Rather than work toward a cooperative concert of great powers in a multi-polar world, there are those in Washington who advocate organizing and controlling a so-called "concert of democratic states" to confront so-called "authoritarian powers," meaning China and Russia.
Rather than work toward a cooperative, harmonious, and prosperous Pacific community, there are those who advocate various mechanisms for the militarization and securitization of the Pacific aimed at hard containment of China.
Four decades and two wars on, it is high time for American leadership to come to its senses and devise a systematic, comprehensive, and integrated national strategy for our country to meet the challenges of the coming decades of transition and transformation of the international system.
A positive, constructive, and stable state-to-state relationship between China and the United States is one critical directionality which must be developed and maintained. To this end, the process of dialogue at all levels between China and the United States is fundamental.
Today, fortunately for the Chinese and American people, both sides are developing this dialogue at various levels as the recent U.S.-China S&ED underscores.
This fall, China will have a once-in-a-decade leadership change and thus continuity in policy can be maintained when desired. The United States, however, will have presidential elections in 2012, 2016, and 2020. Special interests and other domestic factors can and do impact negatively on policy formation and policy continuity.
The economic dimension of the U.S.-China relationship is of vital importance to both sides. Washington often calls on foreign capitals to act "responsibly." But does Washington act responsibly when it comes to financial matters?
The global international financial crisis which erupted in 2008 was triggered by the toxic mortgage loan catastrophe which began in California. This financial crisis continues today where Europe, in particular, is in dire straits.
Washington has yet to seriously address the severe problems in the U.S. financial system. In large part, the problems stem from the move in Congress in the late 1990s to deregulate banking by repealing the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act. The old legislation from 1933 separated commercial bank operations from speculative investment bank operations, thus promoting a sound banking system.
By repealing this legislation which protected the public interest in a sound banking system, the speculators and casino capitalists of Wall Street were able to wreak havoc at home and globally. Clearly, Washington needs to reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act in its entirety to be credible internationally and to protect the American people from further financial instability and possibly severe inflation.
It is certainly no wonder that, in recent years, confidence in Asia has been shaken with respect to Washington's leadership in the international financial area.
Under such circumstances, it is logical that Asia-Pacific nations now wish to protect their national capital markets and financial systems from various storms, contagions, and all the rest that goes with unregulated speculative activities of the casino capitalists of Wall Street, London, and other financial capitals.
Building a peaceful and prosperous Pacific community can benefit other regions of the world. The Pacific community has its role as the world's primary zone of stability and economic growth. Protecting the economic interests of all stakeholders in the Pacific region will contribute to the development of a harmonious, confident, and vibrant community.
As to strategic matters in the Pacific region, unnecessary and inappropriate militarization and securitization must be avoided. Effective measures must be put into place to prevent conflict and unnecessary wars. Provocative actions and policies are counterproductive.
Washington, for its part, must avoid further provocation with regard to the Taiwan question, an internal Chinese matter which some wish to use to derail U.S.-China relations.
It is high time that Washington revise legislation and policies on this issue. Sticking to the spirit and letter of the three communiqués is a good starting point, but legislation must be updated to reflect current realities and national interests. Pandering to the Taiwan lobby, among others, is counterproductive.
There is no reason that South China Sea matters cannot be solved through diplomacy. Militarization of the issue can be counterproductive. Washington needs to refrain from provocative actions while at the same time retaining its position that this area be an open sea, not a "mare clausum," through which maritime traffic has a peaceful right of passage under international law.
Direct dialogue between the Chinese military and the U.S. military is essential to developing a constructive overall state-to-state relationship. From direct dialogue and exchange of views can come ideas and proposals for mutually beneficial joint activities. Provocative actions by Washington on the Taiwan issue, in particular, can impede the development of relations and, unfortunately, special interests which seek to manipulate this issue in Congress and in the executive branch.
The U.S.-China S&ED is a key element in state-to-state relations, and it is to be hoped that additional dialogue develops at the people-to-people level. A worthy vision of a Pacific community within a transformed international system must be created by all those concerned with the peace, harmony, and prosperity of the region.
The author is a professor with the Virginia Military Institute and the Washington and Lee University
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