Elizabeth Economy Tells Everyone To Calm Down About U.S.-China Relationship. She’s Right.

February 4, 2010

Everyone is in a tizzy over the supposed downturn in U.S.-China relations. (See here, here, and here.) The rhetoric is heating up on both sides, and new issues of contention appear to pop up daily.

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Frankly, the potential for a full-blown deterioration in relations between our two countries has been grossly overblown. There is nothing new here. We are merely witnessing the reality of the U.S.-China relationship, which is marked by almost no trust, a weak foundation of real cooperation, and a lack of shared values and commitment to true compromise.

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The only “new” issue on the table is the Chinese cyberhacking of Google, a number of major American companies and think tanks, and Chinese dissidents…and even that is probably not all that new. We just didn’t know about it.

Read the article in full at the CFR site.

For me, I’m not so much worried about the bilateral tension. I’m pissed off at the stupid rhetoric itself making things worse. I totally agree that everyone is getting into a tizzy (haven’t heard that word used in a while, but it fits) over very “normal” points of bilateral contention. Even the “new” stuff, the Google dispute, is not so much new as newly discovered.

None of these issues freaks me out, but there have been quite a few stupid moves on both sides to comment on – the Taiwan weapons sale is just one example. These are not so much evidence of a catastrophic downturn in bilateral relations, but they are a signal that the two sides are not moving closer together.

I would also caution calm. If nothing else, when folks panic, they tend to make even more irresponsible and inflammatory statements about the other side. Stopping a downward spiral into IR oblivion sounds like a good idea.