How Fruitful is the Iceberg?

U.S. secretary of state Hilary Clinton and more than 200 U.S. officials who attended the second Sino-American Strategic and Economic Dialogue (中美战略与经济对话) had reasons enough to say that they hadn’t made a fruitless trip (这趟 “没白跑”) to Beijing, writes the Global Times (GT, 环球时报, Chinese edition), republished online by Enorth (Tianjin). After all, the American delegation had achieved more than twenty results with the Chinese side. The GT also quotes Germany’s Handelsblatt (“America’s surprising need for Harmony”), plus the paper’s (and other European papers’) explanations for the apparently small role the exchange rate between the U.S. Dollar and the Chinese Yuan had played in Beijing: the need to find a common position concerning Iran’s nuclear policies, and another one concerning sanctions against North Korea (the latter being a topic the Financial Times, as quoted by the GT, had also considered a topic with only a small role in the conference, as it could have been divisive).

Jin Canrong (金灿荣), associate dean of Renmin University, is quoted as one of the usual experts by the GT, and reportedly suggests that the world can’t understand what is happening between China and America, as both countries falsely see each other as enemies in military terms (这两个在军事上都将对方当做假想敌的国家) on the one hand, but at the same time have more than 400 bn U.S. Dollars of bilateral trade with each other. This was completely outside the traditional pattern of relations between big countries, and no theory could explain it, the GT quotes Jin.

Under the Iceberg, Xinwen Lianbo, May 25, 2010

Under the Iceberg, Xinwen Lianbo, May 25, 2010

The paper closes its article by quoting The Times as saying that only an unfriendly surface of ten per cent of the Sino-American iceberg could be seen, while the invisible 90 per cent defined the results – secret deals stop America hitting the China iceberg.

Neither the articles quoted by the GT, nor their quoted expertise, appear to be really insightful, as far as the  90 per cent of the iceberg under the sea are concerned. Maybe they don’t understand the structure of the iceberg either.

To measure it still appears to be a fairly new sport outside China, too. In April, Joshua Cooper Ramo, an author on economic and political issues, suggests in an article for Time that “chance and the future and what we do now will determine whether China is with us or against us”. This is probably the funniest line in Ramo’s otherwise interesting article, because earlier in the same article, he describes a Chinese notion of a (past or present) passive-voice era. Like if what China does wouldn’t determine the future as much as what we do. Like if only one side – the non-Chinese – was responsible for the outcome.

Elizabeth Economy and Adam Segal put things more bluntly: America usually makes little progress when talking with China directly and bilaterally, in a G-2 kind of format.

The European Union and Japan, for example, find it no easier to negotiate with China on issues such as trade, climate change, cyber conflict, and the Dalai Lama. As a result, the United States is more likely to make progress when it spends time and energy cultivating allies throughout the rest of the world.

So why not letting them do the talk?

To some extent, the Obama administration has already premiered this play – or so Southern Metropolis Daily (or, very indirectly, the Financial Times) believes:

Nobody foresaw that, just after chairman Hu Jintao (胡锦涛) had taken part in the “BRIC” conference, in the twinkling of an eye, India and Brazil, China’s BRIC “comanions”, would actually strike the same note as America and strongly demand a RMB appreciation. All of a sudden, a tilt occurred in the sino-western confrontation about the RMB’s exchange rate.

But what is more noteworthy are Obama’s diplomatic means. He has abandoned his predecessor’s hegemonial way of applying unilateral force China to lower its head, and rather convinces the emerging economies to join a big chorus of demands to appreciate the RMB.

The Chinese are chartering the iceberg, too. But they still seem to dither between flattering themselves (the international community pays close attention to the Sino-American Strategic and Economic Dialog) and fear of becoming complacent.

____________

Related
» Inaugural US-India strategic dialogue, Mangalorean/IANS, May 29, 2010
» 白跑一趟 (bái pǎo yī tàng) – to make a fruitless trip, Baike.Baidu, 2010
» Appointing Jon Huntsman “brilliant move”, People’s Daily, May 18, 2009

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