Sino-US Relations Fundamental to Regional Peace
11 July 2014, Khmer Times

PHNOM PENH, (Khmer Times) – At the sixth round of China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue held earlier this week in Beijing, leaders from both countries vowed to strengthen cooperation to address global issues and maintain regional peace and stability. A stable Sino-US relationship is the foundation of regional peace and stability. But, realities on the ground seems otherwise, with structural competition becoming more serious.

The rise of China is regarded as a challenge to the US-centric regional security order. The alliance systems established and led by the US are claimed to be the cornerstone of regional peace and stability. But China seeks to strengthen its Asian security concept based on the five principles of peaceful co-existence: mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, non- interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence.

Realities and power structures have changed rapidly over the last decade especially in the post-global economic crisis in 2008. Then, China could maintain its rapid economic growth while the US was facing economic decline and recession. It was a significant pattern of global power restructuring. The rise and fall of empires and superpowers are common in our human history. However, currently it is more complicated as the world becomes much more interconnected and interdependent.

The ongoing global power restructuring and transition are taking place within the context of a global great convergence in which nation-states become more integrated in almost every dimension. A new global order is in the making as it is a process shaped by changing actors and factors. The world is moving towards a multipolar world in which there are at least four powers (US, China, Russia, India) and two regional actors (EU and ASEAN) interacting and shaping a new global order.

Economic power determines the pattern of global and regional order. Particularly in the Asia-Pacific, the rising economic power of China leads to the changes of regional power structure and dynamics. China has invested robustly in defense modernization and maritime power projection. Economic power definitely leads to military power. As its power is growing, China becomes more assertive in protecting its core national interests and claiming its sovereignty.

Within such context, the US deployed its rebalancing strategy to Asia with the aim to strengthen its alliance system to keep China in check. Approaching the territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas are the two most complicated and confrontational issues between the two countries in addition to the prevailing economic issues such as currency policy, trade, investment, and industrial espionage.

China accuses the US of intervening and complicating the disputes while the US keeps assuring China that it takes a neutral stand on the disputes. Regardless of those differences, China and the US both acknowledge the significance of their bilateral ties. A model of major-power relationship between China and the US are being constructed although concrete action plans have not been laid out yet.

At the Dialogue, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned “China-US confrontation, to the two countries and the world, would definitely be a disaster.” China seeks win-win cooperation with the US and tries to avoid direct confrontation as it hurts both countries and the whole region. “China and the United States’ interests are deeply interconnected. Cooperation will lead to win-win results while confrontation will hurt both,” Xi added.

China sent a clear signal to the US that both China and the US could share power and together build the Asia-Pacific region. New type of power relationship is required in order to avoid future conflicts. “We should mutually respect and treat each other equally, and respect the others sovereignty and territorial integrity and respect each other’s choice on the path of development,” Xi suggested.

In response, the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, stated, “We welcome the emergence of a peaceful, stable, prosperous China that contributes to the stability and development of the region, and chooses to play a responsible role in world affairs.”

Power competition cannot be avoided but it should not lead to conflict. “I can tell you that we are determined to choose the path of peace and prosperity and co-operation, and yes, even competition, but not conflict,” claimed Kerry. He added, “Strategic rivalry between rising and established powers is not inevitable. It’s a choice.”

The ASEAN member countries welcome such rhetoric as they are striving to get support from both countries to build its community. However, it depends on their acts. Sino-US rivalry hurts regional integration process and progress. Stable and healthy bilateral ties between these two powers benefit global and regional peace and development.

China and the US need to further deepen their strategic trust and confidence and find a common way and method to accommodate each other’ interests. Both countries are responsible for regional peace and stability.

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