Shulong Chu, Tianshu Chu, Christopher McNally: CHINA, U.S., MUST HAMMER OUT NEW RELATIONSHIP

Date: 04-11-2001

HONOLULU -- China and the United States must use the recent air collision to hammer out a long-term, comprehensive direction for their relationship, researchers at the East-West Center said today. The governments must also establish a code of conduct and crisis-management procedures for military interceptions and other conflicts that are bound to occur, because existing agreements are inadequate.

Shulong Chu, a researcher at the Institute of Contemporary International Relations in Beijing and a visiting fellow at the Center, said Chinese leaders have referred to a "stable and healthy relationship" as a guide since the end of the Cold War. Or the label could be as simple as a "positive relationship" – as long as the two countries head in a positive direction.

"Chinese leaders like stability both internally and externally," said Chu. "What we dislike most is crisis after crisis."

Chu said Chinese leaders handled the air collision better than the U.S. bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia in 1999. "They learned something two years ago. They are more moderate in tone this time. They want a stable relationship."

Chu also pointed out that since the air collision, U.S. President George W. Bush has not referred to China as a "strategic competitor," a term that has been used by members of his administration. "Competition is OK in the economic area, but in politics and security, it's very dangerous. We must have a common understanding of how the relationship should go."

Christopher McNally, a China specialist at the East-West Center, said neither side has a clear view of where it should head. While China objects to a U.S. policy of containment, its actions sometimes "fly in the face of U.S. interests." A direction "must be hammered out" laying the groundwork for future cooperation.

McNally emphasized that if the two countries don't agree on how they should view each other, "hawkish elements can highjack" policies in both the United States and China.

McNally also warned that "growing economic interdependence doesn't guarantee the relationship will grow" more stable. Trade and security issues, especially regarding Taiwan, will create many more crises. But Chu said a new way of thinking is crucial. "We want to be more powerful but we don't have to have war. National interest has not changed, but the way we perceive it. National interest can be served by cooperation and globalism."

McNally and Chu also said the United States and China must work out a detailed code of conduct on issues such as military interceptions, rules of engagement in China's "exclusive economic zones," and making emergency landings in each other's territories. Although the two countries signed a maritime agreement in 1998, it didn't work.

Researchers agreed that the air collision was timely as it comes at the beginning of the Bush administration, which will be forced to focus more on its China policy. Tianshu Chu, an East-West Center specialist on China's entry into the World Trade Organization, said that focus includes economic issues as well. The reforms demanded by WTO are "revolutionary in China. It's important for us to realize how strenuous the task in front of China is – a complete institutional reform unprecedented in history. It will take patience and understanding and a mature relationship to handle conflicts."

Both Shulong Chu and Tianshu Chu emphasized that a "new mindset" is necessary in shaping the U.S.-China relationship. "We need to move from an old world to a new one," Shulong Chu said.

Shulong Chu can be reached at 808-944-7241 or Christopher McNally can be reached at 808-944-7239 or Tianshu Chu can be reached at 808-944-7404 or
This is an East-West Wire, copyright East-West Center