Friday, August 12, 2005

What to Do About China (2)

(Page 2 of 2)

The other issue that could seriously hurt U.S.-China ties, or even bring the two powers into conflict, is Taiwan. Taiwan must be pressed not to take unilateral steps that would be tantamount to independence and risk a military response from the mainland. China needs to be reminded not to use force to unify the country. Neither China nor Taiwan should count on Washington standing aside if they change the status quo.

Yet another source of growing irritation is trade. China now exports to the United States some $160 billion more than it takes in. What's important is that U.S. exports to China enjoy fair access and that disputes are settled by the World Trade Organization. What we want to avoid is having trade becoming a source of friction rather than integration.

A final consideration is China's domestic politics. China is more open economically than politically and more open politically than it was a decade ago. But it has a long way to go. The best way to promote democratization is by bolstering the middle class, extending the rule of law, and limiting the role of the state. Such political evolution is crucial; as the lure of communism fades, it is important that nationalism not fill the political and ideological void.

This is easier said than done, of course. The rise of Chinese nationalism is a reminder of just how difficult it will be for America and China to reach an accommodation. A U.S.-China cold war would be costly, dangerous, and distracting, robbing attention and resources from pressing internal and global challenges. Both countries have a stake in avoiding this outcome; the course of this century will depend in no small part on whether they succeed.


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