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Hands up, hands off: China blames U.S. for troubled relationship

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The United States is struggling “to get China right.” Every week, there is a new study, analysis or set of recommendations to make the U.S.-China relationship better fit current realities. The pages of every major journal and the opinion and analysis sections of most newspapers daily assess and critique a relationship that is critical to how the world works.

While the emphasis these days is on what the U.S. will do — which is natural with a new occupant of the White House — any relationship will reflect an equilibrium set by the governments in Washington and Beijing.

Unfortunately, recent conversations with Chinese counterparts reveal a troubling mindset: They insist that problems in the relationship with the U.S. stem solely from Washington’s misbehavior, misperceptions or unhappiness. Rarely is China acknowledged to be at fault. Yes, U.S. policy has been less consistent than that of China, but maintaining that Beijing has no role or responsibility for troubles in U.S.-China relations will guarantee that those problems get worse.

U.S. policy of recent years is not beyond criticism; this column has offered many. Wang Jisi, one of China’s foremost America watchers, is right to charge that “It has become harder and harder for foreign policy makers in China to discern what rules the Americans want themselves and others to abide by, what kind of world order they hope to maintain.”

But this is but one brick in a wall of argumentation, all of which put blame firmly on the U.S. side. Foreign Minister Wang Yi made the point repeatedly last year, at one point telling the National People’s Congress that the U.S. had “abducted” Sino-U.S. relations and then later, speaking to the China-U.S. Think Tanks Media Forum, insisting that “China’s U.S. policy remains unchanged. We are still willing to grow China-US relations with goodwill and sincerity.”

U.S. policy toward China, in contrast, he charged, “is based on ill-informed strategic miscalculation, and is fraught with emotions and whims and McCarthyist bigotry.........

© The Japan Times

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