S. moratorium on arms transfers to Taiwan, and a reduction of U.S. strike forces arrayed against China.
– China and the U.S. will support a reunification of North and South Korea. The U.S. will eschew its regime change goals for North Korea, which will terminate its nuclear weapons program, and China will assist North Korea’s economic reforms.
– The U.S. and its allies will not attack or seek regime change and will eliminate trade restrictions against Iran and China will encourage Iran to suspend development of nuclear weapons.
– China will create and invest in a South China Sea Regional Joint Development Corporation with other shareholders that have conflicting sovereignty claims and negotiate the eventual resolution of sovereignty disputes on the basis of the 2002 Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.
– The U.S. and China will harmonize and coordinate their roles in Asian Economic and Regional Security and relations.

“The executive agreement is not a treaty, does not require U.S. Senate confirmation, does not constitute a ‘G2’ or an alliance between the U.S. and China, nor replace existing U.S. alliances. It is an improved framework for collaboration among all UN members pursuant to the Preamble and Article I of the U.N. Charter.”

Tom, who is Senior Managing Director at Enterra Solutions®, also works as a Chief Analyst at Wikistrat and as a contributing editor with Esquire magazine. In his latter position, he recently published an article entitled “When China Ruled the World” in which he explains why people must examine China’s immense challenges as well as its strengths as they prognosticate about its future. Tom went on Fox Business News to discuss his article and the term sheet. You can see his interview at this link.


Tom and his colleagues are not the only analysts who believe that it is not too late to develop a lasting, peaceful, and fruitful relationship with China. Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski apparently holds similar views [“How to Stay Friends With China,” New York Times, 2 January 2011]. He writes:

“The visit by President Hu Jintao of China to Washington this month will be the most important top-level United States-Chinese encounter since Deng Xiaoping’s historic trip more than 30 years ago. It should therefore yield more than the usual boilerplate professions of mutual esteem. It should aim for a definition of the relationship between the two countries that does justice to the global promise of constructive cooperation between them.”

The objective of the term sheet proposed by Tom and his colleagues is obviously to provide “a definition of the relationship between the two countries that does justice to the global promise of constructive cooperation between them.” Based on that, I’m guessing that Brzezinski supports efforts like Tom’s. Brzezinski continues:

“There are growing uncertainties regarding the state of the bilateral relationship, as well as concerns in Asia over China’s longer-range geopolitical aspirations. These uncertainties are casting a shadow over the upcoming meeting. In recent months there has been a steady increase in polemics in the United States and China, with each side accusing the other of pursuing economic policies that run contrary to accepted international rules. Each has described the other as selfish. Longstanding differences between the American and the Chinese notions of human rights were accentuated by the awarding of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to a Chinese dissident. Moreover, each side has unintentionally intensified the suspicions of the other. Washington’s decisions to help India with nuclear energy have stimulated China’s unease, prompting increased Chinese support for Pakistan’s desire to expand its own nuclear energy potential. China’s seeming lack of concern over North Korea’s violent skirmishes with South Korea has given rise to apprehension about China’s policy on the Korean peninsula. And just as America’s unilateralism has in recent years needlessly antagonized some of its friends, so China should note that some of its recent stands have worried its neighbors.”

Those kinds of concerns are exactly why Tom and his colleagues are hoping to steer the attention of both countries’ leaders towards economic cooperation and away from military confrontation. Doing so would help cool growing concerns and, in the long run, prove much more productive. Brzezinski writes:

“The worst outcome for Asia’s long-term stability as well as for the American-Chinese relationship would be a drift into escalating reciprocal demonization. What’s more, the temptations to follow such a course are likely to grow as both countries face difficulties at home. The pressures are real. The United States’ need for comprehensive domestic renewal, for instance, is in many respects the price of having shouldered the burdens of waging the 40-year cold war, and it is in part the price of having neglected for the last 20 years mounting evidence of its own domestic obsolescence. Our weakening infrastructure is merely a symptom of the country’s slide backward into the 20th century. China, meanwhile, is struggling to manage an overheated economy within an inflexible political system. Some pronouncements by Chinese commentators smack of premature triumphalism regarding both China’s domestic transformation and its global role. (Those Chinese leaders who still take Marxist classics seriously might do well to re-read Stalin’s message of 1930 to the party cadres titled ‘Dizzy With Success,’ which warned against ‘a spirit of vanity and conceit.’)”

As Tom points out in his Esquire piece, China has little room for triumphalism since it looks like China might “grow old before it grows rich.” Like Tom and his colleagues, Brzezinski encourages leaders to continue “a forthright discussion of their differences” but with the understanding “that each needs the other.” He concludes:

“A failure to consolidate and widen their cooperation would damage not just both nations but the world as a whole. Neither side should delude itself that it can avoid the harm caused by an increased mutual antagonism; both should understand that a crisis in one country can hurt the other. For the visit to be more than symbolic, Presidents Obama and Hu should make a serious effort to codify in a joint declaration the historic potential of productive American-Chinese cooperation. They should outline the principles that should guide it. They should declare their commitment to the concept that the American-Chinese partnership should have a wider mission than national self-interest. That partnership should be guided by the moral imperatives of the 21st century’s unprecedented global interdependence. The declaration should set in motion a process for defining common political, economic and social goals. It should acknowledge frankly the reality of some disagreements as well as register a shared determination to seek ways of narrowing the ranges of such disagreements. It should also take note of potential threats to security in areas of mutual concern, and commit both sides to enhanced consultations and collaboration in coping with them. Such a joint charter should, in effect, provide the framework not only for avoiding what under some circumstances could become a hostile rivalry but also for expanding a realistic collaboration between the United States and China. This would do justice to a vital relationship between two great nations of strikingly different histories, identities and cultures — yet both endowed with a historically important global role.”

Let’s hope that the right people in the Hu and Obama administrations get a copy of the term sheet drafted by Tom and his colleagues and seriously consider the proposals it contains. I’m sure that Brzezinski has his own ideas about what should be contained in a “joint charter”; but, having something on the table to discuss is much better than trying to open discussions using a blank sheet of paper.

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