A Strategic Economic Engagement

Strengthening U.S.-Chinese Ties

One of the first challenges the next U.S. president will face will be how to respond to China's emergence as a global power. Some people suggest that China is a threat that must be countered or contained. Others argue that its growth is an opportunity for the U.S. economy and that Washington should manage this rising power through engagement. I believe that engagement is the only path to success.

President George W. Bush chose this approach, and it has been successful. U.S.-Chinese relations are more productive today than ever before, partly because President Bush engaged Beijing and did so based on the recognition of China's twin priorities: territorial integrity and economic growth. Even if it were possible to block China's growth, it would not be in the United States' interest to try. China's rapid emergence as a global economic power presents numerous challenges on issues ranging from trade and investment to commodity markets and the environment. But the inextricable interdependence of China's growth and that of the global economy requires a policy of engagement. In fact, the overriding importance of economic growth to China's leaders presents the best means of influencing China's emergence as a global power and encouraging its integration into the international system.

To be effective, however, Washington must first understand Beijing's interests and the challenges it faces. The Chinese see economic growth as essential to their stability. Three decades of economic development have transformed their country, bringing it peace and stability and lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. The Chinese are deeply proud of these accomplishments yet are concerned about their ability to sustain them. Their leaders, meanwhile, realize that China's future growth depends on its increasing integration into global trade, investment, and financial markets.

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