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Blinkered view - The Times of India

Editorial ()
June 25, 1998

Title: Blinkered view
Author: Editorial
Publication: The Times of India
Date: June 25, 1998

Presidential summits are always advertised as resounding
successes irrespective of ground realities, and President Bill
Clinton's visit to China starting today will not be an exception.
The spin-doctors are bound to highlight China's likely assurances
on non-proliferation, human rights and opening up of markets not
to mention major contracts on high technologies. Except for the
business deals, the rest of Mr Clinton's gains will be airy
promises and that would not matter since the US interest in China
is primarily commercial. In the process Mr Clinton would be
generating a series of messages to the Chinese people, the non-
Han minority communities and the rest of Asia, none of which will
be particularly re-assuring to the concerned peoples or nations.
The crucial issue of the US-China relationship is whether it will
contribute to peace and stability in Asia and enable
accommodation of China in a democratic global order. The US
preference for dealing with China in a bipolar framework
overlooking the need to embed China in a balance of power in Asia
is the primary concern of Asian nations. The lack of
understanding of this basic geostrategic imperative was
highlighted in the US fundamentalist nuclear stand on the Indian
nuclear tests, which were a significant contribution to restoring
a stable balance of power in Asia. The US administration appears
to have missed out that the Chinese missile and nuclear
proliferation to Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan is intended to
give them the bargaining leverage vis-a-vis US supply of arms to
Taiwan. No amount of unenforceable assurances on proliferation
is going to help in halting China's breaches of non-proliferation
and missile control regimes till the US agrees to abandon Taiwan.

Apologists for the present US policy of accommodating China at
the expense of other Asian nations exaggerate the role of US
military and economic power in relation to China and appear to
assume that US power alone would be adequate to contain China's
rising influence and role in Asia. The emergence of China as an
economic and military power is an inescapable challenge to the
status quo in Asia and the globe. The Asian situation is very
different from the post-Yalta Europe where bipolarity and
containment worked to US advantage in the long run. While US
engagement with China is the right policy, in poly-centric Asia
with a number of non-European civilisational traditions,
exclusive bipolar engagement to the neglect of a stable balance
of power among the US, Japan, Russia, China and India will not
serve long-term US national interest - especially a power
imbalance to the south and south-east of China. While in a
nuclear world a strategy of engagement is to be preferred to one
of confrontation or containment a stable relationship between the
status quo oriented foremost power of the world and a fast rising
second power which cannot but be its challenger is extremely
unlikely and may turn out to be opportunistic. A polycentric
balance of power in Asia will provide maximum manoeuvrability to
other nations and will be in the interest of all including the US
and China. This axiom may be overlooked by those out to make a
fast buck in the China market or influenced by parochial
considerations. But basic considerations of international
politics have an inexorable way of asserting themselves.


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