5 November 2014

China's Rise Isn't A Threat To The U.S., Former President Jimmy Carter Says


China’s rising success in the world isn’t a threat to the United States, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said in a speech in Shanghai to mark the 35th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries this year.

“I don’t think there is any doubt in the future that China will be No.1 economically, and of course China will be just as strong militarily as you choose to be,” Carter said. “That is not a threat to the United States.”

The former president approvingly recalled a remark by Chinese President Xi Jinping, “The Pacific Ocean is big enough for both of us.”

Carter’s views contrast with critics that say China’s growing military assertiveness is at odds with U.S. interests and that mercantilistic policies have worsened America’s already serious — though largely self-inflicted – long term economic problems.

It was under Carter’s leadership that Washington switched diplomatic relations to Beijing from long-time ally Taiwan in 1979. China’s Nationalist government lost a civil war to the Communist Party on the mainland in 1949 and moved its capital to Taipei.

Communist leader Mao Zedong set up the People’s Republic of China on the mainland that year and went on to lead the country through the nationalization of private property and tumultuous “Great Leap Forward” and “Cultural Revolution” campaigns. Mao’s death in 1976 – the year Carter was elected president – helped to pave the way for a reset in U.S.-China ties and led the former Georgia peanut farmer to embrace Chinese reformer Deng Xiaoping in a relationship that has since stunningly altered global wealth and power.

For its part, Taiwan, over which Beijing claims sovereignty, is today a well-off democracy that considers itself to be a politically separate part of a divided China but also has close economic ties to the mainland.

China’s economic reforms, launched shortly after the U.S.-China rapprochement, have helped both China and the global economy, Carter said, noting the benefits of China’s involvement in Africa.

Deng Xiaoping and Jimmy Carter. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“We will always have differences,” Carter said of the U.S. and China, arising from unlike forms of government, varying history, geography, and other factors. However, he expressed optimism that a search for common ground and an emphasis on mutual respect would create a foundation for progress between the two.

“Peaceful competition between my country and yours is a good thing,” Carter said. He lauded the large number of students from each side studying in the other’s country.

Carter noted that “it s not just China that is becoming stronger and stronger in the world but also other countries,” such as India, Russia, South Africa and Brazil. “The United States of America is going to have to accommodate this in a peaceful way,” he said.

Carter didn’t specifically address contentious business and economic issues, such as the huge, chronic U.S. trade imbalance with China, or recent Xi government anti-monopoly probes that many foreign companies see as unfairly aimed at international businesses. Carter expressed support for a crackdown on corruption being led by China’s president, and called for more cooperation between the U.S. and China on environmental issues.

Carter’s address, “Reflections on Sino-American Relations 35 Years After Normalization,” was part of the Barnett-Oksenberg lecture series on Sino-U.S. relations. It was sponsored by the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations and the Shanghai Association of American Studies.

The speech attracted almost 500 people, the largest number since the series was started nine years ago. Carter’s wife Rosalynn also appeared at the Shanghai event.

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