Nina Hachigian, a former National Security Council adviser during the late ’90s, writes a conspicuously reasonable-sounding response to the U.S. media’s increasingly alarmist reporting on the United States–China relationship.
The early stages of the U.S.-China relationship during the Obama administration have not played out according to the usual script. The president did not promise on the campaign trail to be “tough” on China—a position he would have been forced to abandon within a few months just as Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton did. In the midst of an unprecedented financial crisis, the Obama administration instead came to office wanting to preserve the stability of the U.S.-China relationship while also placing a new emphasis on joint global problem solving.
This is not appeasement. This is common respect and pragmatism born of looking down the road at a whole host of challenges where the only way forward is to cooperate with China. It is also part of a larger administration effort to mend fences around the world by listening and extending basic courtesy, both of which cost nothing.
She also outlines some of the accomplishments of Obama’s China policy so far, including progress on climate cooperation (despite the ongoing blame-game over whether China caused a failure in Copenhagen, where no one expected a full-scale deal in the first place). China and the U.S. have worked together at the U.N. on North Korea and Iran.
Hachigian notes that “China’s reaction to all of these actions—so far at least—is well within historical norms, especially given that Tibet and Taiwan touch at the core of Chinese anxieties about territorial unity and foreign intervention.”
It’s nice to see this kind of talk on China coming out of my former employer, the Center for American Progress, but I would have liked it even if I had no affection for the institution.