The Skeptics

China Won't Help America Subdue North Korea

The U.S.-China relationship, of course, is too important to the global economy, the diplomatic system and international stability to fail. It would be a mistake of epic proportions for the Washington to turn its back on Beijing completely or to stop collaborating with Chinese colleagues on issues of mutual interest. The two countries have a lot more to gain by working together than they do by ostracizing one another. The Chinese, for example, are just as worried about the spread of jihadist groups and the pull of extremist propaganda as the United States, the Europeans and the Russians. Both have an interest in ensuring that the United Nations system works as it’s intended to work, especially in crisis-prone areas regions of the world where it’s more politically sustainable to send in U.N. personnel to keep the peace than U.S. or Chinese soldiers. There are even commonalities between the United States and China on North Korea’s nuclear program; like Trump and U.S. officials across the national-security bureaucracy, Xi views Kim Jong-un as far more belligerent than his father and grandfather.

Yet for the time being, the differences between the United States and China are outweighing any similarities that do exist. President Trump, who would obviously like nothing more than to create a win-win relationship and a personal friendship with Xi, needs to keep his eyes wide open when dealing with the Chinese. The old recipe of working when we can, fighting back when we must, keeping lines of communication open and keeping expectations low are likely the most reliable guidelines to follow. The last thing that would serve U.S. security interests in the Asia-Pacific region—and in the world in general—is if another country were able to take advantage of the United States simply because administration officials were naive about what they could accomplish.

Daniel R. DePetris is a fellow at Defense Priorities.