Tuesday, September 1, 2009

17) Relacoes EUA-China: sem ser o que poderia ser...

The Yin and Yang of U.S.-China Relations
Don't expect a 'strategic alliance' anytime soon.
The Wall Street Journal, SEPTEMBER 1, 2009

American and Chinese officials said all the right things during this summer's inaugural round of their Strategic and Economic Dialogue. President Barack Obama pledged to "forge a path to the future that we seek for our children." Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo wondered aloud whether America and China can "build better relations despite very different social systems, cultures and histories." He answered his own question, in English, with a "Yes we can."

They can, but they probably won't. Yes, Mr. Obama will visit China in November. But when it comes to international burden-sharing, Washington is focused on geopolitical headaches while China confines its heavy-lifting to geoeconomic challenges. The two sides have good reason to cooperate, but there's a growing gap between what Washington expects from Beijing and what the Chinese can deliver.

Many of the issues that create conflict in U.S.-Chinese relations are well known: an enormous bilateral trade deficit, disputes over the value of China's currency, protections for U.S. intellectual property, the dollar's role as international reserve currency, conflicts over human rights, naval altercations, protectionist threats from both sides, and disagreements over how best to handle North Korea's Kim Jong Il. But there are other, less obvious obstacles to partnership.

First, both governments remain largely focused on formidable domestic challenges. Mr. Obama knows his political fortunes depend largely on the resilience of the U.S. economy and its ability to generate jobs. He's occupied for the moment with a high-stakes poker game with lawmakers in his own party over ambitious health-care and energy-reform plans.

China's leadership faces competing internal demands from those who want to stimulate the economy toward another round of export-driven growth and others who want to shift quickly toward greater dependence on domestic consumption. Given the trade deficit, Washington would like Beijing to focus on the latter, but China won't move as fast as the U.S. would like, in part because the leadership recognizes that the loss of millions of manufacturing and construction jobs in recent months could fuel further turmoil in a country that already sees tens of thousands of large-scale protests each year.

Second, there's the bureaucratic problem. For the past several years, former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson chaired a strategic dialogue with Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan. Washington and Beijing have now expanded the scope of talks to include the State Department and China's foreign ministry. Leaving aside the difficulties in building trust between U.S. and Chinese negotiators, State and Treasury don't coordinate well on strategy, and there's no guarantee that China's foreign and finance ministries will work seamlessly together either. The new formula for talks is bureaucratic infighting squared.

The third reason the U.S. and China won't build a durable strategic partnership is that Beijing has little appetite for the larger geopolitical role Washington would like it to play. Why should Beijing accept the risks that come with direct involvement in conflicts involving Iran and Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Israelis and Palestinians, Somalia and Sudan, and other sources of potential turmoil? It has more immediate problems at home.

On many issues where the U.S. wants China's support—on Iran's nuclear program, for example—Beijing's interests don't coincide with Washington's. Even in East Asia, China has good reason to avoid the heavy lifting on security, because the U.S. naval presence limits the risk that Japan, India, and other states will spend much more money on their militaries.

It's not as though Beijing is enjoying a free ride. China's more than $2 trillion in foreign currency reserves gives its leadership enormous clout as international lender of last resort. Its considerable contribution to global stability is mainly in financing Washington's spiraling debt. By righting its own economy, China can be the primary engine of near-term global growth. Isn't that service enough, Chinese officials ask, at a time when economic crises aggravate so many international problems?

The one tangible result of this summer's Strategic and Economic dialogue, a "memorandum of understanding" on climate change, reveals the larger problem. It's valuable to have an agreement in principle, but there were no hard choices on the primary bone of contention—carbon emissions. That's a problem that will generate friction in months to come.

Whenever U.S. and Chinese officials get together these days, they trigger a new round of speculation that the world's most important bilateral relationship might soon become its most valuable strategic alliance. It's wrong to entirely dismiss the value of effective speeches and positive political symbolism. But as U.S. and Chinese negotiators move from words to work, they're going to be pulling in different directions.

Mr. Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group, is co-author of "The Fat Tail: The Power of Political Knowledge for Strategic Investing" (Oxford University Press, 2009). Mr. Roubini is a professor of economics at New York University's Stern School of Business and chairman of RGE Monitor.
Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A15

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