The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

80° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “When it comes to China, two Americas compete”

    Matt Stonecolumnist
    Matt Stone
    columnist

    Last week, Chinese President Hu Jintao completed his four-day official visit to America, the first of his presidency. And while President Bush did not come away with any firm commitments from the Chinese leader on Iran, North Korea, human rights or trade, the trip sharply contrasted two competing visions of American relations with China.

    It’s a tale of Washington versus Washington, the state versus the city, the dynamic business community versus an increasingly crusty political establishment.

    Hu started his visit in Seattle, where he focused entirely on the American business elite. He visited a Boeing manufacturing plant, where 80 new airplanes ordered by China last week will be assembled to the tune of $5.2 billion. He met with business executives from Starbucks, Amazon.com, Costco Wholesale, Weyerhaeuser and other companies, and he dined with Bill Gates.

    During the dinner, Hu toasted his host: “”You are a friend of China, and I am a friend of Microsoft. I use your operating system daily.”” Gates returned the toast by offering to help Hu if he ever needs advice using Windows.

    The summit with President Bush proved more perfunctory and less friendly. Little ground was covered on any of the pressing issues – Iran, North Korea, trade, Taiwan and human rights – and Hu was heckled during a speech on the White House lawn by a protestor for Falun Gong, a persecuted religious sect in China.

    Hu spent two full days in Washington state … but less than two days in the nation’s capital.

    The Chinese president was met by an atmosphere of guarded suspicion in Washington. Congress has been mulling the possibility of retaliatory tariffs on Chinese goods for months. Talking heads are quick to blame the increasingly oil-thirsty Middle Kingdom for high prices at the pump. And recent evidence suggests that the Pentagon is gearing up for a war with China within 20 to 30 years.

    All of this stands in stark contrast to the open arms shown to Hu in Seattle. Hu spent two full days in Washington state, wooing (or being wooed by) the business community, but less than two days in the nation’s capital.

    His priorities couldn’t be any clearer.

    As President Bush often mentions, American-Chinese relations are “”complex”” and cannot be defined by any one issue. America’s confusion about how it should treat China stems from two competing strains of thought in Washington itself: Should America facilitate China’s peaceful entry into the international system? Or should America be preparing for war with a China on the rise?

    It comes as no surprise that the American business community champions the former. The Department of Defense, always looking for its next war and a reason to buy new toys, insists upon the latter.

    Proponents of globalization suggest that a peaceful, democratic China will only come about when it is fully integrated into the global economy. The accession of China into the World Trade Organization in 2001 was a big step in this direction. With increasing business ties and a growing middle class, China will eventually transition to democracy, ensuring a secure and stable relationship with America.

    But the defense establishment doesn’t see it that way. A rising China, even one with a huge stake in a stable world economy, will seek to curtail U.S. hegemony throughout the world. The Department of Defense points to China’s current defense of Iran and North Korea as a sign of this belligerent trend in Chinese foreign policy.

    Which vision of American-Chinese relations will triumph? Politically, America is trending towards increasing hostility, but economically, China and American businesses are building deeper relationships.

    The two economies are becoming further integrated, making future war increasingly unprofitable for both parties. The economic benefits of peace will eventually outweigh the geopolitical benefits of war.

    That’s the promise of globalization. That’s the promise of foreign policy in the mold of Bill Gates, rather than that of George Bush. When it comes to China, that’s the state of Washington trumping the city.

    Matt Stone is a junior majoring in international studies and economics. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

    More to Discover
    Activate Search