US and China: The Future of Relations?

4 Mar

This small BBC article focuses on how the US initially outlined the attacks in Kunming as “a horrific, senseless act of violence”. (BBC,2014) Yet now, in light of the Chinese media reaction to this statement and them not deeming it a ‘terrorist’ attack, they have declared it an act of terrorism. Although a minor scuffle, I think the exchange draws on a much more contentious debate in International Relations; the way in which the two powers will engage in light of China’s rising power.

There are two main competing paths about which way the United States will react to the rising power and obviously we already have examples of engagement between the two to draw on.

Will it act cooperatively or competitively? Neo-realists like Mearsheimer would suggest that the US should expect China to act in an aggressive, competitive manner as they will what to ensure their own security in international relations, and he believes this is achieved by securing the most power, thus America should respond in the same manner. Neo liberal institutionalists would believe that America has little to worry about so long as they integrate China in to the standing systems of international governance which create interdependency and cooperation between nations, thus informing America to act in a cooperative manner. This example here would see America acting in quite a cooperative manner, it has angered the Chinese and thus wishes to put right.

However if we analyse further this may be because America simply has no other choice. The United States is in a position where China holds the largest amount of off shore dollars and treasury bonds as well as being highly indebted to them. Whilst China has the largest surplus in its current account, America’s has the largest debt. Chinese prosperity may be having the effect of thus far deciding American foreign policy towards it for them as the United States has more to lose through acting competitively than it has to gain. It would seem the hegemonic power the United States has been so happy to manipulate in the past is waring away in light of a developing competitor. The United States may see itself as having to act cooperatively so as to ensure China doesn’t feel threatened in a way so as to act competitively, which thus far it hasn’t, out of fear of the global ramifications.

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