McCain, Rice urge US global leadership

Updated: 2012-08-31 10:50

By Tan Yingzi in Tampa (China Daily)

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Republicans' speeches cite China's rise as world power

Two Republicans with strong foreign-policy credentials said it is crucial that the United States regain its leadership in international affairs as they stressed the perceived rise of China as a world power.

Senator John McCain and former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, speaking on the foreign-policy night of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, focused on the US role in the world and how it affects success within the country.

Both mentioned China in their speeches Wednesday night, with Rice citing the nation five times when talking about the Middle East, trade policy and human rights.

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Though McCain lost the presidential race to Barack Obama in 2008, as the ranking minority-party member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, he remains a powerful voice on foreign policy and is known for taking a tough stand against China on security matters.

In his speech, the senator said US success at home depends on leadership in the world and that Americans must lead "from the front", not from behind.

He blamed Obama's administration for failing to continue US global leadership, especially in addressing Iran's nuclear ambitions and the civil war in Syria.

"We can't afford to give governments in Russia and China a veto over how we defend our interests and the progress of our values in the world," he said.

To explain his views, McCain wrote an article headlined "Leading from the front" posted on Foreign Policy magazine's website this week.

"From diplomacy and trade to defense and human rights, Republicans would summon the will, the wisdom and the national confidence to lead more actively in the world - not from behind, but from the front," he wrote.

Rather than cutting the Pentagon budget, McCain wrote, a Republican government would spend heavily on defense in the face of China's military development.

"If we are serious about rebalancing our defense priorities toward the Asia-Pacific, as we must, without diminishing our readiness for other military contingencies, first and foremost in the Middle East, then we need to invest in the necessary defense capabilities to expand our military presence and relevance in the world's largest maritime theater, especially amid China's ongoing and opaque military modernization."

Rice, who served as national security adviser and then secretary of state under George W. Bush, warned that US leadership is at risk and pointed out that the country should stand for free people and free markets worldwide.

In addition to a lack of leadership on Iran and Syria, the United States in the past four years has lagged behind China in striking free-trade deals with other countries, Rice charged.

"If you are worried about the rise of China, just consider this: The United States has ratified only three trade agreements in the last few years, and those were negotiated in the Bush administration," she said in her speech. "China has signed 15 free-trade agreements and is in the progress of negotiating as many as 18 more."

In the run-up to November's election, Republicans and Democrats have both played up the rise of China to serve their national security and political interests, said Minxin Pei, an expert on US-China relations and professor of government at Claremont McKenna College in California.

But China is facing a series of domestic challenges, and Americans aren't aware of the "declining fortunes" of their perceived rival, Pei wrote in an article headlined "Everything you think you know about China is wrong", posted on on Wednesday.

"Americans' domestic perceptions influence how they see their rivals," he wrote. "It is no coincidence that the period in the 1970s and late 1980s when Americans missed signs of rivals' decline corresponded with intense dissatisfaction with US performance (President Jimmy Carter's 1979 'malaise speech,' for example)."

But Pei warned that rhetorical China-bashing could harm the bilateral relationship and cost Washington an opportunity to rethink its China policy for the next two decades.