July 28, 2006
U.S. – China Relations
Former Ambassador J. Stapleton Roy
Ambassador J. Stapleton Roy began the sixth and final lecture of
the Policymakers Seminar Series by posing the question, “How
do we think about China?” In analyzing trends in U.S. –
China relations, it is important to understand regional influences
and global positions of both countries.
Ambassador Roy noted that western countries are losing power in
Asia as Asian countries are gaining regional influence. Along with
unprecedented economic growth, China has continued to open up and
has experienced political reform to a very limited extent with a
new technocratic regime, which has focused on economic development,
replacing the totalitarian regime of the Maoist years.
The ambassador believed that in the future China will indeed see
reforms within the Communist Party, but as global and regional power
structures continue to shift, he noted that the end product may
not be what the West expects. For example, China has experienced
a very different rise than that of Japan (economic versus military).
With the gradual rise of India as a major player in Asia as well,
the shift in global power is now centering towards the Pacific and
away from the Atlantic. Such a change, in combination with the rise
in economic strength of both China and Japan, has contributed to
increased tensions between the two countries. As a result, the world
now faces a new phenomenon, a strong China and a strong Japan simultaneously.
Such regional power shifts are working to de-stabilize the big
power relationships between the U.S. and China and China and Japan.
Over the last decade, U.S. presence has been viewed as a potential
threat in Asia. Asian groupings are emerging partly to counteract
U.S. influence. For example, as the Association of Southeast Asian
Nations (ASEAN) continues to grow, ASEAN now acts as a mechanism
for countries in Southeast Asia to balance other regional institutions.
Furthermore, Japan, South Korea and China have joined ASEAN to make
up ASEAN + 3.
Though China continues to have a dominant presence in the Asia,
the country still faces a myriad of domestic problems, which may
affect its international development and relations. As Ambassador
Roy noted, if domestic factors infringe on China’s foreign
policy, China’s development may falter.