An end to the revival of hostilities

Updated: 2012-08-31 08:12

By Chen Weihua (China Daily)

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At an event on Tuesday in New York marking the 40th anniversary of "Ping-Pong Diplomacy", three guests told of how that initial campaign toward re-establishing normalized relations between the United States and China in the early 1970s led to an end of decades of hostility between the countries.

Among those who spoke of that historic period was Henry Kissinger, former US secretary of state, whose secret trip to China in July 1971 had been preceded by one by the US table tennis team. Then there was Jan Berris, vice-president of the National Committee on US-China Relations, who, while on a one-year leave from the State Department, had worked tirelessly at the time of Ping-Pong Diplomacy to prepare an adequate reception for a reciprocal visit that was to be made by the Chinese ping-pong team. Even further memories came from George Brathwaite, a member of the US team that went to China.

Making a sharp contrast to the message put forth by these three speakers are the words we often hear coming from US politicians. In the days and weeks leading up to the Republican National Convention this week in Tampa, Florida, various speakers, ranging from the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, to the Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan, and to another former secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, have tried to sow the seeds of hostility between the two countries.

Not everyone is fooled by such talk. One day after a recent condemnation Ryan made of China's trade practices, the Wall Street Journal reminded the congressman in an editorial that 420 of the US' 435 congressional districts saw their exports to China accelerate at a faster rate in 2011 than to any other market in the world.

And when Rice, in a speech she delivered on Wednesday night in Tampa, blamed China and Russia for the escalating conflict in Syria, noting that they had vetoed a recent UN resolution, her words reminded me of a conversation I had this week had with a Middle East specialist in the US State Department. Both of us sighed at the thought of proposals to further arm the opposition forces in Syria, knowing that to do so would only lead to more bloodshed.

Although the US has publicly said it won't supply lethal weapons to Syrian rebels, many reports suggest that it has at least helped to bring them within that group's reach.

Neoconservatives such as Rice surely want to see more aggressive steps taken, perhaps something akin to the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and ensuing regime changes in both countries. Yet, most people around the world, including many Americans, already know the US has failed dismally in those campaigns.

Accusations of China being a warmonger are also totally unfounded. Recent decades have seen the US fighting war after war. China, in contrast, has not been in one since its border conflict with Vietnam in 1979.

Many US analysts have said the harsh stances Romney and Ryan have taken on China have no foundation in reality. For one, the US business community, which sees huge benefits from trade with China, does not like the confrontational stances Romney often takes, such as when he says he plans to label China a currency manipulator the first day he takes office as president.

One good sign is that Robert Zoellick, a former deputy secretary of state and former president of the World Bank, has been appointed to lead the transition team Romney will charge with handling affairs of national security.

Zoellick's appointment has been the subject of fierce attacks from many neocons. Some even speculate that Zoellick, known as a foreign policy realist, will be appointed Secretary of State if Romney is elected.

To such hard-liners, Zoellick may seem too soft. That may only mean he will prove someone who is capable of stamping out the hostility that some US politicians are trying to ignite between China and the US - the kind of hostility that people such as Kissinger, Berris and Brathwaite strived hard to end 40 years ago.

The author, based in New York, is deputy editor of China Daily USA. E-mail:

(China Daily 08/31/2012 page8)