Shifting power

The outcome of US President Barack Obama’s four-day visit to China is indicative of a new power balance, with the US ready to concede to Beijing a paramount, if not equal, place in the affairs of the world. Obama returned from the visit almost empty-handed. The Chinese, aware of their rising power, stranglehold on the US economy and the political clout it gave to them, did not give away anything and made Obama proffer the concessions. Obama had in public sought that China revalue its currency to reduce its export advantage, but the joint statement did not even mention the demand. On other issues too the Chinese had their way. They even harangued the US for its protectionist policies which constrained access for Chinese goods in the American market. Obama was low-key on topics sensitive for the Chinese, like human rights and restrictive internal policies. A speech he made in Shanghai on internet freedom and people’s rights was not allowed to be heard by the people of China.

Without getting much in return Obama gave away quite a lot, and deferred too much to the Chinese. The invitation to Beijing to play a greater role in South Asia showed the US keenness to appease China. The US wanted China’s help in dealing with the Iranian and North Korean nuclear issues, but got only a vague promise of co-operation. Agreements were signed on energy research and other areas of collaboration and the joint statement spoke of the need for co-operation in many areas. But the visit demonstrated the increasing differences between the two countries rather than a convergence of interests. China is uncomfortable with the increasing US trade deficit and a weakening dollar. It is much more assertive in its relations with the US which, being economically on the wrong side, finds itself on the defensive.

The Chinese economy is much smaller than the American economy. In terms of military power the US is far ahead. But the US needs China which provides cheap credit. China too cannot let the US go much under because it will stand to lose much from that. Therefore a kind of relationship of rivals dependent on each other is being forged. The weaker one which is getting stronger naturally has a better say in the equation than the stronger one which is getting weaker. That was the writing on the Great Wall for Obama to see.

Liked the story?

  • 0

    Happy
  • 0

    Amused
  • 0

    Sad
  • 0

    Frustrated
  • 0

    Angry