Policy on China to remain unchanged

Updated: 2013-01-16 11:52

By Chen Weihua in Washington (China Daily)

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Just days ahead of the president's second-term inauguration, a top State Department policy advisor said on Tuesday that Obama's policy toward China and the Asia-Pacific region will remain unchanged over the next four years.

Jake Sullivan, director of policy planning at the State Department, described the main work during the second term as reinforcing and extending the work that has been done over the first four years.

"Right from the beginning, the president and secretary of state recognized that much of the history of the 21st century will be written in the Asia-Pacific," he said.

"So, much of what the second term will be about will be locking in the intensified engagement on the security front, the economic front and the values front that we saw through the hard work of American diplomats, development experts and ordinary citizens over the course of first four years," said Sullivan, who was in Beijing last May for the bilateral Strategic and Economic Dialogues.

However, the Obama administration's announcement of a pivot to Asia strategy in October 2011 has drawn much suspicion and criticism in China and even debate within the US. Strategic mistrust has been a major hurdle for China and the US in their bilateral relationship.

Kenneth Lieberthal, a senior fellow at Brookings Institution, the Washington-based think tank, has described the two countries as having "an underlying and growing distrust of the other's long-term intentions".

"Such distrust is corrosive, casting even well-intentioned actions and initiatives in a negative light," he said.

Sullivan said the US has no interest in and no policy to contain China.

"We welcome China's rise as a peaceful and prosperous power within a broader rules-based order for the Asia-Pacific," he said.

"What we would like to see is a relationship between the United States and China that is positive, cooperative and comprehensive, that looks to expand the areas that we can work together to take on the great challenges of our time. And where we have differences and where we have lingering mistrust, we should work to narrow those differences and overcome that mistrust."

He emphasized that this has been a consistent message from the State Department, from the Pentagon and from the White House.

"Any person who says otherwise doesn't represent the views of this administration," Sullivan said.

A joint statement on Jan 19, 2011 by Obama and visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao, said the US welcomes a strong, prosperous and successful China that plays a greater role in world affairs while China welcomes the US as an Asia-Pacific nation that contributes to peace, stability and prosperity in the region.

Sullivan, who worked for Hillary Clinton's campaign in 2008, added that the US feels very strongly about its principles, and of what is required to create a rules-based order for the 21st century that allows all countries to thrive.

"And on that, we will continue to speak out assertively, to act in defense of our allies and in support of our partners," he said. "But we believe we can do that in a way that furthers and does not undermine our cooperative partnership with China."

Assuming his current job in February 2011, Sullivan does not believe that the fundamentals of the bilateral relationship would change with leadership change in both countries.

He cited his boss Hillary Clinton as saying that the mark of a stable and mature relationship between two important countries is whether it can effectively be about something more than the individual leaders that steward it.

But Sullivan recognized that leadership transition might produce new questions and policies in both countries.

"We have to be very careful. We have to be focused on the fundamentals of the relationship, so nothing gets knocked off the track over the course of the next few months," he said.

Speaking on Sunday on CNN, former US national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski believes those who shape policies in both countries have realized that there is a kind of de facto partnership between China and the US, and it is not in their mutual interest for any disagreement to get out of hand.

"That's not a bad conclusion to reach in a very complicated relationship between two as different countries as one can imagine," said Brzezinski, referring to the stark differences in history and culture.


(China Daily 01/16/2013 page5)