Whether the Sino-US relationship will undergo big change after Bush's reelection is a question of great concern to the Chinese.People have noticed that China was not a topic of much fuss about during the American election this year. This situation is extremely rare since the end of the Cold War. This indicates that the Republican and the Democratic parties might have come to a certain kind of consensus in their strategies toward China. Besides, China's active participation in anti-terrorism and its responsible attitude in international affairs have evoked an ever-louder voice for improvement of relations with China. Even the relatively conservative US-China Economic and Security Review Commission also issued a report, pointing out that time has been ripe for establishing sustained and stable ties, and demanding the Bush administration to look forward.
In order to get a clear picture of the development trend of Sino-US relations in the coming four years, People's Daily had exclusive interviews with experts, including Yan Xuetong, director with the Institute of International Studies of Tsinghua University, Fu Mengzi, director of the American Research Institute of the China Modern International Relation Studies, Zhou Shijian, executive director of the China American Society, and Shen Dingli, executive deputy director of the Institute of International Studies under Fudan University.
Political Ties: Continue to develop within the framework of "constructive cooperation"
In the opinion of Mr. Fu Mengzi, bilateral ties will continue to develop within the framework of "constructive cooperation" in the next four years. Bush would not adopt a tough policy toward China as he did when he just assumed power, but rather he "would take advantage of the current relatively good political atmosphere to push forward Sino-US constructive cooperation".
At the beginning of his assumption of office in 2001, Bush described China as a "strategic competitor", the "planes collision incident" constituted a serious challenge to bilateral ties. After the "September 11" incident, the Bush administration realized that the biggest threat the US faced was not China, it also realized the important role China plays as a big power, as well as the significance of this role to US global and regional strategies.
In the past two years, the keynote of Bush's China policy is positive as a whole, Sino-US relationship has maintained a situation of stable development. Through a slew of active consultations, the two countries have established fairly good political relations and have fine cooperation on major international issues, and personnel exchanges between the two countries are quite frequent. Economically, bilateral ties have become increasingly close. China's purchase of huge amounts of American bonds is one of the main factors balancing US financial deficits; US-invested projects are found in various Chinese cities. Militarily, bilateral exchanges have resumed. Generally, during Bush's first term of office, the two countries had embarked onto the development track of "constructive cooperation". With Bush's reelection, the prospect for maintaining this general trend is predictable.
However, there are also scholars who hold that despite the current many differences arising from around the counter-terror issue between the United States and its old friends like France and Germany, it is hard to say that there exist any conflicts of fundamental interests among these countries. From the long-term point of view, because of the high identity of these countries in their identification of the political system, ideology, the level of economic development as well as the international regime and their freedom from mutual suspicion in security, their similarity is greater than disparity and cooperation than difference. In comparison, there always exist knots hard to untie between China and the United States, differences in some major problems of principle will continue to perplex the two countries.
Of course, cooperation between China and the United States in international affairs depends largely on strategic interests. According to Mr. Yan Xuetong, Washington would cooperate with Beijing only in the field that is in US interests. Take the matter concerning the proliferation of weapons for an example. On the one hand, Bush will continue to impose blockade on China, trying his utmost to block any channels through which China can obtain advanced military technologies. But on the other hand, the United States would also cooperate with China with an aim to prevent other developing countries from getting weapons of mass destruction.
Economic and trade ties: China & US will enter an "eventful period"
Economic and trade ties are a big issue facing China and the United States. Mr. Zhou Shijian holds that after Bush's reelection, economic and trade ties between the two countries will enter an "eventful period" while presenting a fairly smooth and steady situation.
Sino-US economic and trade ties have witnessed great development in recent years. In 2003 the volume of China's exports to the United States reached as high as US$92.5 billion, up 77.5 percent over that of 2000; the volume of US exports to China stood at US$28.4 billion, a 75 percent increase over that of 2000, much higher than the growth of its exports to Canada, Mexico, Germany and Japan. This good momentum of economic exchanges between the two countries will continue in the next four years, but conflicts and frictions in some aspects will have notable increase.
First, the fight between establishment of textiles quota and the opposition to such quota. The quota system that has controlled the world textiles trade for over 40 years will come to an end in 2005, this signals a huge opportunity for China. For many years, the textile industry has made great contribution to China's trade surplus, last year's export volume reached US$78.85 billion, and the figure is expected to exceed US$90 billion this year. But for the United States, the abolishment of the quota system bears on the rice bowls (jobs) of 650,000 people, therefore, the US sides must adopt various measures including anti-dumping, to go in for "quota without quota". As a matter of fact, this hard battle between China and the United States has started. In the past year, the United States imposed in succession limits on the import of knitted goods, corsage, socks, etc.
Second, concerning the exchange rate of Renminbi (People's Currency). Although Bush won the election this time, he did not hold the absolute superiority. A survey shows that about 48 percent of the voters did not support his policy. During the election, the Democratic Party, the representative of labor interests, launched attack on Bush on the question regarding Sino-US trade and the revaluation of the Renminbi. Bush cannot but consider these opinions in the coming four years. In his phone call to Chinese President Hu Jintao on October 7, Bush touched upon the question of the exchange rate of the Renminbi. Mr. Zhou Shijian predicts that the Bush administration will put still greater pressure on China in the future.
Third, concerning intellectual property rights. During the mid-1990s, serious trade frictions occurred between China and the United States over this issue. But finally the two sides arrived at a compromise. In July this year, US Deputy Secretary of Commerce delivered a strongly worded speech, charging China with all-round infringement on US intellectual property right. During Bush's first term of office, the United States lodged 18 cases of infringement against China, and there will possibly more such complaints in the future.
Fourth, concerning the later transitional period of China's entry into the WTO. China promised that it would complete the transition stage in 2005, and basically fulfilled WTO rules in an all-round way in 2006. Take the auto industry for example, On January 1, 2005, China will cancel import license of automobiles and will reduce tariffs on the import of whole car to 25 percent by July 1, 2006. The Americans say that this speed is still not fast enough, it is estimated that the United States will apply greater pressure on China on this question in the last two years of Bush's term of office.
In addition, around the questions of China's market economy standing and the balance of trade, the two countries will engage in fierce trial of strength, but they will not fall out with each other. The development of economic and trade relations is, after all, beneficial to both sides.
The question of Taiwan Straits: US general policy will not change, but slight adjustment is possible
In the coming four years, the Taiwan issue will remain the most essential and most sensitive question in the Sino-US relations. In this respect, Bush recent attitude has had some progress compared to the beginning of his administration, he has adopted a relative reasonable and balanced line of action, but US basic policy toward Taiwan has not changed. Even against the counter-terror backdrop, it is very hard for the United States to thoroughly abandon its decades-long way of thinking on the Taiwan issue, over the past few years, America has escalated its arms sales to Taiwan in quantity and quality. The contradictions of Sino-US ties can find a concentrated expression in the structure, seriousness, fundamental and protracted nature through the Taiwan issue.
According to Mr. Yan Xuetong, whether Sino-US ties will change or not in the future fundamentally depends on the Taiwan issue. After he was reelected, Bush will definitely make slight adjustment to his policy toward the Taiwan Straits, in the words of Taiwan authorities, such adjustment is "in favor of the Chinese mainland". Days ago, Secretary of State Colin Powell's speech had clearly conveyed such an information. This is because: after his reelection, the security question Bush faces remains counter-terrorism, this requires China's cooperation, for this reason, he cannot give excessive support to Taiwan's "peaceful independence" as he did at the beginning of his first term of office, rather, he would adopt a relatively balanced and fuzzy strategy, that is, he would not support "Taiwan independence" going too fast.
Mr. Fu Mengzi summed up changes in the US Taiwan Straits policy in the next four years as the following three points: politically applying greater restrictions on Taiwan; militarily preventing cross-Strait conflicts; vigorously promoting peace talks between the two sides of the Straits.
Of course, something will not change among these alterations. For instance, as Mr. Yan Xuetong said, Bush's tactics of arms sales to Taiwan will not change. It is the consistent view of his administration that the only way to maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits is to realize so-called military balance between the two sides of the Straits. This being the case, in the next four years, the danger of military conflicts between the two sides of the Straits cannot be ruled out.
In the opinion of Mr. Shen Dingli, within Bush's second term of office, he would more explicitly pursue a "two-tactic policy of containment", i.e., on the one hand, he will continue his arms sales to Taiwan to contain the mainland; on the other hand, he will contain Taiwan from heading for "juridical independence". Generally speaking, as scholars say: under the circumstance wherein no change will take place in the counter-terror macro-environment, Sino-US relations will continue to maintain the trend of steady development. With regard to deep-rooted problems existing between the two countries, on the one hand, the two sides should strive to broaden the base of strategic cooperation, seek understanding in more fields and at deeper levels, expand the scope and effort for mutual contacts, on the other hand, they would strive to establish a crisis control mechanism on the question of certain hot spots and avoid the impact of emergent incident on bilateral relations, thereby preventing it from leading the two countries to the verge of the intensification of contradictions.
By People's Daily Online