Towards superpower status

China and the United States currently have too many differences to forge strategic partnership, said Leslie Fong, editor of Singapore’s Straight’s Times and The Sunday Times, when he visited New Zealand for the Asia 2000 media seminar recently.
“They are more likely to be strategic competitors competing in areas such as political influence over East Asia while cooperating in areas like the fight against drug trafficking.
“My sense is that much of the American foreign policy and security establishment probably regards China in that light, and vacillates between wanting to engage and contain.
“I submit that those in the US who, for ideological or other reasons, seek to contain China or stall its emergence, ought to think again.”
For China to become superpower depends on three things, he believes.
1) The attitude and response of the other great powers, in particular the United States;
2) Sustained economic reform and restructuring and high growth, and
3) Peaceful resolution of the Taiwan problem.
It is neither realistic nor productive for the United States to go out of its way to hobble China’s growth, Fong said, adding that he didn’t believe China would be an expansionist power and threat to its neighbours.
It is still ruled, largely, by less outward-looking northerners and has yet to shake off its continental power mindset.
“It is more preoccupied with threats or potential threats along its land borders,” he said, adding that historically, China rarely sent its armies outside its borders except to secure them and repel threats, largely from Central Asia nomadic tribes.
“Thus I don’t believe strong China will necessarily be an expansionist power and threat to its neighbours.”
The gap between China and the US was so wide, there was no prospect of the Chinese rivalling the Americans in global reach and power in the foreseeable future.
“I would argue that it’s in everyone’s interests for the US to continue what diplomats call constructive engagement, and help China in its economic, and eventually, political reform. That should cost lot less than containment and pay great deal more in dividends – for everyone.”
After outlining the complex factors surrounding Taiwan he said, “if there was time, the political, economic and social gap between China and Taiwan might narrow to such an extent that reunification becomes non-issue. But I fear time is running out. War may well break out sooner rather than later if there is miscalculation on the part of the three parties, China, Taiwan and the United States.”

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