July 24, 2015

'The United States must find a strategy that “accepts and even encourages China’s rise to greater power and prominence in international politics but shapes China’s choices so that it is more likely to forgo bullying behavior...Success requires an unusual mix of strength and toughness on the one hand and a willingness to reassure and listen to the Chinese on the other".'

NY Times “China has major incentives to avoid unnecessary conflict,” Thomas J. Christensen writes. By JONATHAN MIRSKY

'But the United States has no experience “tackling the least appreciated challenge: persuading a uniquely large developing country with enormous domestic challenges and a historical chip on its national shoulder to cooperate actively with the international community.”

'Christensen, a professor of politics at Princeton, served from 2006 to 2008 in the Bush administration as the deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs. While he didn’t make policy, he was often present as a “backbencher” when China was being debated. (I would say he had a box seat.) He knows Chinese, and is well connected to Chinese academics, although seemingly not to more ordinary Chinese, whose opinions he does not report. I don’t always agree with what he writes, but he is unarguably qualified to make the judgments he does. And when he contends, with the clarity that distinguishes his narrative, that China “is by far the most influential developing country in world history,” and emphasizes that it “is being asked to do more at present than any developing country has in the past,” I take him seriously.

'He deals here with the crises and collisions that bedevil China-United States relations. He notes the big ideas that invariably add to the bedevilments. Many Chinese, whether sincerely or not, refer to imperialism and colonialism as factors that can never be forgotten, which the Communist Party overheats with waves of nationalism. The United States has numerous allies. Beijing has exactly one, North Korea, and some of Christensen’s high-ranking or well-informed interlocutors confide that this ally is a vexatious one. The grand problems also include climate change; nuclear proliferation, especially from Pyongyang and possibly Iran; the nature of Taiwan’s sovereignty; ­applying sanctions or not to third countries (Beijing usually vetoes these in the United Nations); Myanmar; who has what rights in the South China Sea. And add human rights in China and internationally — issues Christensen barely ­mentions.'

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