Sino-American Relations Still Shaky

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expects a “mature relationship,” but there is still plenty of confusion.

While the current administration realizes that China is little threat to the United States, last year’s Impeccable incident, when the US Navy’s ocean surveillance ship was harassed by Chinese vessels in the South China Sea, came as a harsh reminder that the two superpowers don’t always get along.

Moreover, the two continue to clash on human rights, Taiwan, and China’s reluctance to push for sanctions against “rogue states” as North Korea and Iran. China’s accidental empire is a matter of concern for many Asian states, India foremost among them, and it is in part responsible for the Asian naval race.

In the United States, there are plenty of commentators who dread China’s military expansion while politicos typically fail to understand why the country is so hesitant to pursue a more aggressive foreign policy when it could be in the interest of the United States. The red giant appears to be waffling more than usual on the issue of Iran recently, rescheduling meetings and refusing to pledge anything concrete.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on a trip to Hawaii, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Australia, tries to pretend that nothing is out of the ordinary. “Everyone’s aware that China is a rising power of the twenty-first century,” she said Monday. “But people want to see the United States fully engaged in Asia, so that as China rises the United States is there as a force for peace.”

“Fully engaged” referring to a $1 billion arms sale to Taiwan, heavily criticized by Chinese officials last week. Clinton doesn’t expect any trouble though. “What I’m expecting is that we actually are having a mature relationship.”

Asked about Iran, Clinton proposed to push for “smarter” sanctions, targeting specific groups within the regime rather than the Iranian economy on the whole. “It is clear that there is a relatively small group of decisionmakers inside Iran,” she said. “They are in both political and commercial relationships, and if we can create a sanctions track that targets those that actually make the decisions, we think that is a smarter way to do sanctions.” Something the Chinese may be more willing to accept, perhaps?