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The paper reports on one of the most current situations in the world, the nature of the US-China relations, and compares the significance of China and Taiwan to the US foreign policy’s interests and economic engagement. Rapidly strengthening its comprehensive national strength, expanding the geography of its national interests, and increasing its international influence, China becomes an important part of the US foreign policy.
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The interests of China are now not only focused on the domestic economic development and the participation in the affairs of East Asia but they are also projected to almost all regions of the world with varying degrees of intensity. Moreover, the foreign policy of the major East Asian state comes to a qualitatively new level. Today, the USA plays a leading role in world politics as the only superpower. However, as of recently, China has been approaching the USA in great strides. China is referred to as a potential rival to America, and it will soon be able to push it to second place. Therefore, it seems appropriate to consider the history of the US-China relations – in particular, to show the process of rapprochement with Washington, Beijing, and regard the role Taiwan plays (or is likely to play) for the US strategy. The role of Taiwan, however, is not that important to the USA in comparison with China and its potential developed throughout recent decades. For America, relations with other leading countries are of great importance. When concerning the US-China and the US-Taiwan relations, the paper proves that Taiwan is less important from various points of view.
The transformation of the international system in the early 21st century is comprehensive and profound in its character of content. In the international system, the role and place of the new centers of influence deepen and multiply the innovative problem(s) of security. Their solution requires the consolidation of efforts of the entire international community, increasing interdependence between various states, conducting the system-creating reforms of the global financial institutions that were created after the Second World War, and a monopoly that is controlled by the Western countries when determining the impact of the United States.
However, as the principal factor in shaping the geopolitical and geo-economic landscape of the 21st-century one can name the rise of China. Rapidly strengthening its already comprehensive national strength, expanding the geography of its national interests, and increasing its international influence, China becomes an important part of the US foreign policy. The interests of China are now focused on not the domestic economic development and the participation in the affairs of East Asia but are also projected to almost all regions of the world with varying degrees of intensity. With the support of a number of other new centers of influence, Beijing increases the pressure on the revision of the existing decision rules in the West and the US-controlled global financial and trade institutions such as the IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO. Thus, the purpose of the paper is to find out which of the two countries, China or Taiwan, is more important to the US world policy. The opinion presented in the paper shows the fact that China is more important for the USA than Taiwan. This assumption is to be proved and supported throughout the paper.
The Background of the China-US Relations
Today, the USA plays a leading role in world politics as the only superpower. However, as of recently, China has been approaching the USA in great strides. There is nothing unusual in the fact that China is referred to as a potential rival to America, and it will soon be able to push it to the second place (Jinnette, 2009). Therefore, it seems appropriate to consider the history of the US-China relations – in particular, to show the process of rapprochement with Washington, Beijing, and regard the role Taiwan plays (or is likely to play) for the US strategy.
It should be noted that the sharp debate about the China-US policy has actually turned stronger since the early 1960s. As the amplification of the Soviet-Chinese conflict in America, there was a growing interest in China (Jinnette, 2009). Therefore, the USA would be more realistic to recognize the communist regime as the legitimate government of China and to find effective ways to work with it. Many investigators and sociologists discussed the format of the US-China relations as the ‘containment without isolation’.
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After the elections in 1968, the solutions and the decision-making process in the field of foreign policy tasks became the responsibility of the US Republican Administration (Jain, 2007). This administration faced the inability to implement its foreign policy by the old methods; as the consequence, they had to start searching for the new approaches that could bring America out of the crisis of the unpopular Vietnam War, the rise of the national liberation movements in the world and American public dissatisfaction with Washington’s foreign policy.
Therefore, the Nixon administration attempted to solve partially the problem of the available foreign policy in Asia in the Chinese direction. However, Nixon was forced to overcome serious obstacles on the way to improve US relations with China. The fact was that over the past two decades, Americans had considered Communist China as the implacable enemy. In America, they believed that Beijing acted in the interests of the world communism that was determined to oust the United States from the West Pacific. Many investigators regarded Mao Zedong to be even more unacceptable than the Soviet leaders. Therefore, even the first steps toward reconciliation with China could cause irritation in parts of the US political establishment and the public.
At that time, the Taiwanese problem occurred. It was in the heart of the numerous negotiations, a decision of which in the short term was impossible (Glaser, 2012). Therefore, the main task was to prevent the destruction of the very foundation of the American guarantees to Taipei, losing only in some formal matters, to which the Chinese showed the increased interest. Among the requirements of the Chinese leadership in the first place was the recognition of the Taiwan Province of China, to which Washington’s emissary agreed in principle.
Thus, during that period, Washington’s policy on China had undergone a cardinal change that was caused by a number of reasons (Xie, 2014). Firstly, they were represented by the domestic and foreign political crises related to the unsuccessful war in Vietnam. Secondly, there was the Sino-Soviet confrontation that the USA had attempted to use in the war in Vietnam to strengthen its position in the Asia-Pacific region and in the world. Thirdly, the atmosphere of d?tente would have also affected the microclimate of the US-China relations in the future, by the beginning of the 21st century (Chow, 2007). Fourthly, there was the desire of certain circles of the political elite, the business community, and the US public to normalize relations with China. Thus, all these aspects created a versatile conglomerate of the relations between the USA, China, and Taiwan, where Taiwan appeared to be not that important as China had been to America. This fact is determined by the numerous aspects that are to be discussed in the next chapter.
The Strategic Points of the US-China Relations and the Role of Taiwan
The rise of China is one of the most remarkable phenomena in the international arena and it has a strong impact on the current international political and economic processes. In terms of this phenomenon, the international system of influence can be compared with the Soviet Union’s collapse, marked by the termination of the bipolar world (Xie, 2014). For America, relations with other leading countries are of great importance. When concerning the US-China and the US-Taiwan relations, it is possible to assume that Taiwan is less important from various points of view.
One of the advantages of China’s economy for the USA consists of China’s low level of corruption. Taiwan is known to possess a higher level of corruption than China; consequently, it becomes less significant for the USA. Thus, “Taiwan’s corruption index is 5.7 but China is only 3.5 (worse). Corruption in China seems to be prevalent” (“A comparison of Taiwan and China,” 2008). This reason denotes the fact that China’s economy is more powerful the Taiwan’s, which makes it more significant for the USA.
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Another point is the overall economic state of China and Taiwan. As China has gained incredibly rapid economic growth, the relations it can establish with other countries become more and more versatile. It means that the China-US relations appear to occupy a new level in their mutual strategies. It is possible to illustrate it with examples from the scholar resources. Keane (2011) notices that “today, America has little strategic interest in Taiwan, which is gradually integrating with China economically by investing in and forming joint ventures with mainland Chinese firms.” However, as it is further mentioned, “China and the United States have interlocking economic interests. China’s greatest military asset is actually the United States Navy, which keeps the sea lanes safe for China’s resources and products to flow freely” (Kane, 2011). This opinion is strongly supported by Glaser (2012) who has a conviction that “freedom of navigation in the region is also a contentious issue, especially between the United States and China over the right of U.S. military vessels to operate in China’s two-hundred-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).” In fact, such a situation has been determined by the military and geographical aspects, and, as Glaser (2012) further explains, “The risk of conflict in the South China Sea is significant. China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines have competing for territorial and jurisdictional claims, particularly over rights to exploit the region’s possibly extensive reserves of oil and gas.” The issue of military interventions and conflicts is one of the topics that provoke a special interest in both China and America (Kan & Morrison, 2014). This is determined by the fact that both countries are eager to obtain the unlimited “freedom of navigation” (Glaser, 2012). Thus, on the one hand, they are to collaborate to sustain peace in the region. On the other hand, they are likely to develop their military bases.
Another aspect that worsens the relations between the USA and Taiwan consists of the fact that Taiwan has not supported the proper relations in the international arena with the USA. This can be illustrated by Dennis Van Vranken Hickey’s (2014) words:
There are claims that Pentagon officials are concerned about sensitive U.S. technologies transferred to Taiwan falling into PRC hands. Others worry about PRC-Taiwan cooperation in the East China Sea and/or the South China Sea, and how that might complicate American policy.
As can be seen, this aspect influences and worsens the Taiwan-US relations in comparison to the US-China ones.
An official assessment of the current US-China relations, which has been given by top leaders of the United States and China in bilateral meetings, is usually sustained in an optimistic, positive tone (Xie, 2014). In their public speeches, the two leaders emphasize the potential areas of bilateral cooperation in the presence of a wide range of the common interests of the global and regional characters and they put special emphasis on the willingness of both countries to develop partnerships (Yang, 2006). However, the official rhetoric of the senior management of the two states cannot hide the serious contradictions, which are inherent in the US-China relations, that manifest themselves systematically and lead to the tensions and crises in the interaction of the two states.
The root causes of these contradictions are the fundamental differences of the political regimes, ideologies, values, systems, and models of economic development of the two countries. The contradictions also arise because of the disposition of two powers: one as a superpower, since the USA is a global leader, and another is a potential superpower, as China is one. Finally, there is a lack of strategic trust between the two countries.
The study of the modern US-China relationship is an actual scientific problem having undoubted theoretical importance because it allows drawing conclusions about what scenario can build a relationship between the States and a global leader in the rising power of fundamentally new conditions of the rapid developing processes of globalization and informatization (Tunsjo, 2008). In the current situation, globalization and informatization transform the nature of international relations and, in particular, the increasing interdependence of states, causing the need for cooperation between them as the only possible option of the settlement of non-traditional security issues.
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This occurred before in the history of the emergence of the new superpowers but it took place in a radically different world political context (Chow, 2007). The rapidly flowing globalization processes determine the effect of strengthening the ambiguity of power and the international influence of China on the US-Chinese cooperation and the effects of the rise of China on the structural and functional levels of conflict (Cheng, 2013). Thus, if the first of the changes at the level of the China-US relations and the power of the position they occupy in the international system contributes to the deepening of structural contradictions between the two countries, the second change, on the contrary, opens up new horizons for the US-Chinese cooperation in addressing the regional and global problems.
In the contemporary world, the United States and China are the leaders in many representative indicators that reflect the national power, the international influence of the state, and its role in the global agenda. Hence, they are the largest developed and developing countries, the world’s strongest economies, and the leading states in defense (Yang, 2006). They spend finances for the research and development in the world’s largest countries that issuing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere and both are the permanent UN Security Council members. In view of the high role in the world political and global economic processes, the US-China relations can be considered as the most important inter-state relations in the world. Therefore, their study becomes an actual scientific task. Unlike many relations that have only limited importance of the world’s bilateral relations to the states directly involved, the nature and the direction of the US-China relations have a significant impact on the security and policy of other states as well as the entire international system. Taiwan cannot afford the same, or at least similar approaches to the USA.
The vector of the currently developing relations between the USA and China has a direct and significant impact on the development of the international situation because it encourages changes in the international system. All these facts together determine the relevance of the topic and the high importance of the decisions set out within China’s importance to the US international relations (Yang, 2006). Taiwan, however, does not (and cannot) perform the numerous functions China does, which only contributes to the assumption that China is a more important partner for the USA than Taiwan.
In the context of clashes in the foreign policy, the objectives and national interests of the USA and China, the fundamental differences between their ideologies, value systems, and political and economic models serve as a factor, normalizing and stabilizing the US-China relationship, which enables the presence of the strategic framework. In regards to Taiwan’s role in the USA, it is possible to note that Taiwan is less developed and less economically stable than China. Consequently, it does not represent a great interest in the USA. This assumption has been proved by the statistics and opinions throughout the paper.
Moreover, the foreign policy of the major East Asian state, China, comes to a qualitatively new level. The trend lies in the foreign policy and identity of the country in the transition towards positioning itself as a global power. The Chinese leadership activates part in shaping the international agenda, the creation of the new mechanisms and institutions of global governance. If one compares the powers of Taiwan and China powers, the leading role will be given by China. Therefore, the USA is more interested in cooperation with China.
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