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Enemies or Competitors?

china economy geo-politics foreign policy united states vice president biden vice-president xi Feb 20, 2012

During the Chinese Vice-President's visit to the United States the bi-lateral relationship did not appear to be fractured or at risk of flaring in to open conflict.  In fact, it did appear that Vice-President Xi had established a warm and genuine relationship with his counterpart, Vice-President Biden. Quite a contrast to see the Chinese VP laughing with the U.S. VP, but it was a good sight to be sure.  Now, anyone who finds the company of Joe Biden to his liking can't be all bad.  Biden is known to be warm, candid, affable, and a bit, well, free-spirited with the way he expresses himself. Here is a taste of "Biden speak" during Xi's visit, "This is a guy who wants to feel it and taste it, [the American political system] and he's prepared to show another side of Chinese leadership," said Biden. "He is intensely interested in understanding why we think the way we do, what our positions are, and the need to actually broaden this kind of understanding." (Reuters, 2/18/2012)  Are the U.S. and China destined to be opposites?  Are the differing histories and cultures so stark that mutual understanding cannot be reached?  Will the foreign policy sphere of a globalized world become unmanageable as China's rise continues? Maybe.  But maybe not.  Americans must get used to a new style of foreign policy in a world where interdependence is the norm.  It might be wise to discard the view of China as "enemy" and adopt a view of China as "competitor".   Such a view will require constant monitoring of a host of issues, but these two great nations already recognize the importance of talking so as to avoid irreversible conflict.  The new norm is interdependence because these two nations need one another in order to maintain strong domestic economies.  Mutual destruction is not in the cards.

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