The last two decades of 20th century saw the emergence of another economic powerhouse from Asia. Japan has no longer been only one from Asia to play a global role on economic front. And surprisingly this country is neither from rich Middle East region nor the ASEAN but the world’s most populous country i.e., People’s Republic of China. World became aware of South Korea only when this nation hosted summer Olympics in the year 1988 but things with China has been very much different. With an annual growth of almost 10 percent, this country doesn’t require any introduction (Sutter, 2006). People can easily recognize China just by looking into the place of manufacturing on the precious electronic items they possess. The China is no longer a simple communist nation with continued anti-US stance over issues right from Taiwan to UN, Vietnam and North Korea. It is currently the factory of the world with extensive infrastructure for the manufacturing of items beginning with a simple T-Shirts to Computer appliances. The very importance of China can be understood with a simple fact that it is the largest economic partner of United States of America (Sutter, 2003).
China’s economic rise has also made considerable impact on its military might. The PLA or People’s Liberation Army of China is gaining strategic strengths every year with is currently only power in the world with intentions to take on US military might if needed. These facts have also affected other Asian countries and also in the approach of China in having bilateral relations with other influential Asian powers like India, Middle East and the ASEAN. Despite having very diverse neighborhoods across all sides of it, China has to manage to have either good relations or the steady one. The collapse of USSR and later the renewed ties with Russia has made one thing very much clear that China has no regional threat at its periphery. But what Robert Sutter (2003) through his paper ‘China’s Role in Asia-Are US Interests in Jeopardy?’ has wanted to raise that ‘is the China actively or passively hurting the different US interests in Asia?’ or the Chinese have become more moderate in considering the cases of neighboring Asian nations as well as Sine-US bilateral trade. Is this moderation is real or just a veil to the hidden agenda of undermining the importance of US in Asia while projecting itself as the more reliable substitute? Sutter with his paper has tried on give overview on China rising in Asia and the threat it poses to US interests and the improved US China relationship during the recent year of Bush Administration (Sutter, 2003).
2. China: a threat and an economic partner
The relationship between the US and China has seen remarkable shift. In the beginning, the Bush administration while getting over the hangover of Clinton’s administration demoted the position of China in its international policy. But this time it’s the Chinese who explored the possibilities to stop further deterioration and calm down their anti US rhetoric and started giving tentative support to some of the policies of US Asia policy. This gesture of PRC got reciprocation from US and the fresh era of US-Sino relations under Bush administration began. But still the relation has its own limits. The two countries still have sharp differences over the Taiwan issue as well the nuclear proliferation by Iran and North Korea. China right from late 90s of the previous century have concentrated in having distinct bilateral relationship with other Asian forces irrespective of what sort of relationship that particular country or group has with the US. The ASEAN nations are the current flavor with China pushing for a regional free trade agreement. This agreement will enable Chinese produce to have a way to a number of nations from South East Asia which includes Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia and other three by 2010. This trade agreement will get extended to rest of the nations of the region by 2015. The importance of the agreement can be envisaged through the expected rise in mutual trade by almost 50 percent (Economy, 2005). The Chinese managed to have stronger economic ties with different Asian countries including neighbors while continuing its position on different border disputes. Though Chinese have a history of preserving their territorial claims while continuing with the country’s economic policy but with the end of USSR and rise of its military might, China’s policy towards the whole Asia have been greatly influenced by its overall approach irrespective of being direct or indirect to make an effective impact on the policies of the United States towards the region and other influential Asian powers. The leaders and policy makers at Beijing has repeatedly emphasized that China’s worldview including Asia revolves around the US-Sino relationship as well the issues that can decide China’s current and future policy towards the region (Sutter, 2003).
But the incident of September 11 in 2001 and US led fight against terror has revealed that the despite all economic and military might, China position in Asia is relatively weak. This fact actually made the Chinese to have more pragmatic view towards its neighbors to sustain regional stability and greater economic advantage. The process which began in 2000 with the formation of Shanghai Cooperation Organization which includes China, Russia and several nations of Central Asia is just an example of moderation from the part of China. The so called Chinese moderation on various issues related to the neighbors is because of its intension to sustain the growth of its rising influence over the region to counterbalance the importance the US has over decades (Sutter, 2006). It reworked its Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and has started using high level diplomatic efforts for extending the relationship from economic platform to political and military so that it can build contacts and exert its influence throughout its periphery (Sutter, 2003). At the same time China has understood the global importance of US and the benefits of a continued relationship with it. The US leaders also continued their efforts to have enhanced diplomatic relations with China through symbolic gestures and summits. This Chinese moderation has been so effective that despite a series of intelligence reports related to China’s rising military strength and its potential to harm US interests both on economic and strategic ground, the US administration has maintained the improvement graph of the its US-Sino relation policy (Sutter, 2006).
The relationship between China and the US is currently at an all time high. But there are issues which has made its influence limited. The Taiwan issue is still good enough to create a fresh round of confrontation between the two countries. Apart from it, the reality is that China is the sole power to challenge the military might of US and possesses the potential to make an attack on its territory. China has also been quite apprehensive of US intentions and has given alarmed response to any of the US’ attempts to engage militarily with countries near to the periphery of the Chinese territory especially Japan. But still the mutually beneficial issue of economic gain and development has acted like a gel and caused significant business and bilateral relations between the two nations.