Patience Not a Virtue as Our Problems with China Grow

Expectations are low for the state visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao to Washington this week. The issues that divide the two powers are well known, from Iran and North Korea, through a menacing military buildup, to trade rivalry and technology theft. They have been thoroughly discussed in a wide variety of venues without resolution.

The Obama administration held its second meeting of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in May. President Barack Obama talked with Hu on the sidelines of the G20 summit in November. The U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade met in December. Cabinet secretaries and senior American officials make regular trips to China, with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke visiting Beijing and Shanghai, respectively, last week. Not only have the topics of these meetings not changed in the last year, they have not changed in the last decade.

The Beijing regime, and those in the American establishment who support an appeasement policy toward it, are promoting the virtue of "patience." Henry Kissinger, writing last Friday in the Washington Post, argued:

America has found most problems it recognized as soluble. China, in its history of millennia, came to believe that few problems have ultimate solutions. America has a problem-solving approach; China is comfortable managing contradictions without assuming they are resolvable.

His advice was to accept the Chinese view to avoid a new Cold War. It should be noted that as secretary of State during the old Cold War, Kissinger also thought of the conflict as a situation to be managed rather than resolved (won), as the U.S. was supposedly in decline then too.

"While America pursues pragmatic policies, China tends to view these policies as part of a general design ... an overall strategy to hold China down," writes Kissinger, who has made a personal fortune helping Western corporations contribute to Beijing's rise through investment in Chinese science and industry. Yet, having started his career as a diplomatic historian, he must know that his hope for China "subordinating national aspirations to a vision of a global order" is too far fetched to serve as the basis for a realistic policy.

Two days later, an editorial in the Chinese Communist Party newspaper Global Times echoed Kissinger's sentiments, but with a significant twist about who is showing patience:

The world is always suspicious of the patience between China and US in dealing with questions of concern. Hu's visit will showcase this patience to the people. History proves that overreaction and paranoia will only deteriorate a situation. The transition from a unipolar to a multipolar world has shocked the US in recent years, and its media have combined an existing bias with new paranoia.

China has called its rise "peaceful" so as not to alarm America while it still had the power to easily thwart Beijing's ambitions. But the aim has always been to overthrow U.S. "hegemony" and create a "multipolar" world of equal powers; at least until China's continued growth make it first among equals in the 21st century, as had been the U.S. position in the 20th century.

The editorial cited the U.S. "media" and "certain citizens" as factions trying to stir up trouble. The ruling party's advice to America was that issues such as "the value of the yuan, protection of intellectual property rights and military transparency in China" are merely "odd speculations and questions that both powers would do well to shrug off."

Kissinger is not the only member of the old foreign policy establishment dismissive of those who do not want to shrug off China's expanding capabilities. Consider Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, who served in the Johnson and Clinton administrations. He is more concerned about the threat from the American "right wing" than from China.