We Must Work to Redefine Our Relationship With China

13_Chen_Shandyby Shandy Chen ’13 –

Since the end of the Cold War, The United States of America has been the superpower in the world. Even in a current deep economic recession, our economy remains predominant in the global market and the other economies looks to us to stability and recovery. Our military rules supreme, commanding the most advanced hardware and software that are the envy of all nations. Our allies are numerous and growing; our enemies few. The United States and our allies have been able to contain Iran, North Korea and other potential threats, keep the world in relative peace.

However, some nations are quickly gaining on us. China and India, for example, have each experienced faster economic growth rates than our own during the recent decades. Currently, China’s GDP ranks second in the world, at roughly 7 trillion dollars, half of the U.S. GDP. Moreover, at their current growth rate of 7.5%, China is projected to surpass the United States by 2030[1]. Although China’s success may not represent a threat, however, it does mean the United States may need to be better prepared to plan for this new reality and adjust its foreign policies accordingly.

At the economic front, our relationship with China is that of economic partners, as such, we mutually need the other, which requires the two countries to put aside our differences and work together. Still many economic obstacles remain in the way of a stable partnership because of our political differences or mistrust. It is time that the United States rethink of its global policies and develop lasting relationships with countries such as China to better protect American interests worldwide.

During my nine months of study abroad in China between 2009 and 2010, I was highly impressed by how much China had changed in a decade. Today the roads are packed with automobiles, which replaced the bicycles that had lined up the streets before the turn of the century. Coastal cities in China are just as sophisticated as our grandest metropolises. The Chinese people are generally happy with the drastic improvements in their standard of living at home and harbor virtually no negative feelings toward America. The people I met in different parts of China, from the poor to the elites, shared stories of the satisfaction at work and enjoyment in their private life. A glaring dissatisfaction has resulted from corruption, which is widely referred to as “zou hou men”, or literally, “go through the back door.” Cronyism and corruption have reemerged in China since the late 1970s and reached every level of China’s bureaucratic hierarchy, including the central government level, which presents a huge political challenge at home to the Chinese leadership.

In some aspects, China has surpassed the United States. Its high speed railroad network, running at a speed close to 187 mph, links many major cities and regions, which is a reminder of long by-gone glories of the American railroads.  Nowadays, while Americans are still limited to arduous long distance drives or expensive plane rides, China is building a fast railroad system across the country, as well as extensive subways and public bus routes networking its cities, which present many technological advances and provide vast economic opportunities for the people linked by them.

At the global level, China passed the United States in 2009 to become the world’s largest auto maker[2], and passed Germany in 2010 as the world’s largest exporter[3]. These developments are partly due to the emergence of China’s middle class, which already approaches roughly the size of American middle class and is projected to triple by 2030[4]. As in America, China’s middle class represent the primary producers and consumers, the predominant economic group. Barring any expected deterrents, China will likely surpass much of the Western world as power player in political, economical, and military affairs within a few decades.

The continued rise of China in recent decades and as projected will necessarily reshape the international relations between the current and emerging powers of the world. China will inevitably seek more influence than it currently has and many eventually challenge the United States in the process. Therefore, American leaders are well advised to be ready for the new international order. Major wars seem unlikely due to nuclear deterrents; and responsible nations may be able to limit the impacts of local or regional conflicts. At worse, large nations may engage certain proxy wards, and such potential dangers may involve South Korea, Taiwan and Japan in East Asia, which will inevitably involve both China and the United States of America. How the American President handles such issues will test his wisdom and may provide a unique opportunity in reshaping our relations with China.

We must work to redefine our relationship with China so that we can become future allies, stepping beyond just economic partners and stakeholders. Doing so will not be simple and easy because ingrained prejudices are hard to die. The new world order calls for bold action.

The first obstacle is to overcome the fact that China is ruled by the communist party, a dictatorship. In promoting and protecting American interest, the United States once supported many a dictators in the last century and keeps close alliance in the Middle East with Saudi Arabia, which is notorious for being one of the most undemocratic governments in the world. We must free ourselves from the Cold War mentality and accept the reality of the twenty-first-century China. In the three decades since Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, the communist party has modified, if not changed, its ideology based on classical Marxist model. Most noticeably, much of the government control over the economy has shifted to private sector, involving both domestic and international businesses, except for a few major industries. The expansion of private enterprises was previously unthinkable during the Mao era. However much of the post-Mao shift is due to the influence of the West, particularly the United States, on many of China’s leaders, including the new communist party general secretary and president, Xi Jinping.

Secondly, human rights have remained a major sticking point in our relationship with China since its opening up to the world. Although they do not meet our current standard, it is unwise to ignore their meaningful improvements in recent decades. Our policy toward China must be geared toward shared trust and mutual responsibility. We should recognize and accept China, with a full understanding of its history and standing in the world community. Let’s cultivate a new strategic relationship with China and prod its leaders in further improving human rights, which will help build a more enlightened society for the benefit a one-fifth of the world’s population.

Third, China has exercised restraint and responsibility over standing territorial disputes over some small islets with Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines in the South China Sea. China has made no aggressive action towards its neighbors and continues to call for dialogue to settle the conflicting claims of the resource-rich islands. Sharing American concerns, China has also joined the United States and the United Nations in condemning North Korea and Iran in pursuing their nuclear weapons programs and supporting U.N. economic embargo against these countries. Many issues in the Middle East and Asia will remain challenging and China has become an important player in shaping their settlement. Therefore, to protect American interests worldwide, it has become clear for the United States to reevaluate its current policy toward China and solidify our relationships with China.

We have witnessed the fruits in our economic relations for decades and received crucial assistance in the current war on terror and extremism. Ideology aside, China is a natural ally. In order to unite two superpowers, the American president must play the decisive leadership at home and among current U.S. allies and use his power of persuasion in convincing American citizens and allies on the future benefits in shedding long prejudices toward China and becoming a trust-worth friend with China.

The day when U.S.-China alliance happens is start of the new twenty-first century world order, a world in which China will share more of America’s responsibilities in containing militant threats in the world and thus allow us to reduce military and intelligence expenditures at home. That will in turn help maintain global peace and reduce our crushing national debt, which will ultimately help the American middle class to rebuild and return the American economy to the top of the world. Our century belongs to a united front between United States and China. And you can make it happen.

PS: Dear Mr. President, my next report will focus our concerns with China on abortion, censorship, religious freedom, and trade balance.


  1. “China to Become the World’s Largest Importer by 2014 – Forbes.” Information for the World’s Business Leaders – Forbes.com. http://www.forbes.com/sites/helenwang/2012/01/11/china-to-become-the-worlds-largest-importer-by-2014/ (accessed January 13, 2013).
  2. “Chinese lead all international graduate students at U.S. universities, study says | SiliconBeat.” SiliconBeat. http://www.siliconbeat.com/2012/11/09/chinese-lead-all-international-graduate-students-at-u-s-universities-study-says/ (accessed January 14, 2013).
  3. Glasser, Charles. “Will China’s Rise Lead to War?.” University of Florida. web.clas.ufl.edu/users/zselden/coursereading2011/Glaser.pdf (accessed January 1, 2013).
  4. Riley, Charles. “Intel report: China’s economy to surpass U.S. by 2030 – Economy.” Economy on CNNMoney.com. http://economy.money.cnn.com/2012/12/10/china-us-economy/ (accessed January 14, 2013).

[1] Riley, Charles. “Intel report: China’s economy to surpass U.S. by 2030 – Economy.” Economy on CNNMoney.com. http://economy.money.cnn.com/2012/12/10/china-us-economy/

[2] “China to Become the World’s Largest Importer by 2014 – Forbes.” Information for the World’s Business Leaders – Forbes.com. http://www.forbes.com/sites/helenwang/2012/01/11/china-to-become-the-worlds-largest-importer-by-2014

About Pomfret School

Founded in 1894, Pomfret is an independent co-educational college preparatory boarding and day school for 350 students in grades 9 through 12 and postgraduate, located on a scenic 500 acre campus in Northeastern Connecticut.
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