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Bashing China has been one of the main features of the US presidential election campaign. Both candidates have promised to take "punitive" measures against China for one reason or the other if they are elected to the White House. But would they really do so? Or are US President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney playing to the gallery to score political points and garner votes?
Going by experience, the new US administration could get tougher with China. Since containing China is the most important foreign policy challenge for the US, Beijing should prepare for increased attacks from Washington in regional as well as global issues.
Given the complexity of Sino-American relations, the two countries can neither easily build strategic mutual trust, nor afford to openly confront each other. This means, the China-US relationship will go through ups and downs in the coming years. True, leaders of both countries agree that bilateral ties are of vital importance, but of "vital importance" also means "a lot of trouble".
Over the past 30 years, the increasingly close investment and trade relations between China and the US have hugely benefited both sides. Still, both countries face with challenges beyond what they had envisaged.
For the US, China is not only a huge investment destination and a fast growing consumer market, but also an adversary with growing national strength and a competitive threat in some areas. For China, utilizing US capital, technology and market for economic modernization and integration into the international community is a win-win approach. But because of the US' overwhelming influence, China's goal appeared blurred and even temporarily lost with no direction on how to deal with some problems.
No matter whether an issue is domestic or regional or global, a government cannot achieve its goal without paying a price. So it is important for the government to know its capabilities and proceeds step by step. History is replete with the rise and fall of countries and empires. China could be the latest addition to that list, and the US should accept the fact instead of trying to stop the flow of history and create frictions.
US politicians continue to blame China for many of their country's ills and thus thwart the development of mutually beneficial bilateral relations. Besides, they know that blaming China will not solve the US' problems. It may be true that electoral politics is forcing the US politicians to use China as a scapegoat to get public support. But how can they conclude that China's success is at the root of declining US competitiveness?
Externally, the US is disregarding the historical roots of and the truth behind the maritime territorial disputes between China and some of its neighbors in the South China Sea and is only highlighting China's growing military strength and increasingly assertive diplomatic posture, and thus portraying China as an aggressor. Washington's approach is misleading the American people and the international community.
On one hand, Washington announces that it would not take sides in any territorial dispute in the Asia-Pacific region. On the other, it encourages Japan and the Philippines to take on China. It appears that Washington's sole purpose is to instigate regional countries to create obstacles for China's development or win more bargaining chips to compete with China.
Washington's contradictory foreign policy is not risk-free. If the US is using the Philippines and Japan, the latter are also using it. But it seems the US doesn't mind so long as they succeed in slowing down China's pace of growth.
But even in the face of increasing provocation, a rising China cannot retreat. The US, on the other hand, is not likely to sacrifice its national interests for its allies. Of course, if Japan and the Philippines gain the upper hand against China, the US will jump into the fray to add insult to injury.
After the Obama administration announced the end of its counter-terrorism strategy, Asia became its global strategic focus. Even the strong anti-US protests in the Middle East will not force Washington to shift its attention away from East Asia. A series of strategic moves and the deployment of US troops in the West Pacific show that the US' focus is exclusively on China.
The claim that the US moves are not aimed at China sounds weak in the face of facts.
At a time when the US needs China's cooperation to steady its tottering economic recovery, its military containment and blackmail policy will result in a loss to both sides.
The US should realize that China's attempt to modernize its military would not only ensure its own security, but also play a key role in maintaining stability in Asia.
In fact, to a large extent, China has had to modernize its military because of external pressure, especially from the US.
The neighboring countries' provocative actions in territorial issues have made China learn the painful Western lesson that peace cannot be realized only through a sincere love for peace. A country also has to be self-capable and strong to maintain peace.
It's high time that the US understood that a healthy and stable Sino-American relationship is crucial even for better international relations. Soon both China and the US will have new administrations, it is thus pertinent that the two sides pay attention to not only their people's security, but also to restoring peace and stability across world.
The author is a professor at the School of International Studies, Renmin University of China.
(China Daily 11/05/2012 page9)