US' policy toward China lacks sincerity

Updated: 2014-08-20 07:11

By Wang Hui(China Daily)

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In a policy speech on the US' Asia-Pacific strategy delivered at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii last week, US Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States is seeking to forge a relationship with China that broadens cooperation on "common interests".

On the surface, there is nothing wrong with this assertion as the rest of the world would agree that the world's largest and second-largest economy do need to deepen cooperation and expand their common interests. Yet considering that the top US diplomat has just launched what was perceived to be veiled criticism of China over the South China Sea a few days earlier at a regional forum in Myanmar, there is good reason to question the sincerity of this seemingly encouraging remark.

The US move in the regional forum-calling for a freeze on so-called provocative acts in the South China Sea-was believed to be aimed at disrupting China's legitimate and normal drilling operations in its own territorial waters in the South China Sea. The US' meddling in China's maritime territorial disputes with some neighboring countries over the East and South China seas has undoubtedly contributed to current tense political ties in the region.

Apart from interfering in the South China Sea issue, Kerry also successfully pushed the US' rebalancing to Asia one step further during his visit to the region. Last week, he finalized a military pact with Australia which will allow the deployment of 2,500 US Marines in Darwin, a move that has long been seen as an important stepping stone for the US to successfully carry out its pivot.

But, like a skilled actor, Kerry again offered his reassurance that the move was not directed against China. In Honolulu, he continued to pay lip service to China, claiming that improving US cooperation with China is critical to maintaining stability and security in the Asia-Pacific as well as combating the effects of climate change.

As such, the top US diplomat has dutifully followed the containment and engagement policy toward China implemented by the Obama administration in recent years.

According to this policy, a high-ranking US official such as John Kerry will on the one hand openly eulogize the benefits of cooperation between China and the US, while on the other hand encouraging its allies in the region to confront China over issues concerning the latter's core interests.

Such double dealing risks eroding the foundations of mutual trust between the two peoples. Chinese, who believe that a true friend will not stab you in the back, will certainly have difficulty in deeming Washington as trustworthy if it continues to behave in this way.

To date, the stances and demands of the US in the Asia-Pacific have unexceptionally defended the status quo favorable to its allies in the region. Yet, it stamps its foot in rage each time China rebuts or refuses its unreasonable demands. It is high time the US showed some respect for China's core interests and major concerns.

China-US relations are now at a crossroads. Behind the business as usual picture, the covert and overt actions of containment taken by Washington have strained political ties and cast shadows over the prospects for bilateral cooperation on either nation-to-nation or broader issues.

The US policy of containment and engagement is both self-contradictory and shortsighted. Politicians in Washington should give up their penchant of doing one thing and saying another. They should come up with something better when dealing with China; a new approach that leads to reciprocity and mutual respect.

The author is a senior writer with China Daily.

(China Daily 08/20/2014 page8)