Power and Restraint

A Shared Vision for the U.S.-China Relationship


Edited by Richard N Rosecrance

Edited by Gu Guoliang

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Over several years, some of the most distinguished Chinese and American scholars have engaged in a major research project, sponsored by the China-U.S. Exchange Foundation (USEF), to address the big bilateral and global issues the two countries face. Historically, the ascension of a great power has resulted in armed conflict. This group of scholars — experts in politics, economics, international security, and environmental studies — set out to establish consensus on potentially contentious issues and elaborate areas where the two nations can work together to achieve common goals. Featuring essays on global warming, trade relations, Taiwan, democratization, WMDs and bilateral humanitarian intervention, Power and Restraint finds that China and the United States can exist side by side and establish mutual understanding to better cope with the common challenges they face.


C. H. Tung
IF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY WAS SHAPED BY THE CONFLICTS OF great powers, the twenty-first century will be shaped by how we, the human race, can successfully take on the challenges of energy security, climate change, food security, and scarcity of natural resources, all of which are issues crucial to sustainable development and economic growth in the new century. Beyond the aforementioned challenges, the world continues to face the threat of nuclear weapons proliferation, transnational terrorism, and localized conflicts. It is also urgent to improve global efforts to prevent epidemimcs and the drug trade. Finally, there is a need to push for further globalization of the world economy and to create an international financial system. There is also an urgency to improve global efforts on epidemic prevention and drug trade eradication. Today, the world yearns for peace, stability, and sustainable development, but never has the world been faced with so many transnational challenges coming together all at the same time. To successfully overcome these challenges, multilateral cooperation by the international community, particularly by its major powers, is critical.
The United States is the most developed and strongest nation in the world. China is the largest and fastest developing nation. In the multilateral effort to overcome these challenges, a good and productive relationship between the United States and China is essential. Indeed, no bilateral relationship among major powers today would be more crucial in shaping global order and agenda than the one between China and the United States.
Although there is general consensus among scholars and political commentators on the importance of the China-United States relationship, it remains controversial as to whether the relationship will become more congruent or more conflictual in the coming years.
The recent rise of China’s power and influence in global affairs has ignited heated discussions in the United States. There are those in the United States who propose a “hedging strategy” aimed at preparing for conflict with China as well as engaging it for cooperation. The idea of hedging against China, however, runs an enormous risk of fostering a negative Chinese reaction, which would in turn affect U.S. interests. Meanwhile, other American and Chinese observers see more opportunities for the two great nations to broaden the scope of cooperation, although they do not necessarily underestimate the difficulties in avoiding confrontation.
Motivated by a strong desire to more clearly identify the common interests—and possibly shared values—of China and the United States, and intrigued by the intellectual challenges in doing so, a group of some of the most distinguished Chinese and American scholars, each an expert in his or her own respective field, has conducted a major research project that dates back to the fall of 2006. Coming from such diverse scholarly areas as politics, economics, international security, international relations, and environmental studies, they gathered together in three plenary sessions, held respectively in Hong Kong in March 2007, in Beijing in December 2007, and at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in February 2008.
This volume is a product of this fruitful collaboration that involved not only conferences and writings but also informal communications, candid exchange of ideas, and, where possible, consensus building. Some of the chapters are the result of joint efforts between Chinese and American scholars. In cases where joint articles were not deemed practical, authors express their views individually. Whether working in collaboration or separately, all of the authors called for better mutual understanding between China and the United States so as to allow both nations to better cope with common challenges.
Never before in my long business and political career have I been involved with such serious and stimulating academic debates on issues of such political significance. As an enthusiastic participant in and staunch supporter of this project, I feel more optimistic about China-United States relations today than during the time prior to this initiative. My optimism is not simply due to the fact that the process has helped to narrow the perception gap between the Chinese and American participants but because of the friendly and productive spirit in which the discussions were conducted. In truth, it was an inspiring process. The more opportunities we have in holding such dialogues, and the more widely the strategic visions reflected in this volume are shared, the higher hopes we can hold for a healthier China-United States relationship in the future. Indeed, never before has the world needed a strong China-United States relationship as much as it does today.
Needless to say, I congratulate all the contributors in this book for their achievements, but our acknowledgements should be extended to a much longer list of institutions and individuals who made the project possible and successful. Special thanks go to Victor Fung, vice chair of the China-United States Exchange Foundation and chair of the Asia Center Advisory Board of Harvard University, who instrumentally initiated this project and enthusiastically supported it every step of the way. We also thank Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, in particular its dean, David Ellwood, and Lawrence Summers; the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, particularly its Institute of American Studies, headed by Huang Ping; Peking University’s School of International Studies, and Yuan Ming, as well as many others.

Graham Allison
TWO GREAT POWERS USUALLY HAVE A DIFFICULT RELATIONSHIP. Each seeks more power or economic strength than the other. If one power is rising and the other is already ascendant, their relations are typically tense or hostile. Very rarely has the rising power surpassed the established leader without conflict, and usually it has involved military confrontation. We all know that the United States surpassed Great Britain after 1890 without fighting a war (see Chapter 1). But the tension between Britain and a rising German empire grew and finally led to war in 1914. In the 1930s, Soviet economic growth and the emergence of Nazi Germany pitted two rising powers against one another. They fought a devastating war from 1941 to 1945, killing over 30 million men and women. The United States and the Soviet Union waged a cold war from 1945 to 1991 driven by military, economic, and ideological competition. Though it did not lead to direct war, the superpowers came close to conflict on more than one occasion. When Japanese growth rates exceeded those of the United States in the 1980s, many expected Japan to become “number 1”; some experts forecast that the strains would worsen and even end in conflict.1
In the twenty-first century, the United States and China are destined to be the largest and strongest powers in the international system. China’s rise has been proclaimed to be “peaceful,” but in a prior century the American rise was scarcely pacific. The United States threatened war with Canada and Britain and actually fought against Mexico, annexing nearly half of that country in 1848. China was also vigilant and quick to react in its neighborhood. As U.S. forces neared the Yalu River in October 1950, China intervened in the Korean War, even though the United States possessed nuclear weapons and Beijing did not. Neither state has been relaxed in the presence of challenging neighbors.
Nonetheless, it is possible—and perhaps likely—that the rise of China can be accommodated by the United States and that the two countries can have peaceful and even cooperative relationships in the next generation. This can be achieved, however, only if two conditions are met: (1) the United States and China must share vital interests, and (2) both governments (aided by their societies) must act positively to create a cooperative relationship. Merely relying on “business as usual” in economic or military interactions will not suffice to produce this outcome.
U.S.-Chinese relations are much deeper and more multifarious than were U.S.-Soviet ones. U.S.-Soviet connections were governmental and military; they were not social. There was no pattern of economic interdependence. The meetings of the United Nations Security Council—and its permanent members (P5)—represented a veto-ridden failure, and there were no other forums where the Great Powers could meet free from the glare of world publicity. Bilateral attempts to improve relations failed. Nikita Khrushchev made an unsuccessful visit to the United States in 1958, and the May 1960 Paris summit was cancelled after a U.S. spy plane was shot down over Soviet Russia. Khrushchev’s risk-taking in Berlin and Cuba further sharpened tensions. He believed firmly that the “correlation of forces” was turning in Soviet favor.2 When one gambit failed, he was emboldened to double the stakes and roll the dice.
In contrast, both Chinese and American leaders have been careful and respectful of one another in recent years. The United States needed Chinese help against its Cold War enemy, the Soviet Union. China and the United States developed a fragile consensus on Taiwan, elaborated in both 1972 and 1978. According to their agreement, both sides of the Taiwan Strait concur that there is but one China, and the United States does not disagree. The United States believes that force should not be used to reunify Taiwan with the mainland, and it is committed to assisting Taiwan in its defense unless Taipei unilaterally declares independence. Beijing has not foresworn the right to use force if Taiwan declares “independence” or if reunification is indefinitely delayed. The United States has favored a peaceful resolution of the conflict, but it has not actively encouraged the parties to find a solution, nor has it proposed a solution of its own. Perhaps it is time for the United States to encourage a solution, especially if discussions can be held between the two parties with few or no preconditions, as seems possible with the election of a new Pan Blue leadership in Taipei.
More important, economic relations between China and the United States are becoming so deep and interdependent that a form of “economic deterrence” may be emerging. Robert McNamara described the nuclear balance between the United States and the Soviet Union as “mutual assured destruction.” It was impossible for one country to attack the other without triggering massive nuclear retaliation. Even after a first strike, the other could always strike back. This concept may have an economic analogue. Over time, the progressive interdependence of the United States and the Chinese economies could reach the point where official capital flight or trade embargoes would be so damaging that they would no longer be realistic options. In this situation, MADE (mutual assured destruction of the economy) could take its place in the lexicon of acronyms alongside MAD (mutual assured destruction of the society). In fact, MADE could be attained before MAD (China would have to greatly increase its nuclear arsenal to threaten massive retaliation). To what extent MADE exists now is a subject for further analysis.
Another significant question is the degree and process of internal reform in China. In the past, U.S. presidents have pressed for the “democratization” of the developing countries. In the Chinese case, as Etel Solingen’s chapter argues, “liberalization” may be a more appropriate near term objective than “democratization,” given the nationalist reactions that might be unleashed by an attempt to achieve a premature and possibly illiberal democracy. 3 Unless property rights, the rule of law, a fully developed and independent court system, an incipient group or party system, and an expanded middle class were achieved in advance, choosing a government by holding national elections could be counterproductive. It could even lead to nationalist extremism and military expansion (as occurred in the early stages of Japanese and German “democratization” in the late nineteenth century and in the 1930s). Further “liberalization” would involve completing economic reforms, dismantling state-owned enterprises (SOEs), adopting a freely fluctuating exchange rate, and establishing a pension and welfare system. Greater protection of retired workers would also reduce the need for savings and increase consumption, thereby stimulating imports.
The military relationships between China and the United States are also very important. Though the Chinese defense budget is much smaller than the U.S. budget, it has been increasing very rapidly in recent years. How much a prudent U.S. should hedge depends on Chinese intentions, which have been opaque. The United States has not sought to deny China minimum deterrent capabilities, but it has expressed concerns about China’s growing threat to American mastery of the sea lanes, including the waters around Taiwan. It has also voiced concerns about Chinese measures that could endanger U.S. and GPS satellites in space. Military-to-military contacts can limit misperceptions and misunderstandings. But China faces difficult choices in developing its military arsenal without directly challenging the United States.
On the environment, China and the United States are the greatest contributors to worldwide pollution and greenhouse gases. China’s installation of one new coal-fired power plant per week will worsen the situation unless carbon capture and sequestration technologies are developed and applied. In recent years China has added new generation capacity almost equal to the entire Indian power grid each year. A pragmatic response on both sides would be to form a partnership to develop new ideas and low-carbon technologies for public and private use. Catastrophic climate change may still be avoidable, but only if China and the United States both act to reduce their emissions. This would require each side to overcome the temptation to pollute while the other is reducing greenhouse gases.
The prospect of agreement on this and other issues depends on the two Great Powers concurring on (1) common objectives, and (2) common fears. The common objectives are economic growth and international stability. The common fears are global warming, international terrorism, and the spread of nuclear weapons. The potential or actual spread of nuclear weapons to Iran and North Korea must be prevented or reversed, hopefully without military intervention. China’s role in the Six-Party Talks on North Korea has been critical to persuading Pyongyang to halt production of fissile material. China should join the international community in pressuring Tehran to achieve a similar result in Iran.
In the longer term, the most significant fact is that China has grown because of existing international institutions and values, and not despite them. China’s stunning advancement has not depended upon overturning present-day realities. Unlike the recent cases of Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany, where the rationale for one dictatorial regime required overthrow of the existing system, China has so far been prepared to sustain the current system and gain further and more equal inclusion within it rather than displace it. If this remains true, there must be new informal arrangements in which Chinese and U.S. elites and their rising successors can exchange ideas and discuss means of achieving such results.
No previous Great Powers rose with the consent of their predecessors. British and German elites seriously discussed the possibility of cooperation in the 1890s, but these talks ended because of the Anglo-German naval rivalry. The United States and the Soviet Union held meetings on many subjects, but rarely did decision-makers or their associates develop social as well as political ties. Whereas Britain and the United States benefited from shared ideological, political, and cultural backgrounds, China and the United States speak different languages and exist in regions remote from one another. Their historical development has differed, though the history of both was stunted by the practice of European imperialism. Yet, perhaps surprisingly, the goals of American and Chinese citizens are remarkably similar: to pursue happiness, to provide for their families, to benefit their societies, and to enrich life for future generations.
The essential means of achieving these objectives has been different in the two cases. In the one case, the driver was economic liberalization; in the other, it was democratization as well as a market economy. It is therefore all the more important that officials, students, and rising elites meet regularly to exchange views on the state of the world, endeavoring to find common understandings of developments and perhaps even shared visions about what should be done. As was noted earlier, similarities of interest are not enough to unite two otherwise disparate societies. One has to stretch beyond routine interactions to deepen and intensify the range of common ideas and practices. We hope that the meetings, observations, and suggestions of the authors of the chapters in this volume can make some contribution to this cause.


Ernest R. May and Zhou Hong

Bases of Relations

Historically, China has engaged American emotions more than any foreign country except Britain and Israel. Since the early nineteenth century Americans have presumed a special relationship with China.1 Unlike other relationships, this one obviously does not stem from a common language or culture or from shared experience. It is not even based on knowledge or evident understanding. China has nonetheless kept a larger presence in the minds of Americans than have nearer nations, such as Canada or Mexico, or sometime adversaries, sometime partners, such as France, Germany, Russia, or Japan. This continuing sense of closeness despite distance and ignorance is the first point to keep in mind when trying to place in historical context the question of where U.S.-Chinese relations may be heading.
A second, closely related point is that China has often tested to its limits the ability of the U.S. government to develop and pursue a coherent foreign policy. The United States never has been the nation-state of Western political philosophers, whether Machiavelli or Hobbes or the “neo-realists” of today. The United States began as a loose alliance among former British colonists who previously had little to do with one another. It evolved into a republic that could sometimes act as a unit—and act with vigor. Within it, however, sovereignty continued to be shared between state governments and a national government, and in the national government authority lay—and lies—with an executive and a legislature independent of one another and more or less continuously in conflict. With regard to relations with other nations, as the legal scholar Edward Corwin writes, the U.S. Constitution represents an open “invitation to struggle.”2 Because of the strength of public feeling in various parts of the union and in the separate parts of the national government, the struggle has at times concerned relations with China.
A third point has to do with the better-known special relationship between the United States and Britain, not because it can serve as a parallel or model but because episodes in that relationship illustrate how interaction between a dominant power and emerging competitors can result in either conflict or accommodation. Between roughly 1890 and 1910, while the British relationship with Germany went from cooperation to antagonism, the British relationship with the United States went from friction to friendship. Between 1920 and 1930, with the United States now dominant, conditions that seemed made for rivalry and conflict were subdued by negotiations in which the two nations and others sought to maximize common interests rather than individual national interests. To ask why this happened in these two cases suggests some possible questions about alternative patterns that might play out in U.S.-Chinese relationships.
Americans became interested in China in the mid-eighteenth century. Benjamin Franklin was the young nation’s first eminent Sinophile. He described China as “the most ancient, and from long Experience the wisest of Nations.” He thought it a better model for America than any European nation, including Britain, largely because he saw its mandarins as an aristocracy of merit rather than of birth. He also thought that China’s silk industry might exemplify how farmers could be individual entrepreneurs while at the same time boosting productivity through division of labor.3
In the nineteenth century, American opinion about China was divided. Admiration and awe for China persisted—witness the proliferation of American Christian missions and schools in China and the many sermons given in churches across the land in order to raise money and recruit volunteers for these efforts. Witness, too, the romantic recollections of the clipper-ship era’s China trade, on which Franklin Roosevelt frequently dwelt, reminiscing about his seafaring Delano ancestors. But Americans who heard or read about China could not fail to see how rapidly China was being outstripped by the industrializing economies of the West. American workers protested the inflow of low-wage Chinese laborers. Chinese became targets of rioters and lynch mobs. Prejudice was so strong that Chinese in the U.S. received little protection from the legal system. A “Chinaman’s chance” became a synonym for no justice at all.
By and large, American elites condemned discrimination against Chinese. Many remained supportive of and optimistic about the continually expanding Christian missionary endeavors. Others saw China as a vast potential market for the products of its own rapidly expanding industries. During the deep slump of the 1890s, when American textile mills were often idle, the argument was heard that if only the Chinese would lengthen their shirts by one inch, those mills would hum for generations.4
Though anti-Chinese agitation eventually died down, the rest of the mix persisted—and persists. America developed a small corps of “China hands.” Some worked for the government; some for American companies; many for newspapers or magazines. A significant number were teachers and scholars.5 Many nonexperts felt China’s allure. One example is Henry Kissinger. In his memoirs, extravagant praise goes to Zhou Enlai: “Urbane, infinitely patient, extraordinarily intelligent, subtle,” Kissinger writes, “he moved through our discussions with an easy grace that penetrated to our new relationship as if there were no sensible alternative.”6 Zhou is the other hero of Kissinger’s memoirs (Kissinger being the first).
Despite all that he was told about the corruption and ineffectuality of the Chinese Nationalist government, Franklin Roosevelt died believing that China would grow to be a powerful democracy and “policeman” for its region. After 1949, American rhetoric often portrayed China as temporarily under foreign rule—a “Slavic Manchukuo,” in the phrase of 1960s Secretary of State Dean Rusk.7 Even unrelenting critics of Mao’s regime, such as William F. Knowland of California (often called “the Senator from Formosa”), seemed to presume that ordinary Chinese admired America and aspired to have political and economic institutions like those of the United States. After the events of 1989, American after American predicted that China would follow the examples set in Eastern Europe.
But fascination with China sometimes held a touch of fear. The Chinese had once been rich and powerful. They might become so again. Their elite retained the reputation for sagacity that had so impressed Benjamin Franklin. When anti-Chinese rioting was near its worst in California, the California writer Bret Harte produced his verse on “the heathen Chinee”—Ah Sin, who outwitted competitors at the card table. From the 1920s to the 1940s, one of the best-known characters in American popular fiction was the Chinese-American detective Charlie Chan. And there were so many Chinese. In the 1980s the American political scientist James Q. Wilson came back from a visit to China, saying to his friends, “Can you imagine a billion Israelis?”
The mixture—awe at China’s antiquity, culture, and size; uneasiness about its future; and discomfort over the roles of Americans there—should be recognizable to anyone who keeps up with current American commentary on China. Charles Kindleberger’s maxim, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose—sometimes,” evokes the uncertainty.
Politically most important has not been this widespread ambivalence but rather the intensity of feeling among Americans interested in China. Passion gives groups influence almost independent of their numbers. Witness Zionists, Cuban refugees, even friends of Syngman Rhee or Ngo Dinh Diem or Ahmad Chalabi.
For some Americans, especially from missionary backgrounds, it was unacceptable for China to have turned to Marxism-Leninism for its creed. They insisted that the United States treat this “Slavic Manchukuo” as a pariah, denying it diplomatic recognition or a seat at the United Nations. This self-styled Committee of One Million helped to push the U.S. government into such a stance and to keep it there for two decades.8
This recollection calls us to the second point—about the difficulty of formulating China policy, given that Americans who are passionate about China influence policy choices within a constitutional system where sovereignty and authority are both fractionated. In the nineteenth century, merchants, cotton growers, and churchgoers in the eastern United States worked through the executive branch to promote trade and missionary activity in China. Groups in the western United States worked through municipalities, state governments, and Congress to vent anger against “cheap Chinese labor.” At a time when U.S. consuls were trying to charm Chinese viceroys on behalf of American shippers and evangelists, Congress passed a law forbidding any Chinese to become U.S. citizens. This was the first blanket immigration restriction in American history.9


On Sale
Mar 3, 2009
Page Count
272 pages