The demise of Osama bin Laden offers the US an opportunity to declare an end to the War on Terror. In the view of many Americans, a strategic adjustment of US foreign policy appears inevitable. Besides, the US media is riddled with analyses of how to handle a rising China. Do the prescriptions and analyses imply that US policy would aim to undo the development China has achieved in recent decades?
For a long time, the Chinese people have been haunted by the anxiety that, one day, the US will confront China. This has turned out to be unfounded – so far. In the perception of experts at home and abroad, the counter-terrorism war, mainly in the Arab world, has served to prevent the US from "disturbing" China during the past decade. As trouble continues to spread in the Middle East, the US may remain pinned down in the region for another 10 years.
These viewpoints, to some extent, are reasonable but exaggerate the situation. For the US, the concerns aroused by those authoritarian states in the Arab world are not comparable to developments rooted in the rise of China. Given that China's GDP may exceed that of the US within 10 years, this may become the primary factor to threaten the latter's global hegemony.
In a US versus China scenario, will confrontation be the only option? More people in both countries answer in the negative. For the US, it would seem rational to maintain the status quo rather than provoke China, thereby triggering risks that would hurt the US.
In the near future, the US may pour more money and resources in handling the rise of China. As a counterweight, China has enough power to prevent the revival of the kind of confrontation the US had with the former Soviet Union. China's peaceful rise might be unsettling to the US, but that has not spurred recasting of its foreign policy toward the world's most populous country. Besides, it is not a coincidence that China's pace of development has dwarfed the efforts of the US to contain China.
A down-to-earth approach would be to expand further the vibrant Sino-US economic cooperation, which is a powerful enough process to squeeze out any right-wing paranoia in the US. Periodic skirmishes between the US and China may be unavoidable, but downright deterioration in bilateral relations could be destructive to both.
No external force can stop China's rise. What China needs is confidence in maintaining its rapid development. A confident China can prevent any molehill of a dispute with the US growing into a mountain of conflict.
Doubtless, the US is an omnipresent superpower. The rise of China is certain to cause friction with the US, and this demands the prevalence of a peaceful and calm mindset on both sides. Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once noted that if the US treats China as a foe, China would be a foe. Put differently, from the Chinese perspective: If China treats the US as a foe, the US would be a foe.
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