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Zoellick: U.S.-China relationship 'complex'
Updated: 2005-09-22 11:49

A senior Bush administration official expressed less confidence when addressing the United States' policy towards China, a nation obviously on its ascent and winning increasing clout on the world stage.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick [Xinhua/file]
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, in a speech on Wednesday delivered to the National Committee of China-U.S. Relations in New York, assembled all elements - negative and positive - of the relationship. U.S. officials say it is the most complex of any in the world.

As the State Department's No. 2 official, Zoellick acknowledged that "many Americans worry that the Chinese dragon will be a fire-breather. There is a cauldron of anxiety about China."

On the contrary, Chinese President Hu Jintao said in no uncertain terms last week to the United Nations General Assembly that China’s rise is a blessing to its neighbors and major trade powers, is a force of peace for Asia and the world, and “will not endanger anybody”. Hu spoke out a package of aid programs to help the world's remaining impoverished countries, Africans especially.

However, Zoellick said in his address that China should take concrete steps to assure the world it will use its power responsibly. The "essential question" for the United States and the world was "how will China use its influence" because the answer would have a profound effect on international development for years to come, he said.

China must become a "responsible stakeholder" in the international system that has enabled its success because "uncertainties about how China will use its power will lead the United States, and others as well, to hedge relations with China," he said.

Zoellick did praise the "constructive" role China has played in shepherding international talks on nuclear disarmament in North Korea.

On Monday in Beijing, the six participating nations reached agreement on a statement of principles that will guide the discussions. The countries involved are China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea and the U.S.

On China's defense policy, a major sore point with Washington, Zoellick said Chinese authorities have not adequately explained the purpose of their "rapid military modernization". China could ease anxieties about its intentions, he said, by openly discussing "its defense spending, intentions, doctrine, and military exercises."

Beijing has said its military modernization is solely for the need of national defense, safeguarding territorial integrity, and it will never tolerate its Taiwan islands to become independent.

Noting rising protectionist pressures in America fueled by a huge trade deficit with China, Zoellick said Beijing "cannot take access to the U.S. market for granted."

"The United States will not be able to sustain an open international economic system -- or domestic U.S. support for such a system -- without greater cooperation from China," the former U.S. trade representative said.

"Protectionist pressures are growing," he said. "China has been more open than many developing countries, but there are increasing signs of mercantilism, with policies that seek to direct markets rather than opening them."

He said that in China's drive to fuel its growing economy, Beijing is acting as if it can somehow "lock up" energy supplies around the world.

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