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Sunday, January 9, 2011

U.S. Two tracks are better than one

President Barack Obama is essentially following the same foreign policy with China as did predecessors Bush and Clinton. It is called a two-track policy.

Presidents from Truman to Reagan followed a one-track policy with the Soviet Union -- that of containment -- to limit the spread of communism and its military threats during the Cold War.

Clearly, such a one-track policy would be out of order for China. In addition, our two-track policy offers benefits a one-track would not.

One of the tracks is engagement and the other security. While these two seem to be direct opposites they absolutely are not mutually exclusive. That is, the security policy must constantly be balanced by the policy of engagement.

Engagement is what most Americans see every day in regard to China. Part of that is low-cost products -- and respectable quality -- in stores everywhere. We are China's largest trading partner, engaging both countries in mutually beneficial commerce. It also provides a source for lending us more than $1 trillion to pay for the Chinese goods we purchase.

In addition, there are exchange visits of presidents, members of Congress, military, media, business and industrial personnel.

Good examples of engagement are China's recent interest in joining with the U.S. to work to improve the political mess in Myanmar and their arranging of six-country talks to improve the situation at North Korea. A bad example is China's cutting the supply of rare earth metals for 2011 by an additional 35 percent and raising the price by 25 percent.

Engagement promotes an open and constructive atmosphere and is utterly dependent upon two outcomes within China.

•China must be satisfied with our actions in engagement -- satisfied with our actions related to trade and political matters and that we never erect any roadblocks for China's growth.

•China's geopolitical and internal actions are within the boundary-lines of global norms.

Security is quite a different matter.

China's military build-up during the administration of President Hu Jintao has our military planners sitting closer to the edge of their chairs. The most recent build-up of a Chinese nuclear submarine fleet caused Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen to redeploy additional U.S. warships to the Pacific. China's military took a severe note of that move.

Such security moves -- which are clearly a hedge against the failure of engagement -- threaten engagements' future success. Do you think the Chinese would buy a statement like, "We want to be friends and please disregard our new aircraft carriers in the East China Sea. They are only there to protect South Korea."?

While engagement is intended to reward good behavior, hedging is intended to deter bad behavior. Admiral Mullen doesn't intend to strike China's navy -- only to put into place a strong enough force which would cause the Chinese to conclude that military action by their navy would be foolhardy. It is, on a very small scale, one piece of containment -- but without aiming any weapon at anybody.

It is interesting that China's power brokers buy into both of the two tracks. Chinese doves, located mostly in diplomatic and economic circles, accept engagement and work to foster its enlargement. Chinese hawks, especially its military and manufacture of military equipment, track every little move the U.S. makes in hedging.

Both sides repeatedly issue lengthy propaganda in support of their opposing positions.

Here at home, we have a similar situation -- with perhaps lesser bravado. Our military-industrial complex advocates huge military budgets for security against the communist villains. Diplomats, importing businesses and the media all sing the praises of China's movement toward more liberal human rights, education and lifestyles.

Our monolithic foreign policy with the Soviets was simple in principle. Our policy with China has so many loose ends in it that it is doubtful if any one person knows of all of them -- primarily because transparency in China is poor.

President Clinton, who initiated the two-track policy, referred to China as a "strategic partner." Clinton was more a dove than a hawk. President Bush called China a "strategic competitor." Bush -- who said, "I am a wartime president" -- was more of a hawk than a dove.

President Obama -- thus far appearing on the side of a dove -- will be judged by his actions during a future geopolitical crisis with China.

Your feedback is always welcome.
Thank you!

Chinese Military Parade

China Navy as reported by Al Jazeera from Qatar

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