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US-China Study Authors Defend Findings

April 05, 2012

VOA News

China's state media say U.S. press reports overstate differences between the United States and China described in a report by two leading scholars.

The Communist Party-affiliated Global Times newspaper said Thursday that Western media "cannot help using a magnifier" in describing what the paper called "relatively unoptimistic, frank statements" about the future of the relationship.

But Kenneth Lieberthal, former National Security Council aide to then-president Bill Clinton, told VOA he and his Chinese co-author are worried about the future of the relationship. He also acknowledged that officials on both sides have come to know each other well and become better at handling day-to-day issues.

"Nevertheless, there has actually been increasing distrust about the long-term intentions of each toward the other," said Lieberthal. "In other words, if you look out 10 to 15 years from now, is the assumption that the U.S. and China will have a basically normal big-power relationship, or is the assumption that somehow one will be winning at the expense of the other and this will be a more antagonistic relationship?"

Lieberthal wrote the report for the Washington-based Brookings Institution together with Wang Jisi, dean of international studies at Beijing University and a member of the Foreign Policy Advisory Committee at China's foreign ministry.

Global Times quotes Wang as saying that some American media thought the authors were talking negatively about the U.S.-China relationship when in fact they were trying to put relations on a course where the two countries will not misunderstand one another.

Lieberthal agreed, saying each author tried to explain his own country's attitudes toward leaders of the other country in order to head off misunderstandings.

He said that if leaders of the two countries think creatively and understand each other's key concerns, the countries can have a normal relationship.

"[The idea is to] cooperate where you can, [with] both sides seeking to mitigate tensions and problems where active cooperation proves too difficult," he said. "That, I think, should be attainable, but it will not be achievable unless we do some things differently from what we’ve been doing today."

Lieberthal says one of the areas of greatest concern is the potential for conflict over naval operations in the seas surrounding China. He says the two countries should engage in a deep military dialogue about the issue and understand that neither can have everything its own way.

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