Dangers of the “New Type of Great-Power Relations”

Dangers of the “New Type of Great-Power Relations”

Chinese leaders have, on numerous occasions, stated that they want to create a “new type of great power relations” with the . This formulation has since been accepted by the Obama administration in order to promote a stable U.S.-China relationship in the 21st century. At Foreign Affairs, Andrew Erickson and Adam Liff explain why the United States’ uncritical acceptance of such a relationship could be dangerous

In uncritically signing on to the “new type of great-power relations” slogan at the Obama-Xi Sunnylands summit in June 2013, the Obama administration fell into a trap. It has what is most likely its last major chance to dig itself out when Obama visits Beijing next month for a follow-up summit. And he should make use of the opportunity. Although some U.S. officials dismiss rhetoric as insignificant and see this particular formulation as innocuous, Beijing understands things very differently. At best, U.S. acceptance of the “new type of great-power relations” concept offers ammunition for those in Beijing and beyond who promote a false narrative of the United States’ weakness and China’s inevitable rise. After all, the phrasing grants China great-power status without placing any conditions on its behavior — behavior that has unnerved U.S. security allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific. At worst, the formulation risks setting U.S.-Chinese relations on a dangerous course: implicitly committing Washington to unilateral concessions that are anathema to vital and bipartisan U.S. foreign policy values, principles, and interests.

Already troubling, each additional invocation of a “new type of great-power relations” grows more costly. Instead of reactively parroting this Chinese formulation, Washington must proactively shape the narrative. It should explicitly articulate and champion its own positive vision for U.S.-Chinese relations, which should accord China international status conditionally — in return for Beijing abiding by twenty-first-century international norms, behaving responsibly toward its neighbors, and contributing positively to the very international order that has enabled China’s meteoric rise. [Source]

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