The People’s Republic of China and the United States entered into formal diplomatic ties in January of 1979. Forty years later, the two countries are facing tensions in the fields of technology, cyberspace, and the rising competition in the South China Sea. One of the most popular explanations for this sour relationship is that both countries want to be the leading powers in the world. Experts have also said that China has a secret strategy that seeks to replace the United States as the world’s leading power. Others have noted that the two nations are moving towards a war that none of them desires- the scenario is like that of a rising power trying to challenge a ruling power. Xiaoyu Pu terms these explanations as secondary perspectives and puts forth three reasons leading the two nations into a modern cold war. In his view, it is not just about the declining U.S and a rising China but is instead a complex phenomenon. Firstly, China has multiple identities and does not always aim at attaining a higher status. It is a large developing nation and an upcoming economic superpower. China is also rising politically and has a representative in the U.N Security Council with its elites constantly debating on the country’s issues on the global arena. The state uses contradictory signals to communicate its status and role. In some occasions, the country describes itself as a great or strong power while on other circumstances it reveals itself as a rising great power. The conflict comes in not because of China’s ambition to be the leading power but because the U.S wants China to upgrade its responsibilities and obligations as a great power. China does not want to meet these demands as it considers itself as a poor developing country. The U.S complains that China enjoys many privileges yet it does not want to take any commitments. Secondly, Chinese leaders are faced with numerous audiences in that the country appears to be assertive internationally although it is internally fragile. China exaggerates its status to secure its domestic legitimacy which has backfired internationally. Thirdly, the aspects of competition and cooperation are evident in the U.S-China relationship and are, therefore, not usually a zero-sum game. In as much as China is rising, it faces many setbacks and its ability to conquer the U.S as a global leader is overstated. The author uses the realism perspective which is an approach applied in the study of international politics. In this perspective, a nation’s interests, particularly those that concern power, are disguised as moral concerns. Power in this context refers to military, diplomatic, political, and economic resources. The author uses realism approach as the issues in the U.S-China relationship are centered on power.
The writer’s argument is precise, and I agree with it. The U.S seems to be concerned that China is not upgrading its responsibilities and obligations to the level of strong power. Even though this may be true, it still revolves around the theory of realism since the U.S expresses its national interests concerning power disguised as moral concerns. As mentioned earlier the points of contention are technology, cyberspace, and increasing competition in the South China Sea. All these factors contribute to political, economic, military, and diplomatic prosperity of both nations and thus, the author uses the realism perspective to explain his argument. Xiaoyu Pu rules out the debate that the two countries are conflicting as they want to be the leading global powers. He counters what would be considered as the Marxist approach which would only focus on the declining U.S and a rising China. One of the strong points he makes in support of this is that China has multifaceted identities. It is, therefore, erroneous to analyze the relationship between these two nations purely on the desire for each to become the leading world’s power. Also, the idea that China is faced with many audiences is a strong point. The U.S may consider China as a strong nation only to realize that China exaggerates its status to secure its domestic legitimacy. It may not be true that China enjoys many privileges without taking commitments as the U.S argues. The revelations China makes only serve to convince its citizens that it is doing well internationally. Actually, China has already embarked on regulating its propaganda on the subject of America’s decline/ China’s rise. For instance, it took its film “Amazing China” offline as a way of moderating its propaganda. However, the author seems to disregard the traditional view that the battle for supremacy is also a factor in the U.S –China relationship. The reason why China gives a contradicting status about itself and the reason why the U.S wants it to take responsibility as a strong nation is because of the battle for supremacy. Xiaoyu Pu gives elaborate reasons as to why the two countries relate in such a manner but err by overlooking the declining U.S/ rising China debate.
Pu, Xiaoyu. 40 Years Later, U.S.-China Relations Are Rocky. Or Not.. 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2019/01/10/40-years-later-u-s- china-relations-are-rocky-or-not/?utm_term=.ef4d0d0a79dc. Accessed 13 Mar 2019.