Zoellick on China: there are more than what he preached

Everybody focuses on what Zoellick preached to China. There are good discussions by Daniel Drezner, Sam Crane, and many others. I don't think I have something more intelligent to say than they already did about whether all his lessons are fair, or what the most tactful way to deliver the message should be. Moreover, I recognize that he is addressing what his audiences are concerned about.

Drezner kindly urged us to read the whole script. As I read on, Zoellick had a few sentences for everyone in the audience, especially to the neo-conservatives. Unfortunately, WaPo did not elaborate on this. They are probably too obvious to those who understands China, like the reporters who covered the topic, but not so for many other people who live in the West. These very important messages of Zoellick are the less quoted, but are equally important:

  • China has a responsibility to strengthen the international system that has enabled its success. In doing so, China could achieve the objective identified by Mr. Zheng: "to transcend the traditional ways for great powers to emerge."
  • If it isn’t clear why the United States should suggest a cooperative relationship with China, consider the alternatives. Picture the wide range of global challenges we face in the years ahead – terrorism and extremists exploiting Islam, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, poverty, disease – and ask whether it would be easier or harder to handle those problems if the United States and China were cooperating or at odds.
  • For fifty years, our policy was to fence in the Soviet Union while its own internal contradictions undermined it. For thirty years, our policy has been to draw out the People’s Republic of China. As a result, the China of today is simply not the Soviet Union of the late 1940s:
    • It does not seek to spread radical, anti-American ideologies.
    • While not yet democratic, it does not see itself in a twilight conflict against democracy around the globe.
    • While at times mercantilist, it does not see itself in a death struggle with capitalism.
    • And most importantly, China does not believe that its future depends on overturning the fundamental order of the international system. In fact, quite the reverse: Chinese leaders have decided that their success depends on being networked with the modern world.
  • If the Cold War analogy does not apply, neither does the distant balance-of-power politics of 19th Century Europe. The global economy of the 21st Century is a tightly woven fabric. We are too interconnected to try to hold China at arm’s length, hoping to promote other powers in Asia at its expense. Nor would the other powers hold China at bay, initiating and terminating ties based on an old model of drawing-room diplomacy. The United States seeks constructive relations with all countries that do not threaten peace and security.
  • In China, economic growth is seen as an internal imperative, not as a challenge to the United States.
  • Therefore, China clearly needs a benign international environment for its work at home. Of course, the Chinese expect to be treated with respect and will want to have their views and interests recognized. But China does not want a conflict with the United States.
  • Beijing also has a strong interest in working with us to halt the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and missiles that can deliver them. The proliferation of danger will undermine the benign security environment and healthy international economy that China needs for its development.
  • China and the United States can do more together in the global fight against terrorism. Chinese citizens have been victims of terror attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan. China can help destroy the supply lines of global terrorism. We have made a good start by working together at the UN and searching for terrorist money in Chinese banks, but can expand our cooperation further.
  • Indeed, President Hu and Premier Wen are talking about the importance of China strengthening the rule of law and developing democratic institutions....In his Second Inaugural, President Bush recognized that democratic institutions must reflect the values and culture of diverse societies. As he said, "Our goal… is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way."
  • China needs a peaceful political transition to make its government responsible and accountable to its people. Village and grassroots elections are a start. They might be expanded – perhaps to counties and provinces – as a next step.
  • Tonight I have suggested that the U.S. response should be to help foster constructive action by transforming our thirty-year policy of integration: We now need to encourage China to become a responsible stakeholder in the international system.
  • When President Nixon visited Beijing in 1972, our relationship with China was defined by what we were both against. Now we have the opportunity to define our relationship by what are both for. We have many common interests with China. But relationships built only on a coincidence of interests have shallow roots. Relationships built on shared interests and shared values are deep and lasting. We can cooperate with the emerging China of today, even as we work for the democratic China of tomorrow.
Please read for yourself the whole speech. How US treats China could sway China towards Zheng Bijian's vision, or down Zhu Chenghu's path. The West has the responsibility and interests to help China steer to the right path.

p.s. As a difference of emphasis between chinese and Western media, see how they reported China's reaction: Xinhua vs AP. Zoellick probably briefed Zheng Bijiang what he has to say in New York, and Zheng would then tell Qin Gang to read the whole speech and not overreact. On the other hand, AP expected something to write, and created a title that is not really what Qin has said. Quite amusing to read. Diplomats and politicians are a different kind of animals. So are journalists.


Anonymous said...

Well, I guess we know who the new Bush China pitbull is, after Bolton barked and snarled his way to UN embassadorship.

I guess Mr. Zoellick will offer a complete accounting of our military budget (including the "black budget" state secret) to China, since he's made such demand of China?

-bobby fletcher

Sun Bin said...

Zoellick seems not too bad. I think he had to cater to the hawks in this speech.