Unified, Assertive ASEAN Needed As US, China Spar


(MENAFN- Asia Times) The contemporary China-US relationship – the relationship between the world's oldest and newest major powers – lies at the heart of the Indo-Pacific region's dilemma.

This relationship has its roots in the remarkable meeting between Richard Nixon and Mao Zedong in Shanghai in 1972. Their meeting occurred over a decade after China's alliance relationship with the Soviet Union collapsed, three years after infantry skirmishes between the former allies along the Azur River in 1969 almost spiraled into open war and, reportedly, with the United States dampening Soviet overtures to support an attack on China's nascent nuclear forces.

Thereafter, the US-China relationship, although not without occasional frictions, had some depth and intimacy. For instance, China hosted US intelligence and verification facilities directed at the Soviet Union – and the Reagan administration even directed the Pentagon to plan for significant assistance to China in the event of Sino-Soviet conflict.

An enduring source of US optimism about relations with China was Deng Xiaoping's experiments with market economics from the late 1970s and the eventual adoption of the market system as a central component of“socialism with Chinese characteristics.” Washington's crude rule of thumb was that economic liberalism would eventually seep into China's political culture.

The first signs of a deeper change in US confidence about a positive relationship with China came during the presidential election campaign in 2000, when Al Gore and the Democrats continued to characterize China as a“partner” while Republicans behind George W. Bush preferred“rival” or“competitor.”

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