By Joey Walter
As we enter into a new decade rife with challenges, the single country that offers us the most opportunity for meaningful alliance is the newly sprouted Eastern powerhouse, China. The mutual benefits to both of our economies are irrefutable, the existence of “mutually assured destruction” non-ignorable. With that said, this same nation certainly offers the most cause for apprehension, with the United States serving as possibly the last roadblock in China’s path to international hegemonic and military dominance. Thus, a vital question needing to be examined for the sake of our future policy options is, Do China’s actions serve more as a threat or as a sign of future alliance?
The first arena that offers essential evidence on both sides of this issue is the economy. Currently, China stands as the 2nd most powerful nation economically, with The Economist projecting it to have overtaken the top spot by 2020. Of course, this rise to the forefront would not have been possible without the United States acting as the primary buyer of its consumer goods, however America also serves as arguably China’s greatest burden by owing $1.16 trillion in securities that may never see the light of day (following our recent raising of the debt ceiling). Whatever the motives, many suspect that China has begun to engage in covert attempts to undermine U.S.-Sino economic ties through intentional devaluation of its currency. These efforts would yield severe repercussions on America’s economy, and prevent domestic industries from becoming competitive in the global market. Thankfully, economic advisers John Tamny and Dan Celia came to the simultaneous conclusion that “China does what many, if not most, of the countries in the world do. I think we’re doing the same things with quantitative easing…We’re keeping the value of our dollar down, [and] that’s helping our exports.” Thus, remembering that China is not the sole nation with personal interests may help to keep domestic paranoia at bay. What’s more, the very shifting of China’s principles from primarily communist toward a free-market, capitalist economy suggests a clear intent to assimilate itself into Western society in order to further amiable relations.
The second sphere in which China has made astounding strides and devoted considerable efforts has been in human space travel. Over the past few years, following China’s announcement to commence its aspiring human spaceflight program, U.S. policy has served as a narrative of how two contrasting strategies can lead to opposite results in the field of multinational relations. First, NASA administrator Michael Griffin professes, “The Bush Administration’s past failure to approve overtures for U.S.-China cooperation led to a very high level of suspicion and was the direct cause of China’s ASAT demonstration involving the shooting down of a satellite to send a pointed signal to the U.S”. This led a CRS report for Congress and George Washington University Professor Yi Zhao to reach the simultaneous conclusion that “cooperative efforts from the U.S. are necessary to prevent future escalation of direct-ascent satellite attacks towards the U.S.” The Chinese most definitely did not receive the unilateral, one-sided policy President Bush pushed during his administration positively; still, most analysts would agree that today’s situation reveals a nearly opposite tale. After President Obama revised the National Space Policy to include cooperation as a primary goal, numerous steps in the right direction have taken place. Harvard professor of Geology and former astronaut Harrison Schmitt assessed, “With China’s ambitious and difficult human space program focused on exploiting vast quantities of resources on the moon, the U.S. decided on pursuing a cooperative, synergistic effort such as In Situ Resource Utilization that would be necessary for their mission to be a success.” Indeed, the director of China’s National Space Administration himself asserted, “only under the cooperative principle of ” mutual benefit and common development” could China achieve its primary goals in space.” The absence of further tumultuous events beyond the atmosphere has proved America’s strategy of appeasing China to be a success, and is the key for attaining future mutual benefits as well as constraining the rise of a potentially hostile actor in the field of space militarization.
Thus, while China’s surpassing of America in two major areas might not be all that worrisome if we make the right decisions, it would surely still be comforting to know that America retains a strong overall lead in innovative capacity and China has a “long way to go” to close the innovative gap. Keep thinking, America.