China’s Bad Bet Against America

CAMBRIDGE – Chinese-American relations are, once again, in a downswing. China objected to President Barack Obama’s receiving the Dalai Lama in the White House, as well as to the administration’s arms sales to Taiwan. There was ample precedent for both American decisions, but some Chinese leaders expected Obama to be more sensitive to what China sees as its “core interests” in national unity.

Things were not supposed to turn out this way. A year ago, the Obama administration made major efforts to reach out to China. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton referred to “being in the same boat,” and that China and the United States would “rise and fall together.” Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said he spent more time consulting his Chinese counterparts than those in any other country. Some observers even referred to a US-Chinese “G2” that would manage the world economy.

The G2 idea was always foolish. Europe has a larger economy than both the US and China, and Japan’s economy is currently about the same size as China’s. Their participation in the solution of global problems will be essential. Nonetheless, growing US-Chinese cooperation within the G20 last year was a positive sign of bilateral as well as multilateral cooperation.

Whatever the concerns regarding the recent events related to the Dalai Lama and Taiwan, it is important to note that the deterioration in US-Chinese relations began beforehand. Many American congressmen, for example, complain that American jobs are being destroyed by China’s intervention in currency markets to maintain an artificially low value for the yuan.