China's 'Peaceful Rise' Overshadowing US Influence in Asia?

Article excerpt

When the new Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, makes his first visit to the US Tuesday, the issues likely to capture headlines will be the growing US-China trade deficit, the valuation of the yuan, Taiwan, and the war on terror. But a much more important and overarching issue that should get as much attention is the new initiative in Chinese foreign policy known as "China's Peaceful Rise." The newly articulated policy has profound implications for Asia and the US because it is happening during a relative decline in America's prestige and power in Asia.

China's Peaceful Rise was introduced to Asia by Chinese President Hu Jintao on his tour of Southeast Asia in October - just on the heels of President Bush's visit to the region that month.

The contrast in tone between the two leaders couldn't have been more striking. In short, China's message was, "We're here to help," while the US message was "You're either with us or against us" in the war on terror. It's not hard to imagine which was the more effective diplomatic strategy.

China's Peaceful Rise has several policy strands. Founded on an embrace of globalization as part of the solution to China's economic growth imperatives, it relies both on China's domestic economy and the international marketplace to sustain and fuel growth. It explicitly embraces peace and eschews hegemony as China seeks to rise. And China presents that rise as part of its role in the development and stability of Asia as a whole. This is an extremely powerful message - an unprecedented Chinese engagement of its neighbors - delivered to an Asia still smarting from the economic distress of the late 1990s.

China's Peaceful Rise is designed to counter deep Asian apprehensions about China as a competitor for trade, investment, and jobs. Chinese investment in the region as a whole is increasing. Bilateral trade between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China has increased more than sixfold in the past decade. …