Professor Jeffery Wasserstrom of the University of California in Irvine provides a nice reminder in TIME magazine — Despite all the heated rhetoric between Chinese and American politicians, don’t forget that in reality both nations are joined at the hip as the world’s largest Too Big Too Fail economic entity.
Thus inflammatory words are simply a means for each side to play domestic politics.
Despite apparent political tensions, the China-U.S. economic relationship won’t fall apart because it can’t.
Just as all politics is local (to a degree), all diplomacy is domestic (to a large extent). China’s dramatic growth may have increased its ability to be less deferential toward the U.S. But when officials loudly proclaim that foreign leaders should steer clear of the Dalai Lama, lash out against Clinton’s “information imperialism” or stoke popular indignation about Taiwan, their motivation is largely a desire to play the nationalism card as effectively as possible at home, and it is as much a sign of insecurity as it is one of bravado. They see a value in deflecting criticism of the government over issues like corruption, as well as distracting the population from worrying about whether the economic good times will last long enough for those who have so far been left behind to get a chance to enjoy them. Similarly, when American politicians change their rhetoric about or policies toward China, we should remember that this is often done with an eye on how this will play in Peoria.
While Washington and Beijing seem very much at odds just now, we shouldn’t let their current state blind us to how intertwined they have become, nor to parallels between America’s rise at the start of the last century and China’s at the start of this one. Whether they like it or realise it, their relationship is truly one thing too big to fail.
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