Engaging China Can Produce Real Wins for America (and Avoid War)
A permanent shift away from the “responsible stakeholder” strategy of attempting to shape China should not mean a permanent shift away from high-level dialogue.
The administration should build an effective U.S.-China engagement strategy through a regular structure that consistently confers access within both systems. Engagement is not appeasement but a necessary mechanism to the U.S. stated policy goal of simultaneously managing cooperation, competition, and confrontation between the world’s two largest powers. Of course, it should also manage expectations of what is achievable through bilateral diplomacy. Little can be done through external pressure to mold the Chinese system into an American model. Instead, the key objective should be to find a way for the two models to manage their differences while building on common objectives. Cutting bilateral relations does not change China’s considerable global political, economic, and military power but only removes that power from U.S. advantage in areas where it would be useful to harness.
Patrick Hulme is a Ph.D. candidate in political science at the University of California, San Diego. He is a graduate student researcher for the Center for Peace and Security Studies (cPASS), the 21st Century China Center, and the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation (IGCC).
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