Thirty Years of US-Sino Relations
By Jin Zhong
The deadline for this issue was advanced to enable publication before the Lunar New Year. Now there are only two days to go until the inauguration of US President-elect Barack Obama. This is undoubtedly the biggest news this year, and Washington, D.C., has become the focus of the whole world. On January 17, Barack Obama and Joe Biden took a train trip with their families from Philadelphia to Baltimore and then to Washington, D.C. The Associated Press estimates that as many as four million people will throng the National Mall, the largest crowd ever attending an inauguration. Polls find that most Americans expect Obama and his cabinet to do a good job and believe there will be real change in both domestic and diplomatic policy, rebuilding the glory of America as a great nation and role model to the world. American Chinese are all excited. Obama’s Chinese relatives, the White House Asia-Pacific project, Chinese entering the political arena, or even a possible trend toward learning Chinese language, all these have become talking points among Chinese people in the United States.
Two points in particular impress people and highlight Barack Obama’s political style. One is his modest and friendly attitude towards the soon-departing President Bush and the Republicans as well as his appropriate comments on the problems left to him by the former administration; another point is the sense of history he displays at all times. Obama's impressive eloquence also demonstrates his charm as the leader of a great country. The New York Times predicts that Obama’s inaugural address will go down in history. Chinese people who have just undergone an eventful 2008 should compare the grand Beijing Olympics with the inauguration in Washington, D.C., and Hu Jintao’s speech on the 30th anniversary of China’s reforms with Barack Obama’s inaugural speech, as an embodiment of the different cultural under different political systems.
This year also marks the 30th anniversary of Sino-US relations. The US government has disclosed that from the time of the Sino-US dialogue to the establishment of diplomatic relations in the 70s, the two countries held different stances but had a common objective: opposition to the USSR. Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai acted against revisionism and thus fought to take the lead in the international communist movement, while the US was acting to prevent the spread and threat of Communism. Now 30 years have passed. How has the great China-US-USSR triangle changed? The collapse of the USSR was not caused by the Sino-US alliance. In the meantime, China’s reforms were by no means the original goal of the reconciliation between Mao, Zhou and Richard Nixon. Before 1978, the Chinese people enjoyed no benefit from the Sino-US alliance. In addition, the so-called great turning point of third plenary session of the 11th Central Committee was not inspired by the West, but was the inevitable choice following national calamity.
Unexpectedly, the dialogue and the establishment of the Sino-US relations led China down a blind alley to “capitalism.” Today, all the achievements that China is flaunting, from fast food to the Olympic Games, pageants to computers, aren't these all from the West? China has changed. It is absolutely true. It abandoned socialism, but is not really on the road to capitalism. China has become a country of “crony capitalism” under the single-party system, a freakish product of the 30 years of relations between China and the US. Is this freak the scary and uncontrollable kind like those in the film “Alien”? Signs indicate that China is reverting to its old vices after the Olympic Games, and its political system is getting even more conservative. What about trilateral relations? Russia is reborn and steadily rising, while the weird relations between China and the US in the early years has now developed into interdependence. The China-US-USSR rivalry built on ideology has been transformed into a new China-US-Russia grouping based on national interest. The impoverished China of the past is now prosperous. The US military estimates that China will exceed the US in economic and military power within two decades. Speaking of the recent economic crisis, the World Economic Forum claims that the global economy will be threatened if China suffers a hard landing that pulls its economic growth below 6 percent under the affects of the US slumping economy. It is foreseeable that on the stage of the twenty-first century, with the Cold War over, there will be more good shows to watch in the Sino-US contest to come.
18th January, 2009 in New York
(Translated by Isabella Lam)