By Mei Jingya, Sina English
China Brief, published by the Jamestown Foundation, on September 7 carried an article entitled “China’s Search for a “New Type of Great Power Relationship”, which claims China aspires to establish a new type of “great power relationship” with the United States and wants Washington to accommodate China's interests.
In late August, Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Cai Yingting made a low-profile visit to Washington. Speaking to media, Cai stressed the importance of building “a new type of military-to-military relationship with the United States”.
The article said Cai’s comments reflect Beijing’s broader search for a “new type of great power relationship” with the United States. “Chinese decision-makers are clearly concerned about the implications of China’s rise for its relationship with the United States, especially given widespread views that the historical pattern of great power conflict suggests a rocky road ahead for the U.S.-China relationship.”
According to the article, although China’s emphasis on the importance of building a “new type of major power relationship” began this year, Beijing’s search for a stable and constructive U.S.-China relationship is more than forty years old now.
The two countries have been exploring this kind of relationship since the normalization of diplomatic relations in 1979. Afterwards, China’s rapid rise and the relative decline of the United States somehow deepened mutual suspicion between the two countries.
Some in the United States are concerned that a rising China will challenge its position in the world, especially in the Asia-Pacific region, and some in China are worried that the United States will seek to preserve its influence by containing China and slowing its growth. Such mutual suspicion inevitably fueled fears that the United States and China will become locked in a confrontational relationship, judging from the historical record of competition between established and rising powers.
Beijing, apparently seeking efforts to avoid a tragic repeat of such conflicts, attaches great importance to forging a “new type of great power relationship” with Washington. However, it is not clear exactly how it expects to achieve this goal.
On the flip side, high-level Washington statements also repeatedly claim the United States welcomes China’s emergence as a great power with an expanded role commensurate with its growing global interests and influence.
For the author, Beijing is searching for a U.S.-China relationship that is “more stable than many historic great power relationships” and less prone to degenerate into a destabilizing competition or an outright confrontation. Beijing clearly sees such a relationship as one that will facilitate China’s pursuit of its broader domestic and international interests. What is less certain is precisely how China’s future leadership intends to pursue these objectives, and how successful they will be in the endeavor as China’s power grows.
The article then pointed to a problem with Beijing's vision of a “new type” of U.S.-China relationship: It requires Washington to “accommodate China's interests and to do so largely on Beijing's terms”. With a “growing leverage”, China wants the United States to change its approach toward Beijing. However, Washington is reluctant to embrace the concept in spite of many shared interests.
To conclude, the author said it will be hard for Beijing to realize the “laudable goal” of building such a new type of great power relationship without “reciprocal adjustments”.