Bull in the China Shop


 As Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, China's next leader, visits with President Obama this week, American Enterprise Institute (AEI) China expert Daniel (Dan) Blumenthal examines US-China relations and explains that: 

  • "The Obama administration cannot seem to decide whether it thinks America is weak or strong, whether it should accommodate China or confront the country, or whether it wants to deploy more U.S. forces to the Pacific or cut the very forces that would be deployed."
  • "Washington's China policy is a bit of a muddle as it rests on the twin pillars of containment and engagement. The objectives of engagement are twofold: 1) to encourage China to become a responsible great power, and 2) to press for liberal reform. The aim of containment is to hold the line on a status quo -- a liberalizing Asia -- that has provided decades of peace and prosperity." Adds Blumenthal, "Somebody needs to orchestrate the cacophony.
  • "While "top-level engagement matters," the purpose of Xi visit to the United States is "to consolidate his power over an ever more complex Chinese political system. Form will be more important than substance, and Chinese leaders will be satisfied if there are no major missteps during the visit."
  • "As the first leader without the blessing of China's revolutionary generation (it cannot bless from the grave), Xi will likely be as risk-averse as Hu and more beholden to consensus within the Politburo Standing Committee, more deferential to the People's Liberation Army, and less likely to undertake liberal reforms given current social conditions."
  • "Beijing has been understandably confused about America's China policy. The Obama administration cannot seem to decide whether it thinks America is weak or strong, whether it should accommodate China or confront the country, or whether it wants to deploy more U.S. forces to the Pacific or cut the very forces that would be deployed. That Xi might adopt ill-conceived foreign policies (as Hu did in 2009 and 2010) is not out of the question."
  • "To increase the likelihood that the Sino-American competition will not lead to conflict, the two countries need sustained dialogue over matters such as military activities by both countries close to China's shores, the risks of the perennial flashpoints (Taiwan, Korea, and now the South China Sea and Indian Ocean), and new domains of warfare -- including cyberspace. Though these are not topics that China particularly enjoys discussing."

Blumenthal concludes that, "once Beijing comes to believe that intimidating others will not achieve its goals, engagement with Washington will improve."

AEI Resident Fellow Daniel Blumenthal previously served in the Defense Department's policy shop as the Senior Country Director for China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Mongolia. He is a current Commissioner (previously Vice Chairman) of the congressionally mandated US-China Economic and Security Review Commission. He is reachable at dblumenthal@aei.org or through lara.crouch@aei.org (202.861.7160). For additional help or for other media inquiries, please e-mail vrodman@aei.org (202.862.4871).

AEI's in-house ReadyCam TV studio may be booked by calling VideoLink at 617.340.4300. For radio interviews, please e-mail vrodman@aei.org to reserve AEI's ISDN facilities.

 

 

 

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About the Author

 

Dan
Blumenthal
  • Dan Blumenthal is the director of Asian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, where he focuses on East Asian security issues and Sino-American relations.  Mr. Blumenthal has both served in and advised the U.S. government on China issues for over a decade.  From 2001 to 2004, he served as senior director for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia at the Department of Defense.  Additionally, he served as a commissioner on the congressionally-mandated U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission since 2006-2012, and held the position of vice chairman in 2007.  He has also served on the Academic Advisory Board of the congressional U.S.-China Working Group. Mr. Blumenthal is the co-author of "An Awkward Embrace: The United States and China in the 21st Century" (AEI Press, November 2012).

  • Phone: 202.862.5861
    Email: dblumenthal@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Shannon Mann
    Phone: 202-862-5911
    Email: Shannon.Mann@aei.org

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