Date: Fri, 31 Oct 97 15:14:58 CST
From: rich%pencil@UKCC.uky.edu (Rich Winkel)
Subject: Chinese President Comes to Call As An Equal
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** Topic: Chinese President Comes to Call As An Equal **
** Written 9:27 AM Oct 30, 1997 by newsdesk in cdp:headlines **
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Chinese President Comes to Call As ---------- */
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Chinese President Comes to Call As ---------- */
EDITOR'S NOTE: The U.S. visit of Jiang Zemin, China's president, is widely hailed as significant in terms of our relations with the largest country in the world. For Jiang, as expressed in a statement released just before his departure, this is an opportunity to forge a superpower alliance that can cooperate to the great advantage of both sides. Franz Schurmann is professor emeritus of history and sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, where he was former head of the Center for Chinese Studies, the author of The Organization and Ideology of Communist China and co-editor of The China Reader, among other books.
China's President Jiang Zemin is on the offensive. He wants far more than an improvement in U.S.-China relations -- he wants President Clinton to acknowledge that China is America's equal, the world's only other superpower.
Clinton's response has been cagier than most analysts credit. On one
hand he has said
our objective is not containment or conflict, but
cooperation -- code words for better Sino-American relations. But
on the ultra-sensitive issue of Taiwan, he has indicated that the
issue can be settled by the Chinese themselves
only so long as
it is settled peacefully.
In Beijing's view, if either side decides to use force in the Taiwan
quarrel then Washington has no right to threaten action. As Chinese
government spokesman Shen Guofang put it just before Jiang's
We can sacrifice our modernization, we can sacrifice
Sino-American relations but we shall never sacrifice Taiwan.
For the Chinese, getting the U.S. to drop ambiguous words like
only in talking about relations with Beijing is the crucial
first step to realizing co-equal status. At this point Jiang is ready
to start the hike but Clinton is still looking at the map, as advisers
urge him to stick with current policy of
neither confirming nor
denying U.S. plans in case military hostilities break out between
Taiwan and the Mainland.
Jiang's ambitions go way beyond East Asia. In the second of his
Five Points of Information released before his trip,
Jiang stipulated that the U.S. and China have the responsibility for
bringing a peaceful and prosperous world into the 21st century.
No other world powers, he implied, can credibly shoulder such a task.
This is the China's first political offensive on the world scene since Mao Zedong's strategy for national liberation movements spread with considerable success throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America. When Mao made his final break with the Soviet Union in 1966, China opted out of the world scene, preoccupying itself with internal affairs save for trade and peripheral diplomatic involvements -- even the dramatic opening to the U.S. in 1971 was epiphenomenal.
But now China has a new leader as solidly confirmed in his power as were all earlier Communist strongmen. And only strongmen can go on the offensive.
For Jiang Zemin, the criteria for superpower status in the year 2000 is no longer political and military power, as it was when the U.S. and the Soviet Union dominated the world. Today, he proposes to Clinton redefining superpower status in term^_^_^_^_^_^_^_^_s of political and economic rather than military power -- a redefinition that knocks Russia, with its still massive nuclear weapons capability, out of the running and inserts China whose economy will surpass that of the U.S. in the near future.
What does Beijing want beyond the superpower redefinition?
Jiang Zemin's first
point notes that the global potential of
U.S.-Chinese cooperation is enormous. Another calls on the United
States to abandon any idea that China will soon become a Western-style
China's leaders remain Marxists, and the thinking behind the new offensive is essentially Marxist. In short, this view sees economics at the roots of all human society. It holds, further, that we all live in one single, increasingly unified world -- and even if the world becomes fully peaceful and non-violent, rivalry between different social systems will never cease until history's next stage -- socialism -- is reached.
Concretely, the Chinese leaders, like everyone else, see a big shift in the world's economic center of gravity from West to East. Notwithstanding the current tumble of East Asia's financial and stock markets, the region's economic roots are the biggest and healthiest in the world. And while America will remain dominant in much of the world, China dominates East Asia, not just because of military and political prowess but because of its increasingly central economic power.
Jiang Zemin's offer to work on an equal footing with the United States is made from confidence. China is betting on the fact that, earlier, when faced by the Soviet challenge in the context of a booming Europe, America preferred to cooperate with the Soviet Union while going on the warpath in economically less significant parts of the world. Because East Asian economies have become so vital to the U.S., Beijing hopes Washington will not want to risk another war with China nor with any other country in East Asia.
Jiang Zemin may win his bet. The main concern in Washington these days has been to keep a bull market going, as shown by consistent Congressional votes in favor of renewing favorable trade status for China.
But Clinton's tilt toward China after seven years of post-Tiananmen cold shoulder does not mean that Washington is prepared to accept Jiang's propositions. The sticking point is that Beijing has picked Taiwan as the benchmark for change or no-change.
There are reports that Mainland and Taiwan leaders may begin serious talks about reunification as early as next February or March. At that point, Clinton may have to choose between accepting Jiang's proposition for maintaining superpower status and introducing a level of uncertainty in U.S.-China relations greater and more dangerous than in recent years.