A Trio Bands Together
It's time for Beijing to lose some economic weight and synergize with neighboring Tianjin and Hebei Province
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UPDATED: April 29, 2014 NO. 18 MAY 1, 2014
Creating a Commercial Civilization
Business ties contribute to the development of a new type of Sino-U.S. great-power relationship
By Patrick Mendis

Pacific dream

Among the policy innovations, three elements of the White House's Asia policy, the rebalancing strategy (military), the TPP plan (trade and investment), and the "100,000 Strong" initiative (educational) are the most salient. These innovations are a gamut of competing foreign policy traditions of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton—two philosophical and personal rivalries. Jefferson advocated a more decentralized power at grassroots level with greater democratic governance and religious freedom as opposed to Hamilton who favored a centralized federal government with a national banking system and a strong Navy to protect American trading interests. Both, however, agreed on trade as a force for good and American progress. Encapsulating the two competing traditions, Obama unveiled his "Pacific dream" as a countervailing force to Xi's "Chinese dream."

In April 2013, Obama's Secretary of State John Kerry announced the Pacific dream in Tokyo after visiting China. Not unlike the American dream, the Pacific dream for Asian nations is to grow closer together than ever before, not only with each other, but also the United States on social, economic and security matters. Kerry said that "our Pacific dream is to translate our strongest values into an unprecedented security, economic and social cooperation."

For Obama and Kerry, the Asia-Pacific region is personal as a foreign policy imperative. Obama has an extended family connection to the region and his paternal grandfather served the British Army in China while stationed in Burma during World War II. Secretary John Forbes Kerry's ancestral wealth traced back to his Bostonian Brahmin family of John Murray Forbes (1813-98), who accumulated a tremendous amount of treasures from China trade in the 19th century.

With the Chinese investment, the Forbes family empire also built the American transcontinental railroad system with largely Chinese labor and pioneered the westward commercial development in the United States. In his book, Bonds of Enterprise, John Larson describes the Forbes dynasty's trade and investment partnership with Howqua, the wealthiest man of the Cohong merchants in China. Their friendship and entrepreneurial spirit shifted the budding Sino-American relationship from antebellum merchant capitalism to late 19th-century corporate capitalism—giving rise to big business, technological innovations and the process of government regulations in monopolistic corporate power.

These pioneers set apart by destiny guided the American experiment in the pursuit of economic growth and mutual prosperity. As their ancestors had played a leading role in building the new nation and nurturing the Sino-American collaboration, Secretary Kerry has—by his own destiny—begun to discretely revive his family legacy while advancing openly Obama's Pacific dream.

More than 230 years after inaugurating the Empress of China, the first U.S. merchant ship bound for China, the Pacific dream is a natural follow-up. Xi's announcement of his Chinese dream stands as a public commitment to rejuvenating China's glorious past with the revival of its ancient Silk Road through maritime routes.

While the TPP negotiations continue, the two negotiating partners of Japan and Australia recently signed a historic bilateral trade and investment agreement. China aspires to have similar bilateral trade agreements with American TPP-negotiating countries like South Korea. For Beijing, the newly-established Shanghai Free Trade Zone would serve as China's amiable strategy to welcome American partners. For China, America's TPP might be a blessing in disguise.

Xi may eventually accept America's strategic goal of gradual integration of China into the pact, just as President Bill Clinton brought Beijing into the WTO. The Pacific dream is the endgame of this new type of great-power relations, which should result in the historic Sino-American "special" trade-for-peace love affair.

The writer is a distinguished senior fellow and affiliate professor of public and international affairs at George Mason University's School of Public Policy and a commissioner of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO. He is the author of Peaceful War: How the Chinese Dream and the American Destiny Create a Pacific New World Order

Email us at: yanwei@bjreview.com

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