WARREN COHEN, PROFESSOR EMERITUS OF HISTORY
The widely reported refusal of Google to serve as an instrument of Chinese repression is a reminder that those who have been predicting the liberalization of China for the last twenty years were wrong. American leaders have long imagined that a strong, stable and prosperous China would be in the interest of the United States. In the early years of the new millennium, China has become strong, prosperous, and reasonably stable—but its actions have left few Americans believing that’s good for them.
Apprehension about the future of Chinese-American relations derives only marginally from the fact that the Communist Party monopolizes power. Few Americans fear a Chinese attack or the spread of communism. They do fear the possibility of China outstripping the United States.
For the United States, China’s surge has been a mixed blessing. China’s purchase of US debt has kept the economy afloat, and China’s growth has driven the economies of its neighbors. The boom years of the 1990s were in part a result of Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms and China’s leap into the global marketplace. And, however grudgingly, Beijing has moved toward acceptance of some international norms of behavior. But there are caveats: American (and European) workers have lost jobs to lower paid Chinese workers and the undervalued Chinese currency has had a negative impact on the economies of the United States and the European Union.