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 You are in: Bureaus/Offices Reporting Directly to the Secretary > Policy Planning Staff > Releases > 2002

China and the Future of U.S.-China Relations

Richard N. Haass, Director, Policy Planning Staff
Remarks to the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations
New York, New York
December 5, 2002

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Thank you, Carla. It is a pleasure to be here today to talk about China and the future of the U.S.-China relationship.

One of the remarkable aspects of this relationship is the role that private Americans such as Carla Hills and others here today have played in building it. In 1972, our governments began negotiating a framework that made people-to-people contacts possible, and since then you and your colleagues have fulfilled expectations and then some. Thanks to a wide variety of exchanges, including many of those sponsored by this organization, thousands of Americans now study in China; tens of thousands of Chinese study here, including even children of the country’s leadership. Where once our two governments were the driving force behind such exchanges, today it is the deepening ties among ordinary Americans and Chinese – universities, organizations, and businesses – that sustain this relationship even during the most difficult periods of official relations.

I must admit to feeling a bit of trepidation as I stand before this room of China hands. I’m not good at four-tone languages, much less five-and seven-tone dialects.

But I do look at the world and America’s place in it. And any view beyond our borders must include China. So let me give you the "Policy Planning" perspective on this most important relationship. And then we can turn to a discussion afterward, when I look forward to learning from you.

To begin, it is worth standing back and reflecting, for just a moment, on how far China has come in the 36 years since the National Committee was founded. In 1966, China was in the throes of the Cultural Revolution. Within 2 years it was approaching the brink of anarchy: fighting in the streets of major cities, industry collapsing, intellectual life grinding to a halt. China supported so-called "revolutionary movements" from East Asia to east Africa. It offered a vision of international order premised on class struggle and proletarian solidarity. Border clashes with the Soviet Union nearly thrust the country into a devastating war in 1969.

Today, so much is different. As my boss, Secretary of State Colin Powell, likes to say, market dynamism has replaced Maoist dogmatism. China exports computers, not Communism. And it has begun to take its place as a constructive participant in promoting a more stable world: as a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council; as a member of the WTO; and as a party to protocols on everything from ozone depletion to nuclear nonproliferation.

But ultimately, the prospects for China’s role in the world – and for U.S.-China relations – will not be determined by how many protocols and treaties China has signed, or how many products its industries export. If China is to be fully integrated into an international system of norms, rules, and common interests, it will need to use its emerging power to support the common objectives for which these regimes stand: nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction; lower tariff and investment barriers; the rule of law; and the promotion of human rights.

For thirty years, American strategists have debated how to "bring China into the international system." Well, today, to a considerable extent, China is "in." But we have yet to make permanent China’s full integration in shaping and maintaining an international order in which all can live in peace, prosperity, and freedom.

This is a remarkable moment in the history of both our countries. China has begun setting a new leadership into place, conducting a partial transfer of power to the so-called "fourth generation." These leaders are younger, more technocratic, and confront vast economic and political challenges. For its part, the United States is wrestling with critical issues – the threat of global terrorism; the best way to use American primacy; and the challenge of reinvigorating the U.S. economy and stimulating global growth.

We look forward to working with China’s new team: The new General Secretary, Hu Jintao, visited the United States last spring; Vice President Cheney has accepted Hu’s invitation to visit China, and plans to do so next year. Later this month, we will resume Defense Consultative Talks. A U.S. Navy ship, the USS Paul F. Foster, has just made a port call at Qingdao. We expect to maintain a vigorous pace in high-level visits, including intensive exchanges with China’s new leadership.

The U.S.-China relationship has been a reflection of internal conditions and the external environment. It was forged at the height of the Cold War, when the world was very different, China was very different, and a different American foreign policy was focused on containing Moscow’s reach. For seventeen years after President Nixon signed the Shanghai Communiqué, U.S.-China relations were defined largely by common opposition to the Soviet Union. Shaped not by what we stood for, but rather by what (and whom) we stood against, our relationship was built around a defensive balance of power.

Today, we have an opportunity to fashion a different kind of relationship – one appropriate to a new era, one built on the basis of what we are for.

This transition should have begun in the late 1980s, when the Soviet hold on Central and Eastern Europe began to crumble. But efforts to rethink our relations were short-circuited by the Chinese government’s suppression of demonstrators near Tiananmen Square. The United States could not stand idly by when the Chinese leadership used deadly force against peaceful demonstrators in the streets of Beijing. China’s actions and the necessary American response precluded a new consensus from forming in the United States around a post-Cold War stance toward China.

The intervening decade was characterized by fits and starts, as the U.S.-China relationship drifted without rationale or new sense of purpose. The Bush Administration came to office determined to recast U.S.-China relations. We recognized that the Soviet Union was long gone and that a fundamentally changed international system had emerged. Yet the incident over the EP-3 surveillance aircraft constrained any bilateral interaction in the first several months of the Administration. Only when China released the U.S. aircraft and Secretary Powell traveled to Beijing in the summer of 2001 could we turn anew to the hard work of building a truly post-Cold War relationship. September 11th and a shared opposition to terrorism accelerated these positive trends.

A historic opportunity now stands before us – to finally transform this relationship created at a unique moment in the Cold War. This transformation will require that we speak candidly about our differences; that we work hard to make certain these differences do not prevent us from cooperating where we share interests; and, most importantly, that we take tangible actions to build a more cooperative U.S.-China relationship.

Talk – or so-called "engagement" for its own sake – is not enough.

We have come a long way over the past twenty months: from the EP-3 to three Presidential meetings. Our shared interests are many – from promoting trade and investment; to reducing tensions in regions in crisis; to fighting poverty and disease, environmental degradation and proliferation. But it is insufficient merely to have shared interests. What matters is whether these shared interests are translated into common – or at least complementary – policies.

Today, I want to talk frankly about this relationship: where we are; where we have the potential to go; and what may be required for us to realize this potential. I plan to focus on three issues:

  • The rise of Chinese power – and America’s response to it in a world marked by globalization;
  • China’s changing role in the international system; and
  • China’s domestic evolution, particularly the need for it to shed undemocratic aspects of its system of government.

Chinese Power …
It has become a cliché to speak about "the rise of Chinese power" – as if the complex historical process by which 1.3 billion people take their place in the international system can be captured by a simple turn of phrase. Yet there is no denying that China now plays a larger role in the region and the world than ever before. The interaction between China’s citizens and those of other countries is more intense. China’s manufactured exports – and, increasingly, its citizens’ demands for imports – bulk larger in the global economy. China’s military is acquiring unprecedented new capabilities.

This is all the more remarkable because it has happened so rapidly. China has quadrupled its GDP since 1978, with real GDP growth averaging around 9% per year between 1978 and 1995. Today, its GDP stands at more than $1.1 trillion. China’s foreign trade grew at about 13% per year over the same period, making China today the world’s fourth-largest trading nation. In the 1990s, China became the world’s second-largest recipient of foreign direct investment. Its military spending is growing by double-digits.

To paraphrase one of my boyhood heroes, Yogi Berra, "it’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future." But if anything like these current trends continues, we will be looking at a country averaging 4-6% per capita GDP growth well into this decade. Many argue that China is likely to become the world’s second-largest economy by 2030. Its hefty foreign exchange reserves should provide a cushion in any future financial crisis. One has to expect, therefore, that China’s military power and political reach will increase commensurately.

… and America’s Response.
What will this rise in Chinese power mean for the United States, and for U.S.-China relations? Some analysts, claiming to be "Realists," argue that conflict among major powers is, quite simply, inevitable. Rising powers, they suggest, will always mount a full-frontal challenge to the dominant power in the system. Nations will always pursue their interests by maximizing their position at the expense of others. International relations are all but impervious to change. A logic of debilitating competition is immutable.

At the risk of being expelled from the Realists’ club, I beg to disagree. For one thing, we are at a moment of unprecedented American strength. American strength reinforces, and works in tandem with, the physical and moral muscle of the network of bilateral alliances we have built in Asia. The United States and its allies, who are wealthy, strong, and share interests and values, would resist any effort to overturn the very international order that has made possible their wealth and growth. As the President’s National Security Strategy states, we intend to "dissuade future military competition."

Second, with so much on their plate domestically, it would be curious indeed for China’s leaders to seek to destabilize Asia or embark on foreign policy adventures. What China clearly needs is a prolonged period of stability to deal with economic and social challenges – from unemployment to corruption – that grow more pressing every day.

Third – and perhaps most important – the last fifty years of European history surely prove that nations can, over time, come to understand their interests differently. The recent history of Europe shows clearly that relations among countries that were former adversaries can evolve to a point where war is unthinkable.

What is more, China is not imperial Germany. No "law" of history now pulls us inexorably toward dangerous and expensive competition, much less conflict. Cooperation is equally – I would argue, more – likely. But what will be central, what in large part will shape the future of our relations, will be how China’s new leaders choose to use their country’s growing power.

The United States is committed to working with China to help shape the future of East Asia and beyond. But China must show that it, too, is prepared to transform its relationship with us – by fully joining efforts to control weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems; by enforcing transparent trade regimes; and by bringing tangible pressure to bear on those who threaten the peace.

The Bush Administration, most notably in its National Security Strategy, has decisively rejected the views of the fatalists. Indeed, we offer an optimistic vision of the inherent potential for cooperation among the major powers. As President Bush told students at Qinghua University last February, "China is on a rising path, and America welcomes the emergence of a strong and peaceful and prosperous China."

This open and welcoming American response to China’s rise reflects, above all, the U.S. need for partners to deal with new and emerging challenges. The very nature of the threats arrayed against us is changing day-by-day. Americans learned dramatically on September 11, 2001 that American primacy does not mean American invulnerability. Even a country with unprecedented global power and influence cannot insulate itself from every threat or hazard, particularly in a world shaped by globalization.

Globalization itself is a dynamic, evolving process that creates new vulnerabilities along with new opportunities. It ties us to others for trading goods and knowledge. But it also is a conduit for the spread of terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, disease, crime, drugs, financial contagion, global climate change, and trafficking in human beings.

Such problems, inevitably, demand collective responses. Without partners, the United States cannot easily or efficiently tackle problems that transcend America’s borders. Al-Qaeda operates in more than sixty countries. HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis do not stop at Immigration and Customs. Industrial emissions from one country do not respect borders. To be sure, there will undoubtedly be occasions when unilateral action is warranted or necessary. Yet joint efforts need to be the norm, not the exception, if we are to successfully address the transnational challenges that define this era.

For this reason, the U.S. approach to China seeks to capture the opportunities presented by the absence of great power conflict. President Bush himself put this best in his speech at West Point last June: "We have our best chance since the rise of the nation-state in the 17th century to build a world where the great powers compete in peace instead of preparing for war." The 20th century was marked by struggles among great powers. But there is no reason why the 21st century should bear the same stamp. We can turn our efforts from containment and confrontation to consultation and cooperation. We can move and in fact are moving from a defensive balance of power to a pooling of power to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities of the new century.

The emerging reality of the Bush Administration’s foreign policy aims at capturing these opportunities. It is best described as a process of "integration," in which the United States seeks to include other countries, organizations, and peoples in arrangements that will sustain a world consistent with the interests and values we and our partners share – values such as rule of law; opposition to terrorism and to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; limits on the power of the state; religious tolerance; private property rights; commitment to market principles; equal justice; and respect for women.

These interests and values guide U.S. policy toward China, just as they guide America’s broader national security strategy. For the United States, integration of new partners can help us to deal with both traditional and transnational security threats. And these are not just threats to America. They threaten China, and other nations and peoples as well.

The biggest test of integration is China. The international community will be far better off if China is integrated into this system of shared interests and values, rather than languishing – or, worse yet, contesting it from the outside. U.S. policy is guided by the principle that we can be more successful in confronting pressing security, economic, and human challenges by working with partners rather than working alone – and by a belief that China has the potential to become one of our most important partners.

China’s Role in the International System
It is in this context that China’s new leadership must confront the reality that greater power brings with it the burden of greater responsibility.

China has reached a threshold in its diplomacy. In the world that I have just described, it is in our interest to build new patterns of cooperation. Terrorism is neither an American nor a Chinese problem; it is a global problem. Likewise with HIV/AIDS; climate change; energy security; drug trafficking; and international law enforcement.

We are working hard to enhance our bilateral cooperation in these areas. But "bi-lateral" means just that. The United States cannot cooperate alone. So it is also imperative that China come to be a full-fledged participant in fashioning multinational solutions to global problems.

Is China prepared to do this? Several years ago, one of this organization’s board members published an article in Foreign Affairs that described China as "the high church of realpolitik." But in today’s world, where often only multinational solutions exist, realpolitik increasingly requires a mature, disciplined willingness to work with others.

The good news is that China and the United States are learning to work together. We have made real progress over the past year in several areas: counterterrorism; cooperation in the United Nations and beyond on Afghanistan and more recently on Iraq; reducing tensions in South Asia; expanding trade and investment; and fighting the scourge of HIV/AIDS. In other areas, China’s actions in the months and years ahead will tell us much about whether we are in a position to deepen our partnership. These issues include, most notably, nonproliferation; ensuring that North Korea complies with its commitments; China’s rhetoric and actions toward Taiwan; and the underlying principles that guide China’s foreign policy.

Among the several areas of progress, counterterrorism stands out. My colleague, Frank Taylor, the former Ambassador-at-Large for Counterterrorism, met twice in the past 11 months with his counterpart, Li Baodong. Financial experts from the Treasury Department, law enforcement, and other agencies have begun an institutionalized Terrorist Financing dialogue with their Chinese counterparts. Together, we are tackling money laundering and attacking the financial networks through which terrorists move resources. The Chinese government has sought out terrorist deposits in its banking and financial institutions. China agreed to the establishment of an FBI Legal Attaché Office in Beijing. We both regard the East Turkestan Islamic Movement as a terrorist group, and worked together to list it as such at the UN. And China voted in favor of UN Security Council resolution 1373, which affirmed the right of self-defense and stressed the accountability of those who support, not just commit, acts of terrorism.

We have since built on this cooperation at the UN by fashioning a multinational approach to the problem of disarming Iraq. Late last month, China voted for UN Security Council resolution 1441, joining 14 others in putting the Iraqi government on notice – and on a timetable – that it must comply with its obligations regarding weapons of mass destruction.

We also have had excellent discussions about South Asia over the past year. I know how much Secretary Powell values his conversations about that region with Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan. We are beginning to institutionalize that conversation – for instance with the visit to Washington last June of Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi, as well as in my own Policy Planning Talks. The United States welcomed China’s efforts to intercede with Pakistan to join the international coalition in the wake of September 11th. We hope China will continue to use its special relationship to insist that Pakistan crack down on infiltration across the Kashmiri Line of Control.

Our trade and investment relationship continues to expand. China is America’s fourth-largest trading partner, with two-way trade of $121 billion in 2001. China is the ninth largest market abroad for American goods. Now that China has entered the WTO, it is reducing industrial tariffs of greatest importance to U.S. businesses from 25% to 7%. China is reducing agricultural tariffs of greatest importance to U.S. farmers from 31% to 14%. China is opening important parts of its service sector, including banking, insurance, telecommunications, and professional services, to American firms.

We also have begun a comprehensive program of cooperation on HIV/AIDS. As China’s government faces up to its mounting AIDS crisis, the United States stands prepared to help. The National Institutes of Health has granted $14.8 million to help China upgrade its AIDS-related infrastructure. Two experts from the Centers for Disease Control will be assigned to the Chinese CDC to help provide assistance to local governments.

Only in this way – working jointly on regional and transnational issues – can we begin to build greater strategic depth into our relationship. We must judiciously apply leverage in support of common objectives. The actions we take – individually, together, and with others – can deepen our relations by pushing the boundaries of what we do together.

In that vein, let me also highlight four pivotal areas that will provide a measure of our capacity to further expand our relationship.

The first is nonproliferation. China is now a member of nearly all key nonproliferation agreements. It has taken positive and welcome steps in recent months to promulgate export control regimes for missile-related technology and equipment, as well as for dual-use chemical and biological agents. This suggests that China’s leaders are thinking more seriously about the need to halt the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

But it is important that China enforce these commitments through a transparent process that holds companies and individuals fully accountable under Chinese law. We also expect China to take the additional steps necessary to fully implement its obligations. Ultimately, the United States wants to transform nonproliferation from an arena of contention in our relations to one where we work together not only to meet our respective obligations but to fashion stronger nonproliferation controls.

The second is Korea, where the entire international community now confronts a North Korean regime that has violated its own commitments to the Nonproliferation Treaty, the Agreed Framework, its IAEA safeguards agreement, and the Joint South-North Denuclearization declaration. China has supported the Agreed Framework; yet North Korea has said that it considers that Framework "nullified." China is a State Party to the Nonproliferation Treaty; yet North Korea – also a member – has clearly violated its NPT commitments with its covert uranium enrichment effort.

The United States and China have a unique opportunity to work with Japan, the Republic of Korea, Russia, and others in insisting that North Korea uphold its commitments and dismantle its program. President Jiang’s public statement at the Crawford summit that "the Korean Peninsula should be nuclear-free" was an important and extremely positive step in building an international coalition. China’s unique relationship with North Korea gives it the opportunity to continue playing an especially pivotal role – using all of the various tools at its disposal to help convince North Korea of what needs to be done, while demonstrating to Pyongyang that there will be costs to continued non-compliance.

The third area is Taiwan, especially China’s rhetoric and actions about the use of military force. The United States well understands China’s position on Taiwan, just as China understands ours. U.S. policy remains consistent and will not change. The United States is committed to its "one China" policy, as well as to longstanding obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act. We do not support Taiwan independence. We have an abiding interest, above all else, in the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait differences. China should share this interest.

The extraordinary growth of economic interchange across the Taiwan Strait – between Taiwan’s tremendously entrepreneurial people and their counterparts across the Strait – ought to show us all just how important it is to preserve the peace. Both China and Taiwan have an interest in economic growth, and in fashioning a peaceful and cooperative future. Yet China’s deployments of missiles and its military acquisitions directed at Taiwan only deepen tensions and suspicion. As Secretary Powell said in a speech last June, "whether China chooses peace or coercion to resolve its differences with Taiwan will tell us a great deal about the kind of relationship China seeks, not only with its neighbors but with us."

Fourth, the United States will be looking to the underlying principles that guide China’s foreign policy. Five years ago, we appeared to hold divergent views of international relations. China argued that sovereignty must be treated as inviolable, even as many countries in addition to the United States began to argue that sovereignty could no longer shield those, such as Slobodan Milosevic, who flout international norms or mercilessly abuse the rights of their citizens. China defended the principle of non-intervention – just as Americans and others began to think in new, creative directions about legitimacy and sovereignty.

The world is changing in ways that require us all to reexamine our approaches to foreign policy. The horrors of Rwanda – and the collective failure to adequately respond to them – underscore that sovereignty cannot shield those who commit genocide. Likewise, after September 11th, virtually everyone agreed that it was legitimate for the United States to intervene in Afghanistan and to target the Taliban, even though the Taliban had enabled – not executed – the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Sovereignty cannot be allowed to provide protection for governments that harbor, aid, or abet terrorists.

Now, we are confronting the challenge posed by Saddam Hussein. Sad to say, it is unlikely to be the only such challenge in a world that includes outlaw regimes who desire weapons of mass destruction and who have a history of terrorism and aggression. President Bush has said that "new threats require new thinking." We very much hope that China, too, is prepared to think anew.

China’s Domestic Challenge
China and the United States face important choices on other fronts.

China’s extraordinary economic growth is one of the most compelling stories of the past fifty years. This is indeed a remarkable achievement. And it does not simply have economic implications. Reform has unleashed the innate entrepreneurial talents of the Chinese people. As a result, Chinese society is becoming more pluralistic. Private businesses are sprouting up nationwide. Societies and clubs – some, officially sanctioned, others, operating beyond the eyes of the state – are mushrooming around the country.

This is not surprising, in part because it is in keeping with Chinese tradition. As scholars of modern Chinese history have taught us, the development of a civil society was an important trend in places like Beijing during the early part of the 20th century.

Prosperity will lead inexorably to demands by Chinese citizens for greater inclusion in their political system. And political pluralism, in turn, will accelerate growth and broaden wealth. In this very basic sense, China is not different. As Secretary Powell has passionately argued, "the desire for freedom is hard-wired into human beings. Freedom is not an optional piece of software, compatible with some cultures but not with others."

China is a much-changed and changing place. Yet the gap between economic pluralism and a still-shuttered political system remains too great. Stability and continued economic success require that this gap be closed by steady progress toward democratization. China’s leaders must open their society in ways that restore citizens’ faith that they have a real voice in their political future.

Already, Chinese citizens are showing their frustration. This country with only one official labor union has seen waves of strikes and worker unrest. A country whose ruling party came to power in a peasant revolution now confronts rural protests. A government with extraordinary police powers has failed to beat back crime simply by meting out harsh punishments in the absence of social justice. Citizens are angry about corruption.

China’s leaders need to take the next step. Only by allowing the Chinese people to think, assemble, and worship freely can China unleash the talents of its people to realize their full potential, and thus China’s potential. As in so many of the diverse societies that have guaranteed individual human rights and brought citizens into the political process – the Republic of Korea in East Asia, Brazil in Latin America, Botswana in Africa – China’s leaders eventually must realize that good governance, a vibrant civil society, and – ultimately – democracy are prerequisites for sustained stability and prosperity.

There is as well a foreign policy rationale for a more open China. A U.S.-China relationship based solely on common interests will, inevitably, be more brittle and more narrow than one that combines shared interests with shared values. It is no accident that our closest relationships – our true partnerships – are with fellow democracies. Societies that are like-minded are more likely to see the world similarly.

The United States wants to work with China toward this end of greater political participation and openness. We know that political change is a complex and multidimensional process. But one initial step, at least, is good governance. The focus of the State Department’s Rule of Law program is moving beyond traditional commercial rule of law to address civil society reforms, as well as criminal and civil law reforms and human rights initiatives. Later this month, we will hold the second round of U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue. We are talking more and more about these issues in an effort to turn what has been a source of tension in our relations into an accomplishment.

Today, we are fashioning a different kind of U.S.-China relationship – moving from an anti-Soviet dependence forged in the crucible of the Cold War to a modern partnership appropriate to the challenges of a global age. Further positive movement in this direction will require bold decisions, and equally bold actions by both countries, but especially by China, as it takes its place as an important actor on the international stage. The United States does not oppose China’s rise. Indeed, we welcome it, but will be watching expectantly to see whether China uses its emerging power to create global opportunities for economic growth, a peaceful international order, and personal freedom.

Five decades ago, the first director of the Policy Planning Staff, and my illustrious predecessor, George Kennan, urged us to cultivate "solidarity with other like-minded nations on every given issue of foreign policy." The United States and China already have begun to cultivate such solidarity. To be sure, there is much work to do; but just as clearly, there is much to be gained.

Carla, I’m delighted that you and John Holden invited me here today. Thank you again for this opportunity to meet with this distinguished group.


For texts of other statements, testimony and articles by Richard Haass and other members of the Policy Planning Staff, please go to the Policy Planning home page.

Released on December 5, 2002

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