Former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker III offered his take on Sino-American relations last Thursday in a speech at the Asia Society Texas Center's annual Tiger Ball in Houston. And the 80-year-old Texas Republican didn't mince words. While accepting the Roy M. Huffington Award for Contributions to International Understanding, Baker said the following:
"Allow me to be blunt. Some in the United States — not a majority by any means, but certainly a vocal minority — see China's rise as a threat somehow to America's international status. They believe that conflict between our two countries is inevitable as Chinese ambitions clash with American position and power. Ladies and gentlemen, these observers are wrong. And they are not only wrong, they are dangerously wrong. And the reason is very simple — their analyses grossly underestimate the broad areas where Chinese and American interests converge."
Baker, who served as Secretary of State under George H.W. Bush and White House Chief of Staff under Bush and Ronald Reagan, went on to discuss those convergences, which he believes include the health of the global economy, energy security, regional stability in Asia, fighting terrorism, protecting sea lanes, and stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
He did point out potential flashpoints that could sour relations between the two world powers: Taiwan, Tibet, trade policy, human rights, and nuclear proliferation. Baker said China and the United States need to learn to "manage their differences."
"Our task is to ensure that these differences do not escalate," Baker said. "At times of tension we need to restrain the rhetoric on both sides of the Pacific, and we need to keep lines of communication open."
For more coverage of James Baker's speech and the Asia Society Texas Center's Tiger Ball, click here.