Asia Society Executive Vice President Jamie Metzl recently spoke with China Daily about US-China relations as part of Asia Society's United Nations General Assembly coverage.
China Daily: The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently praised China's involvement in the peacekeeping operations at the UN. The most recent example was Haiti. What is your opinion and assessment on China's involvement in the world's peace and security issues?
JM: China is making some important contributions to international peace and security, but its complete failure to articulate its vision for a global system that works for everyone, along with China's recent perceived aggressive behavior towards its neighbors, is pushing some to question what type of global leader China aspires to be.
China Daily: Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, at his Security Council speech today, said that solving African hotspot issues is crucial to realise the world peace and stability. Recently many experts are debating on the relations between China and Africa. Some are positive; others skeptical. How exactly do you think China can contribute to African countries' development in terms of the MDGs/poverty reduction and issues regarding peace and security?
JM: China's investment in Africa has had many positive impacts. Nevertheless, very strong allegations have been made about payoffs to African leaders to secure concessions and other benefits. For China to play a more positive role in Africa, it should encourage all of its companies to sign and live up to the United Nations Global Compact.
China Daily: At the UN GA debate earlier, Wen said that economic development will remain a priority issue on China's agenda. With the country recently overtaking Japan as the world's second-largest economy, China is seen by some countries even as a threat. What do you make of it?
JM: China's recent behavior has pushed many countries neighboring China to see it as more of a threat than before. In my personal opinion, it is not in China's or the regions best interest for China to be increasing its claims in the South China Sea, withholding rare earth exports to Japan, failing to even offer timely condolences to the families of South Korean sailors killed in the line of duty, or not living up to international best practices in military transparency. Nevertheless, China's rise is a fact that necessitates changes in regional and international systems.
China Daily: In terms of development issues, China has been mentioned in the UN MDG report that the country has made remarkable achievements in poverty reduction and will be likely to realise the MDGs by 2015. How can China contribute to help other developing countries and show a good example in South-South Cooperation?
JM: China is the gold standard in realizing the MDGs. Strong trade between China and other developing countries, as well as a revaluation of the RMB to reflect its market value, will do a lot to help bolster growth in the developing world.
China Daily: On the sideline of the UN meetings, Wen also met with US president Obama. The meeting added to the increasing number of meetings between China and US leaders since Obama took office in 2009. Although with some trade and currency arguments, Sino-US relations are still of great importance in the era of globalization. What do you make it of the recent meeting and what do you think the outlook of the two countries relations will be?
JM: The United States-China relationship is the most important bilateral relationship in the world. The two countries are deeply interdependent. Both countries need each other and it would be almost suicidal for either country to deny this. Whatever their differences, the two countries must collaborate as much as possible and ensure that points of difference can be handles in a respectful and effective manner.
China Daily: Some countries have been urging China to take stronger international role, and should more responsibilities in some world affairs, but that is a demand that China finds it hard to fulfill at this stage. Do you think China is able to take on more at a global level, why?
JM: Although China sees itself as a developing country, the world does not see it that way. Because of China's global importance, it needs to be part of the solution to global challenges. When China doesn't play this role, for whatever domestic reason, it deeply undermines the functioning of the global "system." If China is comfortable living in a world without a functioning nuclear non-proliferation regime, no international human rights standards, and no internationally binding caps on greenhouse gas emissions, it should keep to the path it is on. If it does not, it must articulate and play a more active role in promoting a world order that benefits everyone. The United States has not been perfect in doing so over the past 65 years - far from it. But the USA has taken the lead in building an international order where all states sacrifice some of their sovereignty for the greater good. In this context, China's strong adherence to a 19th century model of state sovereignty run the risk of bringing back the terrible conflicts that model inspired. China can and must do better. We all welcome China's growing power, but with it comes new responsibility that all friends of China hope China will assume.
Jamie Metzl is Executive Vice President of Asia Society. He is responsible for overseeing the institution's strategic directions and overall program activities globally. An expert on Southeast Asian history and politics, he has extensive government experience, including service in the White House, the Department of State, and the US Senate.