The East Asia is very important region. Perhaps the most important global actor will be China and the USA will seek to ease lingering strategic distrust and discuss key issues of trade, climate change, and global security.
In this context, Ankara Center of Crisis and Policy Studies (ANKASAM), presents the views of Minxin Pei Professor of Political Science at Claremont McKenna College and is a non-resident senior fellow with the Asia program at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, on the relationship of East Asian states with the USA.
What are President Biden’s goals for in East Asia? What are the likely highlights of the trip?
President Biden wishes to reassure America’s allies and friends in East Asia, and he has a desire to remain engaged in the region. The East Asia has vital importance to American national interests, and American peace and prosperity depend on the situation in this region.
Biden has also his big personal sympathy to the people of the East Asian countries. The image of a wise, experienced, and visionary should have a powerful effect in restoring America’s prestige in the East Asia where people respect traditionally wise and experienced people.
Biden will reaffirm the long-standing U.S.-Japan alliance and reassure Japan that the United States will not allow America’s ties with China and Russia to eclipse relations between Washington and Tokyo. Biden will engage also towards the Chinese leadership in substantive discussions of key bilateral issues, including trade, climate change, and regional security.
Is America’s influence in East Asia rising or falling?
The perception in the region is that America’s influence in the East Asia is declining while China’s is rising. It’s clearly difficult to measure influence accurately, but if one compares the frequency of high-level exchanges between China and its East Asian neighbours and that of similar exchanges between the United States and East Asian countries, China clearly has an advantage due mainly to its proximity and the priority it accords to East Asia.
The perceived decline of American influence in East Asia is due partly to neglect or missteps in Washington. In contrast, China invested billions of dollars to a regional market in order to stabilize the financial system. During the former Trump era, senior American diplomats frequently skipped visits to the region’s multilateral forums, disappointing many East Asian leaders who were eager to have the United States stay engaged in the region and counter-balance China.
Despite this perception, the United States remains the most powerful player in the Asia-Pacific region. It maintains robust security alliances with Japan, Australia, and South Korea. Its Seventh Fleet provides the region with security and peace. And the U.S. market absorbs the largest share of Asia’s exports. That, above all, is why Asia understand the importance of the relationship with the USA.
How is the Current Relationship between USA and China?
Both countries’ economic policies have created huge imbalances—China’s external surpluses and America’s trade and fiscal deficits—that threaten their financial stability and prospects for growth. Politically, China’s system and American system are obviously at odds with each other, though Washington and Beijing have wisely managed to work together despite the fundamental differences in their political systems.
Neither China nor the United States can be assured of the other’s long-term strategic intentions. Such uncertainty leads to so-called strategic hedging: China takes actions to prepare for a possible future in which U.S.-China relations are not friendly, and the United States does the same. That is clearly not a hallmark of a completely not friendly relationship.
Is cooperation between Beijing and Washington necessary or sufficient to solve transnational threats, including climate change, the economic crisis, and nuclear nonproliferation?
Cooperation between the two great powers is critically important for addressing global challenges, including climate change and economic imbalances, but by itself, it’s not enough. There are many other main geopolitical actors such as Russia, Japan, the UK, and the EU.
Can the United States and China reach a meaningful agreement on climate change?
The two sides are far apart on capping emissions and sharing financial burdens. While China has set an ambitious goal for reducing the carbon intensity of its economy, it has refused to accept mandatory caps on carbon emissions.
China also insists that the rich countries put aside at least one percent of their GDP each year to help developing countries reduce carbon emissions through financial aid and technological assistance. (For the United States, this would mean $140 billion a year on foreign aid related to climate change alone.) The idea will not go over well in the U.S. Congress. In the meantime, if Congress fails to produce a strong climate change bill, China is unlikely to soften its position.
How does current global anxiety between superpowers will influence U.S.-China relations?
In the United States, Democrats and Republicans disagree vehemently on a lot of issues, but China isn’t one of them. In Beijing, Chinese leaders will continue to view a stable relationship with the United States as their most important foreign policy objective. So, there should be standard policy continuity. In addition, The USA, The UK, France, Russia, and China are the greatest nuclear and military powers in the world and for that reason I do not expect the large-scale military conflict with their participation.
An interview on our website is the personal opinion of the expert and may not reflect the institutional view of Ankara Center for Crisis and Policy Research (ANKASAM).
The original version of this interview was published on The International Asia Today on 02.02.2022.
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