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Twain- meeting. Xi Obama -lovefest, heavy dating, or consummation?

Twain- meeting. Xi Obama -lovefest, heavy dating, or consummation?

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Published by Ian Williams
From The Brics Report.
Does the US's assisted Euthanasia of the British Empire" offer a model to China and the US?
From The Brics Report.
Does the US's assisted Euthanasia of the British Empire" offer a model to China and the US?

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Published by: Ian Williams on Jun 09, 2013
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03/27/2014

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Can Obama, Xi find common ground?
Special to The BRICS Post
 
June 7, 2013, 3:34 am
In 1907, US President Teddy Roosevelt signaled the arrival of the US as as world power bysending the “Great White Fleet” in a grand gesture to the globe it circumnavigated. It was a littlepremature: the ships were obsolescent and relied on the kindness of strangers to refuel but it didmark Washington’s aspirations to put truth in the rumours about the Monroe Doctrine.Similarly, Xi Jinping’s grand tour, which begins in California and a meeting with US PresidentBarack Obama on June 7, is a debut rather than a consolidation.It is, perhaps wisely, more economic in its theme, brandishing investments rather than waving bigsticks.While modern financial and trading networks need not follow the consolidated marine and landboundaries of previous rising empires, Xi’s triumphal progress through America’s backyard – theCaribbean and Mexico – demonstrates how much more effectively powerful China’s economicsuccess is than the Soviet weaponry had been. “The China Dream,” is Xi’s rallying cry of aChina with a seat at the top table.It will be interesting to note the progress, with small indicators like the almost certain relaxationof Chinese regulations that restrict imports of Mexico’s Tequila because of methanol levels. Afew extra Chinese hangovers is a small price to pay for an economic beachhead right on the RioGrande.It is fascinating to watch the interplay between the aspirant and receding superpowers and it isreassuring that both sides are obviously thinking seriously, and not necessarily reflexively aboutit.When Richard Nixon went to China, apart from recognition of the previous pariah state’s futurepotential, at least part of the White House motive was counterbalancing the Soviet Union.President Xi’s tour of the America epitomizes a renewed appreciation on both sides, but above allof China as a potential counterweight to the US itself. A less confident US is relinquishing thexenophobia, or more specifically Sinophobia, that previously greeted Chinese investmentinterests.Across the US, job-hungry local governments yearn for the Yuan to come in and do what theirown bankers are refusing to do – invest locally.
The times, they’re a-changing
 
Previous ups and downs of the great powers have been marked by major conflagrations, and wecan be grateful that the demotion of the Soviet Union was relatively peaceful. Two decades ago, itwould have been difficult to believe that the US of Strategic Defense Initiative, Star Wars and theNew American Century fame would have been quite so polite to its most likely supplanter.Two decades ago, even Japan was viewed with a jaundiced eye as it surged close to overtakingthe US economically, even though militarily it was no threat, and indeed, was almost a USprotectorate. The costs of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have taxed US power even as it outspendsthe rest of the world militarily.But the relationship between China and the US is unique. While there is very real rivalry as theyboth compete for the same space at the top of the table, it is like a Puerto Rican knife fight withthe combatants tied by the wrists to each other. The US needs China, which, after all, hasfinanced Washington’s wars with its purchase of US dollars. Conversely, China needs the US.Beijing can neither forgo those reserves deposited in its rivals’ Treasury vaults and needs itsmarkets to fuel the growth of its economy.Xi knows that the secret of continuing Communist Party of China (CPC) power in the face of potential domestic dissatisfaction is the growing prosperity that keeping US consumers happybrings.However, China is developing military potential along with its economic success and the frictionover disputed islands around the China Sea is worrying. The scenario of a rising uppity powerconfronting one that is relatively getting weaker, is all the more worrying when we consider thatnetwork of alliances and defence commitments that the US has across the region. China hasinterests and claims in an area where the US is far from home but has ties made in former days of glory.
Pulling treaty triggers
There has been rising tension over disputed islands in the China Sea [Xinhua]In 1914, we saw what happened as a result of those treaty triggers being pulled, and in the SouthChina Sea, US commitments to Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines could drag the US into a localconflict with China where the latter has its forces concentrated.The US, of course, is still in imperial overstretch mode, with bases and commitments worldwide.At home, the American public has strictly limited enthusiasm for wars for far-away countries of which, after all, it knows amazingly little.Conservatives have set up a shopping lists of what Obama should demand of Xi, on economicreforms, currency policy, government etc. Obama is more sophisticated than many of his
 
predecessors – and of course economic circumstances have weakened his hand. He is, one hopes,not going to be crass in his demands of China.One assumes that Obama would realize just how counterproductive it would be for the US,whose economic model has never looked so dodgy, to lecture China, for whom a growth rate fouror five times the US’s, seems to be overstretched in its own right. He will also understand that Xihas his own domestic politics to worry about.The Communist Party has pretty much abandoned the dialectic of the class struggle, and the gluethat holds it together is the nationalism of an oft-humiliated civilization.So the talks are an opportunity for quiet dialogue and a development of rapport between the twoleaders. Beijing might offer magnanimous compromises or exit routes on many of the maritimeborder issues, for example, but would certainly bridle at any ultimata. But the US is hardly in aposition to brandish ultimata.
Room for compromise
In the case of Taiwan, for example, the administration’s efforts are more about stopping Taipeitickling the dragon than building up a prickly defence. The long obfuscation of Congressionalefforts to sell F-16s to Taipei shows successive presidents’ deference to Beijing’s sensibilities,which on the face of it is illogical appeasement. The planes are only of use if China attacks – noone seriously expects Taiwan to attack the mainland, after all. But Washington has to takeaccount of the importance of the island in China’s inner party rivalries.There is room for compromise. If we consider, for example, North Korea as China’s Israel, anembarrassing but ineradicable ally, it would frame the limits of what Washington couldreasonably expect China to do in a low key way. Xi can no more disown Kim Jong-un publiclythan Obama can repudiate Netanyahu, but there are important gestures available.Obama could pledge, for example, that US forces would withdraw from the Korean Peninsula inthe wake of any re-unification, thus avoiding the triumphalistic mistakes in Europe that still fuelRussian resentment.In fact, there is another model the two might adopt. Britain and the US were similar rivals andpartners, tied as much by financial chains as any alleged common bonds of culture and language.The US facilitated the decline of its erstwhile rival, moving from debtor to creditor – and, itmight be added, doing its best to stab its ally in the back financially even as they fought together.But it has not approached military tensions since the British burnt the White House in 1814.Of course, unless the Tea Party triumphs and splits the US into autonomous fragments, the US isnever going to decline as precipitately as Britain shorn of empire, but it is possible for a risingChina to be partners with a still powerful, although relatively declining America.It would appear that Xi and the Chinese are prepared for this.

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