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The Sino-US Relationship: Democracy and Security

(Sept. 12, 2005)..

By Fang Jue

September 11, 2005 (boxun.com)

On September 13, 2005 China's top leader Hu Jintao will meet with American President George W. Bush in New York.

After President Bush started his second term in January 2005, he often mentioned that Sino-US relations were "complicated". This careful wording shows the conflicting feelings the United States has toward China.

In June 2005 when US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld spoke in Singapore, he called upon China to carry out political reforms. In July 2005 while in Beijing, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also called upon China to open up its political system. None of these unprecedented appeals have received positive responses from the Chinese government.

In his second term Bush has clearly defined his foreign policy goals as spreading democracy and freedom all over the world. This is the most important advance that American foreign policy has made in the 14 years since the end of the Cold War. If we look at American public opinion we see that the Republican Party has a greater chance of being re-elected to the White House in the next Presidential election. The future US government presumably will continue this important foreign policy goal. Even if the Democratic Party takes power, it would be inappropriate for them to completely discard this universal-value-based foreign policy goal. Whether the American leadership is openly calling on China to undergo political reforms or open up its political system, in reality it is hoping that China will start to democratize.

The democratization of China is actually not an empty and vague concept, nor is it unfathomable; it is practical and easy to understand. At its root, democratization in China will simply allow the public to enjoy political benefits. China's regime should use Universal suffrage as a base from which to open up other political forces; China should, with a multi-party system as a foundation, move toward political participation from all social classes. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), however, is determined to resist sharing political benefits with others. If this monopolization of political benefits is not weakened, then the CCP's conflict with other political forces will never be resolved; the mainstream of international community will never recognize China as a trustworthy democratic partner. Because the political power of the dictatorial political party and authoritarian regime is too great and too concentrated, it's easy for those in power to stubbornly stick to their political ideas. The CCP has always believed that through repressing other political forces, sealing them off economically and cutting off their information channels, it could forever maintain its monopoly on Chinese political interests. Practical reality and history have shown that this kind of political stubbornness is always smashed in the end. In the last few years, more and more Chinese people have felt disappointed with and resentful of the CCP's imperiousness, corruption, and factionalist activities, and more and more Chinese intellectuals have, due to their values and sense of justice and morality, lost hope of the CCP. Amongst them are emerging more and more skeptics, challengers, and protestors. The origins of these phenomena and other indications show that this trend of opposing the CCP will continue and expand. Under this trend new political forces and political representatives will emerge. It has not gone unnoticed that, be it the tiniest and weakest Communist nation like Albania or the largest and strongest one, the Soviet Union, in the end, all of them lost Communist monopoly on political power.

Democracy and security are closely related. Democratic countries usually follow international rules and are usually peace-loving. Thus the US government has spread democracy and freedom as an approach to establish international security. Conversely, if a non-democratic country possesses massive economic and military forces, it may expand that power outward, and may take rude actions in order to maintain its non-democratic political interests. Growing numbers of Americans have misgivings that China is taking the path of a rising non-democratic superpower.

In the report entitled "The Military Power of The People's Republic of China 2005" that it submitted to the US Congress, the US Department of Defense expressed its deep concerns with the rapid growth of Chinese military power and the growing influence it would have on regional military balance and the structure of global strategy. The Chinese government did nothing but criticize the report in an abstract manner, doing nothing to alleviate the worries that many countries have about China's military growth. Just the opposite, in August 2005 China and Russia conducted their first-ever large-scale joint military exercises in the coastal region of the Far East. It was as if China wanted to play the "military power card" before Mr. Hu Jintao met with Mr. Bush. One typical American opinion is: China has been rapidly upgrading its military capability even though it faces no outside military threat. Its true intentions have gone far beyond the necessity to deter Taiwan, and even beyond the need to maintain regional security balance. If we look at the poor record of China's proliferation of weapons, or its continuing to support Iran, Myanmar, Sudan, and other rogue states and problem states, and consider China's close relationships with the neo-authoritarian regimes such as Russia, Belarus, and former Soviet Union republics in Central Asia or with other autocratic governments, the unstable aspects of a non-democratic China should make people around the world even more worried. Even though China and the United States have some common economic and trade interests, these limited interests are severely offset by the huge trade deficit the US has with China, Americans' great loss of job opportunities, China's wide-ranging infringements on US intellectual property rights, China's unfair Renminbi-Dollar exchange rate, and other negative issues. In the future Sino-US economic conflict, competition, and clash will increase. While in the last some years some common economic interests between China and the United States have diluted Americans' focus on democracy and security, this proclivity for trade and investment is now facing criticism and resistance in the United States. Recently when China's CNOOC Ltd. tried to buy UNOCAL failed, it was because American security concerns surpassed economic concerns. In the future there will more Americans realizing both that accelerating the economic growth of a non-democratic China is unsafe, and that the costs of replacing global democratization with the profits of some American companies will be too high.

China has never played a major role in the global struggle against terrorism. Even though the US and China collaborate on occasion in opposing terrorism, no serious American believes that China is playing an important role. The struggle against terrorism is winning greater and greater victories. The struggle against terrorism is turning towards despotic countries, pushing forward democracy and severing global weapons proliferation networks. These victories and new direction of the global struggle against terrorism are not good tidings for China. America's needs and expectations toward China in the struggle against terrorism are diminishing. The CCP's attempts to take advantage of the struggle against terrorism to turn America away the issues of democracy and security surrounding China will become more difficult.

Not long before Mr. Hu met with Mr. Bush, Chinese government allowed the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to visit China and agreed to let the U.N. Commission on Human Rights' special rapporteur on torture to visit China's jails. Actually, China and the United States had already scheduled these visits for 2003 during a human rights dialogue in December 2002, but the Chinese government went back on its word, obstructing and delaying the visits until today. The American political community already has doubts about whether Sino-US human rights dialogues produce any real results or not. The CCP has continued the tactics consistently used during the Jiang Zemin era: before China's leaders met with American leaders, put a few less important "human rights cards" on the table. This in fact shows that Chinese government does not see improving China' s human rights situation as a condition for initiating a process of democratization; rather, it continues to use human rights as a diplomatic bargaining chip.

In conclusion, there is no sign that the issues of democratization and security in the Sino-US relationship will be substantially resolved. With this kind of gray backdrop, a fundamental improvement in the Sino-US relationship is impossible.

(The author is a Chinese political activist living in the United States.) (boxun.com)

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