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Posted at 12:46 PM ET, 01/ 3/2011

Brzezinski's wild take on China

By Jennifer Rubin

Zbigniew Brzezinski fancies himself a "realist" in foreign affairs. But his outlook (for example his notion of an imposed peace deal in the Middle East or, worse, his suggestion to shoot down Israeli planes en route to attack Iran) evidences little recognition of the real-world interests and motivations of America's allies and foes. Moreover, he supposes, oddly for a self-proclaimed realist, that personal relationships and personalities trump long-term national interests. His latest offering, in the form of an op-ed in the New York Times, is regrettably no exception:

The visit by President Hu Jintao of China to Washington this month will be the most important top-level United States-Chinese encounter since Deng Xiaoping's historic trip more than 30 years ago. It should therefore yield more than the usual boilerplate professions of mutual esteem. It should aim for a definition of the relationship between the two countries that does justice to the global promise of constructive cooperation between them. . . .

For the visit to be more than symbolic, Presidents Obama and Hu should make a serious effort to codify in a joint declaration the historic potential of productive American-Chinese cooperation. They should outline the principles that should guide it. They should declare their commitment to the concept that the American-Chinese partnership should have a wider mission than national self-interest. That partnership should be guided by the moral imperatives of the 21st century's unprecedented global interdependence.

But what of the fundamental differences between the countries? Are we to simply accept China's increasingly belligerent actions?

Others share the view that Brzezinski's take is decidedly unrealistic. Jamie Fly, executive director of the Foreign Policy Initiative, e-mails me, "China's actions over the past year, including its continued repression of its citizens, its unwillingness to cooperate in confronting common global threats, and its bullying of its neighbors call into question whether U.S. and Chinese long-term interests really are aligned. Unfortunately, Brzezinski seems to think that the United States is just as much of the problem as China is."

Stephen Yates, a former Bush official and national security expert, is even more blunt, deeming Brzezinski's take, "wrong, borderline silly." He takes issue with the op-ed's title ("How to stay friends with China") and theme , observing, "Countries do not have emotions. People do. Obama can choose to make Hu his best pal, but he'll find it difficult as Communist Party survivalists bury their emotions (and morals) deep. And the core point for defining relations between countries is meaningful mutually beneficial action -- toward one another and collectively." He continues, "There is a long list of targets for collective action that cheerleaders for China point to while dutifully explaining why the U.S. must play nice -- the global economy, nuclear breakouts in North Korea and Iran, energy and other strategic resource supplies, etc. But these are hopes, at best, for collective action not yet in evidence."

To the contrary, there is little indication that China wants to behave in a responsible manner befitting an international power. Even Brzezinski concedes, "China's seeming lack of concern over North Korea's violent skirmishes with South Korea has given rise to apprehension about China's policy on the Korean peninsula." Indeed.

Moreover, as Yates points out, a single meeting is hardly going to obliterate these fundamental differences. "The breathless declaration of this January visit being the most important in 30 years is wildly hyperbolic. Neither leader enters this encounter with the combination of power and intention to make great change. Obama may have the intention, but all Hu wants is for the U.S. to play nice with China. And both leaders have question marks in terms of personal power."

A true realist would take note of China's growing belligerency and its dangerous stance toward North Korea. A realistic policy would seek to use carrots and sticks to advance American interests and condition further advances in the U.S.-China relationship on progress in China's international behavior. Let's hope the Obama administration is more realistic in its assessment and approach than the faux realist Brzezinski.

By Jennifer Rubin  | January 3, 2011; 12:46 PM ET
Categories:  foreign policy  
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Comments

Brzezinski is still alive? Who knew?

The only thing I would really argue with Jennifer is that every single thing happens in the world is somehow our fault, a recurring theme in your column. It smacks of the "who lost China" silliness of the 1950's.

It is a particularly egocentric and myopic view, not at all based in reality.

Posted by: 54465446 | January 3, 2011 1:23 PM | Report abuse

America's realist policy is to maintain its military supremacy and hegemony. America demands freedom of movement of its carrier task force even to the vicinity of Beijing. Then America condemns China for its belligerency when China complains. I wonder what Amricans think when China moves its carrier task force to the vicinity of Chesapeake Bay?

Posted by: KUZH | January 3, 2011 1:29 PM | Report abuse

the bigger question is why Brzezinski still gets msm outlets for his 'voice'.
Is it because he is the only former NSA from a Democratic administration willing to speak/write publicly no matter how much damage he does?
I do wish he would retire to Georgia and build homes, with Carter, and Tutu too.

J-Ru seems to have ignored some of China's more recent postures on North Korea, losing ever more credibility with this descent into hyper-partisanship. Must be the WaPo oxygen or missing the synergies at Contentions.

The U.S. military openly sees China as their 21st century 'enemy' instead of realizing that China's mercantilism offers an opportunity for naval cooperation.

Anyway, at least China gets Obama's second state dinner, which does count for something - mostly that the Obama WH gets an "D" for how to use state dinners as levers of that soft power the Obami pretend to love so much. I really miss President George H.W. Bush, the last president who actually understood the job.

Posted by: K2K2 | January 3, 2011 1:54 PM | Report abuse

J-Ru (how is this as a form of address? I kinda like it, but will stop if you suggest "Jen" instead), I think you should also be laughing at NYT for publishing Brzezinski's fantasy wish list.

China WANTS to be America's enemy, displacing the ex-USSR as the #2 power in the world. It won't be happy to be America's friend until it becomes a Human Rights respecting democracy. Which it ain't yet.

The key immediate issue is whether China is going to pressure/ sanction N. Korea, or allow N. Korea to provoke a small revival of the Korean war.
The US should threaten, and mean it, that N. Korean nuke facilities will be attacked and immediately destroyed if democratic S. Korea goes to war with the Nth.

In the meantime, the US can suggest to China to offer Greece and Ireland to lease some nearby islands for, um, 99 years, so as to cover their budget deficits 90% this year, and half that amount next year, half the year after, half after that (12.5% of orig), and then 10% per year -- with China taking sovereignty.
China helping with cash to solve Europe's over-spending would be a dual good thing.

Posted by: TomGrey2 | January 3, 2011 2:12 PM | Report abuse

I agree that that this administration has been too deferential with China (particularly on human rights issues) but I am wondering how Ms. Rubin would approach the issue. I've noticed she always is urging the administration to get tough on everyone- China, Iran etc. but she offers no real analysis of options with a discussion of the cost-benefit of any options. Maybe we should get rid of the corporate incentives for sending all our manufacturing jobs to China? Would Rubin support that? Should we have a trade war to send a message? What should we do?

It's all well and good to go around with your finger on the trigger all the time but after a while the bumper sticker talking points, without anything else, gets old.

Posted by: Stacyx | January 3, 2011 6:42 PM | Report abuse

These dyed in the wool Washingtonians don't care for you one bit, Jennifer. Who are you to criticize them whilst they make their careers kicking cans down the road for us? How dare you criticize the bloodless and soul lacking Carter zombie, Z-Bug?

Posted by: ZoltanNewberry | January 3, 2011 10:25 PM | Report abuse

It's about oil. We're not running out, but demand is going up rapidly and we can't increase the supply fast enough. It's like 5 people fighting over 3 cookies, then 2 people join the fray. The scientists don't know how to drill deepwater oil - which is why we had the Gulf spill, and they don't know how to make tar sand economical. Korea was a proxy warning from China. The US had no choice but the militarise after the midterms - and the world realised the US wasn't going to reduce oil consumption. France-UK signed a joint nuclear testing facility, and India is building a nuclear arms triad. China is the biggest renewable investor, accelerating energy independence. But China also has huge nuclear capability - it's impossible to stop (over 1000 missiles) even with a missile defense shield. Even if you could, over 200 nuclear bombs going off is enough to mess up the world by dispersing radioactive particles around the world. The good news is, after Korea, both China and US realised they couldn't risk nuclear war. So for the first time after 16 years of failed climate talks, China backflipped, changed its hardline approach, agreed to all the US's demands, which allowed both to sign the Cancun Agreements. After Cancun, China signed a FTA letting the US sell high-tech renewable products to China. China also promised to spend $1.5 trillion implying it would buy up US made renewable products, increasing jobs for families, help restore balance in trade and allow mutual cooperation on energy. China recently killed its own auto industry by banning its citizens from buying cars. Nuclear war benefits no one, so out of self interest, China is helping the US, even though it'll kill Chinese economic growth. The US needs a carbon tax to accelerate renewable industry for this to happen - direct government investment fails, you need market reform to mobilise consumer base market mechanisms to drive investment, industrialisation and research in alternative energy. But voters realise it means higher prices, and are blocking it, without realising they're provoking a nuclear war. People don't transition out of goodwill, you need to raise prices. Still, I'm fairly optimistic. It needs to be done, there's no option save a new Cold War over energy resources, and we're not stupid enough to make that mistake twice and risk blowing everything up.

http://www.washingtontimes.com
/news/2010/dec/22/axis-of-evil-spins-close

Posted by: jason137 | January 4, 2011 4:14 AM | Report abuse

With all due respect, Mrs Rubin, you can't hold a "candle" to the knowledge of foreign affairs compared to Brzezinski. You just want the US to antagonize everyone don't you? Brzezinski is not blaming the US as it relates to it's relationship with china, but he, unlike you, understands the political and economic advantage to working with them. You people on the right always complain about "human rights" when it comes to dealing with China politically, but you never mention it, when dealing with China on business matters. I've always been tough on China when it comes to Human rights, even as, we ship jobs away from America to China. All Brzezinski is saying, is that we have to build our relationship with China for the long term, and we must deal with our mutual interests as well as our problem with their inconsistency on political and economic issues. You people want EVERY other Country to bow-down to America, without America coming to the table.......It's American "arrogance". You will never learn, Mrs. Rubin.

Posted by: timr_2000_us | January 4, 2011 9:47 AM | Report abuse

The recommendation that "A realistic policy would seek to use carrots and sticks to advance American interests and condition further advances in the U.S.-China relationship on progress in China's international behavior" assumes that China perceives its relationship with the U.S. to be more important than their core interests like resources in the South China Sea or stability on the Korean peninsula. This makes me think that they're more likely to simply let the U.S. relationship lag in favor of acquiring resources/ maintaining border stability, etc. Just my opinion.

Posted by: risheebatra | January 4, 2011 9:48 AM | Report abuse

To quote a former Bush foreign policy official (Yates) on ANYTHING, is laughable.........

Posted by: timr_2000_us | January 4, 2011 10:02 AM | Report abuse

This piece strikes as one where Ms Rubin is channeling a former NSC official with the Bush Administration. Her stance is one of US unipolarity where the US is hegemonic and omnipotent. That viewpoint seems more myopic than her accusations levied at Brzezinski. She also takes no time and makes no effort to understand anything economic in her militaristic assessments. The pre-eminent concern of US-Sino relations, the question of decline, is similar to the British loss of reserve currency status in 1946 when London approached Washington for a bridge loan and the US said yes but with the conditionality that the US dollar now become the world's reserve currency. The long term Chinese objective is for their currency to transform from a simple exchange currency to an investable currency and then ultimately become the world's reserve currency. The dollar's potential loss of reserve currency status is something that trumps Chinese unwillingness to influence North Korean behavior.

Posted by: Mackdawg1 | January 4, 2011 10:38 PM | Report abuse

China is a single party dictatorship that resembles NAZI Germany's role in the world economy during the crisis of the 1930s. The world was amazed and awed by Hitler's Germany and declard it the new way forward for capitalism with the failure of liberal democratic capitalist economies.

Secondly, China hordes American debt as an ignorant response the the East Asian Crisis.

Thirdly, China hordes American currency because the world is on a DOLLAR STANDARD and not a Gold Standard.

At some point the currency will need to be returned to the USA in the form of imports.

The key issue right, the issue that none of the establishment is telling you, is that China needs the courage and the political will to transition to this function. The struggle is WITHIN China, NOT between China and the USA.

Forces for a global china understand the imabalance is in their hands. Forces for regional Chinese hegemony wish to hold this currency and debt hostage. This will only lead to conflict.

All the best,
Mordezlet

Posted by: mordezlet1 | January 4, 2011 11:35 PM | Report abuse

(Excuse me,my English is suck)
First of all,"carrots and sticks" are for donkeys. China and their people do not want to be the donkey any more, therefore, by your words "China's growing belligerency" shows up. China just fighting for their international rights they deserve it.
Secondly,as you said "its bullying of its neighbors", if you mean the island issue, I can tell you is a history problem, the smartest president Kennedy also played an inglorious role. Or the tombarthite issue, China supplies 90% of the world's rare earth, only 35% of their deposits. Rare earth mining not only pollute the environment, but also a lack of economic benefits. It is said that Japan bought 20 years of rare-earth enough for their own use. China is likely becoming a RE importing country in the next 5 to 10 years."The world does not need China's tombarthite, they need China's cheap tombarthite". The company like Mitsui Group, has been exploited in the monopoly of China's rare earth industry.
North Korea is actually an orphan, autism, weak, poor but also has a Self-esteem. Just make sure the North Korean nuclear facilities are not used in war, in fact North Korea is not threatening the United States and world security.
As for the issue of global warming, China has long been committed to the implementation of the plan to reduce carbon emissions. (scientists themselves can not prove it as proof of the authenticity of acid rain, the lack of strong evidence.)
China's human rights needs to be improved, but it has nothing to do with other countries, it is clear that the pursuit of freedom and equality for all mankind. And because of this, China is more secure needs a stable world environment.If the U.S. wants to get rid of the financial crisis and development, also needs a stable environment. Therfore, wo have a commen goal.
To find a common ground to solve the problem, rather than looking for differences. The greatest president Lincoln's biggest advantages is good at making friends.

Posted by: CNBB | January 5, 2011 4:27 AM | Report abuse

China is not interested in helping the US unless it meets China’s interest – period! What is China’s interest? Ulimately, China wants to be the number superpower in the world, and the only way to do that is undermine the US at every step of the way: economically, militarily, diplomatically, etc. Anything that weakens the US is good news for China, and events such as 911, the war in Afghanistan, the struggling US economy, etc are all items that China’s leadership relishes behind closed doors. No American truly believes that China’s leadership has our interest at heart, yet the US has the interest of the Chinese people at heart. We value the best and brightest Chinese students coming to America. Not only do they bring needed finances but we hope they bring back to China how to politically fix their country so that we can really be friends beyond cultural interchanges. I really think the ball is in China’s court to become a politically better country by honoring human rights, giving its people more freedom, having freedom of press, religion, assembly, etc. I’ve been to China several times, and China is really a fairly unhappy country, and it is all because of the government they live under.

Posted by: mlouisa70394 | January 5, 2011 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Yes, this meeting may not be so important. China is actually not interested in helping the US unless it meets China’s interest – period! What is China’s interest? Ulimately, China wants to be the number superpower in the world, and the only way to do that is undermine the US at every step of the way: economically, militarily, diplomatically, etc. Anything that weakens the US is good news for China, and events such as 911, the war in Afghanistan, the struggling US economy, etc are all items that China’s leadership relishes behind closed doors. No American truly believes that China’s leadership has our interest at heart, yet the US has the interest of the Chinese people at heart. We value the best and brightest Chinese students coming to America. Not only do they bring needed finances but we hope they bring back to China how to politically fix their country so that we can really be friends beyond cultural interchanges. I really think the ball is in China’s court to become a politically better country by honoring human rights, giving its people more freedom, having freedom of press, religion, assembly, etc. I’ve been to China several times, and China is really a fairly unhappy country, and it is all because of the government they live under.

Posted by: mlouisa70394 | January 5, 2011 6:42 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: jsram666 | January 8, 2011 1:51 PM | Report abuse

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