Essay Writing Samples

Sino-American Relations in the 21st Century

The rise of China as a regional power has thrown off the balance of power in Asia. The powerful Chinese economy and increased material spending has many policymakers on the edge, and it is clear that efforts must be made to address the shifting power balance in the region. This sample essay explores American strategies for maintaining the US partnership with the Red Dragon, China.

Advice concerning China

This paper will consider and present to former President Obama some advice regarding the best strategy to develop and maintain the US partnership with China. This paper will be divided into four sections. Each section will consider one of four topic areas. These topic areas include: a discussion of the Nathan & Scobell, Ross and Rudd arguments; advice for Obama regarding Sino-Japanese relations; an evaluation of how Mearsheimer and Koehane would advise the President and the impact of the current rise of China on the status of the US as the world’s only remaining super power.

Nathan and Scobell discuss China

Nathan and Scobell argue that the rise of China in recent years has ignited new fears. These fears concern China’s role in the world during the 21st century and how it will impact the country’s regional neighbors. Indeed, there is much concern over China, currently the world’s second largest economy, overtaking that of the US. In concert with this is the fear that China will project its power around the world in a hegemonic fashion similar to the US and the European powers in previous eras.

The authors reject this fear as unfounded (Nathan and Scobell 32). For the authors China has been the victim of foreign encroachment far more than it has projected its power directly onto the other countries. An example of foreign imperialism in China came in the form of the British during the 19th century Opium Wars (Rudd 10). The Japanese occupation of China during World War II was another (Rudd 10).

From China’s viewpoint, it stands more to lose than to gain from igniting imperialist hostilities with the US or Europe. Since the entry of China into the World Trade Organization (WTO), early in the 21st century, it has become far more integrated into the global economy than ever. Thus it has a lot invested in maintaining the world’s political and economic stability. Instead, hawkish policies promoted by the Obama administration are what is actually raising concern in China. These fears center around perceived threats from the US to China’s own national security interests. The authors argue that Obama should restore the policy of previous US administrations. Therefore the Obama administration policy of retrenching its role and interests in the region, via its traditional allies, is only enflaming tensions unnecessarily.

Robert Ross and China, U.S. relations

Ross argues in a similar way as Nathan and Scobell. He notes that China has grown in wealth and power in recent years thanks to its greater integration into the world economy (Ross 70). But that up until few years ago it seemed mostly content. Since then China has demonstrated aggressive behaviors towards its neighbors that is being viewed with growing suspicion and concern.

A few examples of this behavior include China’s resistance to compromise with other nations at the UN Climate Change Conference. China suspended its top level US-China security conference likely in retaliation for the sale of US weapons to Taiwan in early 2010. China announced trade sanctions against US firms that do business in Taiwan. In July of 2010, China responded heatedly to US-South Korean joint military exercises in the Yellow Sea (Ross 70).

Ross argues that these moves are a response to US policies in the Asia-Pacific region. These policies seemed to demonstrate a show of strength towards a China that is increasingly being viewed with serious consternation. For Ross, the US policy of pivot is unnecessarily inflaming regional tensions and forcing a counter-response from the Chinese government. This is so that China doesn’t appear weak to its own constituents. Ross argues the US should pursue policies that assuage China’s fears rather stoke its insecurities. Ross says the Obama administration should return to the policy of its predecessors (81). It should not increase its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region nor get involved in regional territorial rivalries that may have only symbolic value (72).

Kevin Rudd’s new map for Sino-American relations

Rudd concurs that stability in the Asia-Pacific region is crucial. In his view, the central tasks for Asia are to avoid a major confrontation between the US and China and to maintain the course on trade and economic policy that has led to regional prosperity (Rudd 9). Rudd acknowledges that China’s “security dilemma” raises concerns for other countries even though it involves the pursuit of legitimate interests (Rudd 10). This also raises the uncertainty of whether China can continue to be trusted going forward or will suddenly become a significant threat to global security, especially as it continutes to support hostile nations like North Korea.

Rudd disagrees with the previous authors that Obama’s rebalancing or pivot is raising tensions in the region. But for Rudd these tensions are over matters that predate the Obama administration and so he doesn’t feel current regional policy are at fault. He also notes that other Asian countries have welcomed the Obama policy in Asia because of fears and uncertainties over what a region dominated by China might mean (Rudd 13).

For Rudd the solution is greater bi-lateral cooperation between the US and China. He argues the US and China should have high level individuals working on its behalf similar to Kissinger’s work during the Nixon Administration (Rudd 14). Also the US and China should select one or more policy areas that need working out and cooperate on finding equitable solutions. An example would be the Doha Round of international trade talks. The two countries should use international organizations such as the East Asia Summit and the Association of Southeast Asian Defense Ministers meeting to develop security and confidence among the region’s militaries (Rudd 14). In short, Rudd sees stronger communication and cooperation between the two states as the way forward. It could also be a way to build good will.

Political advice regarding Sino-Japanese relations

Any advice for Obama on Sino-Japanese relations has to be placed in light of broader regional and global contexts for which the previous readings set the stage. Katz (18-19) presents compelling evidence of how the economies of China and Japan have become much more interdependent in recent years. Exports from Japan to China have increased significantly in recent years which is a boon to both countries. Japan exports parts and equipment to China which China then uses to produce and export its own low cost goods.

According to Katz, this prosperous, but still evolving trade relationship hit a speed bump. The bump was the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, in whose waters a Japanese coast guard ship was when it was rammed by a Chinese fishing boat in 2010. The episode enraged the Chinese government which disputed the jurisdiction of the Japanese on the island and led to an angry backlash in China. This backlash included boycotts of Japanese goods in China. A promising outcome was that many Japanese goods were allowed into China despite the boycott since China’s own factories had become too dependent on them.

It would be prudent for Obama to encourage a strengthening of trade relations between the two countries. This is since only a greater economic interdependence can insure that future disputes between the two countries don’t break into open hostilities. The more interdependent the two countries the more likely both sides will view outbreaks of hostilities against the other not worth it and seek a more practical solution. Obama can use both the WTO and bilateral trade agreements to accomplish this objective.

An evaluation of how Mearsheimer and Koehane would advise a U.S. President.

Mearsheimer argues in favor of the Coase Theorem. This theorem holds that bargaining among political actors can lead to Pareto-optimal solutions. It is most likely to be invoked in situations where political power is decentralized and solutions to externalities need to be found between different partners. The problem is these partners are likely to have unequal power relationships. Also the cause of the externalities may be due to activities of the more powerful partner. This will likely lead to solutions that benefit one side more than the other.

Mearsheimer likely advises Obama to seek out bilateral negotiations and solutions for its difficulties with China. As the US has the upper hand, and no international authority exists (according to the author), a solution can be found which is likely to be more advantageous to the superior power (the US in this case) than not. Obama’s key trade deal in Asia may be jeopardized.

Koehane rejects the Coase Theorem in favor of the view that international organizations such as the United Nations, General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT), and the WTO, act as global referees. Thus membership in these organizations can benefit individual nations because it encourages communication and the sharing of information. These organizations can also be used to build personal relationships, which are crucial to the smoother resolution of international disputes. Koehane is likely to advise Obama to work through existing channels of international authority to resolve disputes and advance US foreign policy. This process doesn’t preclude bilateral discussions, of course. But the primary course for relationship building should be via the international channels of communication. Also, “peer pressure” can be quite powerful in gaining compliance if one or the other side becomes too recalcitrant.

Rise of China and its Implications for the US

It is unlikely that the current rise of China should be viewed with the alarm that some writers on the subject proclaim. First, China is really the first third world country to rise to great power status. Its per capita GDP is $6188 (“GDP per”) and is significantly lower than that of the US at $49,965 (“GDP per”) . This indicates a nation still struggling with significant poverty. As Ross (72) notes

“China is not at the same level the US is militarily and likely won’t be for some time to come.”

China is not quite ready to rival the US on the global stage either militarily or economically. As such this paper advises Obama to keep tensions with China to a minimum, perhaps demonstrate a show of strength when it appears to be appropriate but not instigatory, and work on further integrating China into the global community of nations via liberalized trade regimes. Perhaps Nathan and Scobell and Ross are correct that a return to the previous policy status regarding China is best.

Works Cited

GDP per capita (current US$). (2013). Retrieved from  Sept. 2013.

Katz, Richard. “Mutual Assured Production: Why Trade Will Limit Conflict Between China and Japan.” Foreign Affairs, 92 (July/Aug. 2013): 18-24.

Keohane, Robert O. After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the Global Economy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Mearsheimer, John J. The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co.

Nathan Andrew F. and Scobell, Andrew. “How China Sees America: The Sum of Beijing’s Fears.” Foreign Affairs, 91 (Sept./Oct. 2012): 32-47.

Ross, Robert S. “The Problem With the Pivot: Obama’s New Asia Policy Is Unnecessary and Counterproductive.” Foreign Affairs, vol. 91, no. 6 (2012): 70-82.

Rudd, Kevin. “Beyond the Pivot: A New Road Map for U.S.-Chinese Relations.” Foreign Affairs, 92 (Mar./Apr. 2013): 9-15.

Raustiala, Kal, and Sprigman, Christopher. “Fake It Till You Make It The Good News About China’s Knockoff Economy.” Foreign Affairs, 92 (July/Aug. 2013): 25-30.

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