June 10th, 2013
07:15 AM ET

Analyst: Asia relies on us to stand up to China

"Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Fareed speaks with Joseph Nye, the former dean and now a professor at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and Noah Feldman, a professor of international law at the Harvard Law School, about U.S. ties with China.

Noah, you say that relations between China and the United States are almost destined to get cooler, perhaps worse.

Feldman: The fact is that the U.S. remains the sole global superpower. And it’s not in China's interests, in the long term, for that to be the case in the future. China wants, at least within Asia, for itself to be the regional superpower. At the same time, what separates this from heading for a Cold War direction is that we’re deeply cooperative with China. We still need them to buy our debt and they still need us to buy their goods.  And that’s going to continue to be the case going forward.  So we’re both cooperating and competing at once.

Joe, this is a kind of strange new world, in that, if you think about the Cold War, we had no trade relations with the Soviet Union. We actually sanctioned them. So can you imagine a situation with the world’s two great trading partners also ending up with an adversarial military relationship?

Nye: It could happen, but on the other hand, there are strong incentives to keep it under control.  Because there’s such interdependence between the two countries, I think there’s a strong interest on both sides to keep this from getting out of control. We’re going to be able to manage this relationship if we don’t succumb to neuroses and paranoia, and if the Chinese don’t succumb to hubris.

It’s not rising in a vacuum and it’s not rising in the Western Hemisphere, which was a kind of relatively calm place. It’s rising in Asia. And every time it rises, the Japanese get scared or angry. The South Koreans, the Vietnamese, the Philippines, the Indians – even the Australians. What does that look like?

Feldman: Well, I think the relevant strategic question is can those countries do anything about the fact that they’re threatened by China? And, you know, with the possible exception of a future Japan that armed itself in a more serious way, none of those countries really has anything like the military capacity to stand up to China. They are reliant upon us to stand up to China.

And here’s where things get tricky, because the cyber attacks that have been such a topic of discussion, both presumably in the summit and more broadly, have really shown that you can close the military technology gap much faster today than you could have 25 or 50 years ago. So in that world, where they can really close the gap with greater speed, the countries in Asia have really little choice but to look to us. And that does put us on a potentially confrontational footing. I will also just add that those other countries still have close economic ties to China. And in many ways, their ties are getting closer to China than they are to us. So they’re in a paradoxical position, too. And that’s what a cool war looks like, where those countries are tied to us for security, but increasingly tied to China for their economies.

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Topics: GPS Show

soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. JAL

    Time for an ice cream break!

    June 10, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Reply
    • JAL


      June 10, 2013 at 12:26 pm | Reply
  2. Sand Up?

    How do you Sand Up?

    June 10, 2013 at 4:31 pm | Reply
  3. j. von hettlingen

    Had Mitt Romney won the election last November and with the GOP in the Congress, there's a risk that the US could turn the clock back to the McCarthy era. Romney – as president – would react so strongly to the alleged cyber attacks from China that this incident would prompt him spark a conflict, like the one history saw with the Soviet Union during the Cuban missile crisis.

    June 10, 2013 at 5:55 pm | Reply
    • Non GOP

      Messaging to get oneself elected is different from what one would do if elected. Nobody is that stupid to start a war they can't be certain to win. What would the US gain from a war with China? What outcome would the war mongers hope to achieve?

      June 10, 2013 at 9:02 pm | Reply
  4. vistar hornbill

    Many Asian countries are wary about involving US in any political or military confrontation with their neighbours. But the few that had in the past had other motivation to rub shoulders with America. America, afterall, have a big money printing machine.

    I think most Asian nations have very little faith in American intervention, after seeing for themselves the mess US military often get themselves into fighting other people's wars.

    That said, America is a useful deterrent tool for Asia for now, but US troops must remember to stay a distance and not get physically involved.

    In the decades ahead, China would replace US as big brother , and protector. China would become economically and militarily powerful to provide cover for them. The old ways would be over for China, it is time to it play an important role in Asian affairs. There are afterall many Chinese in every Asian country. To do that, it is possible that China and other closeby Asian countries form a grouping of their own, just like the EU did. These newly allied countries share the prosperity thru increased trade and co operation. They will also defend each other from any foreign invasion.

    Conficts among Asian countries seldom happen unless provoked by a foreign sugar daddy...

    June 10, 2013 at 9:20 pm | Reply
  5. Andrew

    USA should not try to betray her Western alliances. USA belongs to the West, NATO, EU; not China. The West suffered enough from non-abiding US politics, that collaborated with Asians and played-out her Western partners. No way, no more, no go!

    June 11, 2013 at 7:08 am | Reply
    • Quigley

      Another ignorant comment from another bird brained Tea Partier! The whole world would be better off without this most unholy alliance called NATO!

      June 12, 2013 at 8:12 am | Reply
  6. Hans-Joerg

    We don't need them to buy our debt and we should not buy their goods. And that’s not going to continue. So we can not afford to both cooperating and competing at once. ... because USA does not understand the West, we need Great Britain's tradition in Western leadership, no Washington, DC anymore.

    June 11, 2013 at 8:56 am | Reply
    • Quigley

      What a stupid post this is, Hans-Joerg! Of course we need China as much as they need us, if not more! Besides, why does Asia need anyone to "stand up" to China anyway? If that's the case, then let J apan do it for a change!

      June 12, 2013 at 8:09 am | Reply

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