|President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2012.|
Do Two Dreams Equal a Nightmare? By Marco Rubio. Foreign Policy, June 7, 2013.
U.S. and China Will Never Trust Each Other. By Minxin Pei. Foreign Policy, June 6, 2013.
The vast gap between the two countries’ political systems makes trust impossible. The Chinese Communist Party does not hide its hostility to and fear of the political values – freedom, human rights, political competition, and constitutional rule – that underpin American democracy. In the eyes of the Chinese ruling elites, the United States presents a political threat, even though they understand that a full-fledged military conflict between two nuclear-armed great powers is extremely unlikely. Chinese leaders feel so endangered by U.S. soft power that they are now even orchestrating a propaganda campaign against constitutionalism.
This threat perception has created its own reality. China's ruling elites know very well that China’s economic rise would not have happened as fast or as successfully without U.S. help, which included bestowing Most-Favored Nation trading status on China, supporting its 2001 entry into the World Trade Organization, and awarding scholarships for hundreds and thousands of Chinese students, among other factors. Still, such awareness does not prevent them from insisting, almost daily, that “hostile Western forces” seek China's destruction.
For the U.S. political establishment, a repressive one-party state is simply illegitimate. Its opacity, lack of constraints on its power, and capriciousness make it difficult to understand and even more difficult to trust.
Since the fundamental differences between the two political systems are almost certain to continue in the foreseeable future, the United States and China need to cooperate without the luxury of strategic trust. Most people might argue, understandably, that such cooperation is impossible. But this does not need to be the case.