A key part of America’s relationship with China now turns on a question that is, at its heart, an impossible conundrum: How to get Beijing to make moves that its leaders don’t think are good for their country?
From economics to climate change to currency to Iran and finally culminating with North Korea last week, America has sought to push, prod and cajole China, to little or no avail.
Beijing has resisted letting its currency rise because it depends on the cheap yuan to drive its export-heavy economy. China has balked at stiff sanctions to rein in Iran’s nuclear ambitions because it needs access to Iran’s oil and gas fields to fuel its own growth. Beijing doesn’t want to curb carbon emissions because its ability to lift hundreds of millions of people into the middle class over the coming years is directly linked to its increased use of energy.
And, finally, Beijing has recoiled at reining in its unruly neighbor to the east, as the Obama administration implored it to do last week, because it doesn’t want to destabilize North Korea’s secretive, hermit regime to an extent that could lead to the government’s collapse and the North’s eventual reunification with South Korea.