Washington | The historic decision by Richard Nixon in the 1970s to normalize the Us relationship with communist China was the germ of the current crisis, the most serious to date between Washington and Beijing?
This is what is suggested by the head of the american diplomacy Mike Pompeo who, accusing the asian giant of not having kept his promises, was released on Thursday, the failure of this strategy of openness — in a speech for the library dedicated to the former republican president who had initiated.
An analysis applauded by some hawks, but contested by other actors and specialists in these four decades saw-tooth. Even if all agree that the two superpowers are now entered into an era of strategic competition fierce for world supremacy. Even in a new cold War.
It all started with a trip secret: that of Henry Kissinger in 1971 in Beijing, paving the way for the coming a few months later, at the great day this time, from president Nixon in which he was the adviser.
The “reconciliation” with Mao’s China was involved.
“But the dialogue has not resulted in the change that president Nixon hoped to induce in China,” said Mike Pompeo, before making a decision: “the old paradigm of dialogue blind with the China simply doesn’t work”.
“It is historically wrong to say that the american policy of openness towards China was based on the naive hope that China is libéraliserait politically”, leaps Stapleton Roy, who participated in the negotiations of the 1970s before being ambassador to the United States in Beijing, twenty years later.
According to him, the duo Nixon-Kissinger, “totally pragmatic” wanted “to strengthen our position in the cold War with the soviet Union” in pushing a wedge between the two communist countries “and, incidentally, obtain the assistance of China to end the Vietnam war”. “The main objective has been completed in a decisive way, not the second,” he told AFP.
Mira Rapp-Hooper, of the think tank Council on Foreign Relations, points out that the relaxation was not self-evident — the establishment of diplomatic relations, ” controversial “, do not occur in 1979, under the leadership of Jimmy Carter and Deng Xiaoping.
Until then, Washington recognized Taiwan, the refuge of the nationalist chinese, as a single Republic of China, and he has had to overcome stubborn resistance in the us Congress to recognize Beijing in relegating the ally taiwan.
But “the diplomats have never thought that China, which at the time was “absolutely not a great power,” “went on to become a liberal democracy,” says the researcher.
The bloody repression of pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen square in 1989, with hundreds dead, opened the first hard phase. The United States has imposed sanctions.
Arrived at the White House in 1993, Bill Clinton wants to condition the clause of “most favoured nation”, granted in Beijing to expand the bilateral trade, the respect of human rights.
“Relations were extremely tense,” recalls the ambassador Roy, then working in the chinese capital. But the democratic president has finally “been able to overcome these obstacles and improve cooperation”.
“Economic interests have prevailed,” sums up in no uncertain Mira Rapp-Hooper. “There was the sense of a rise in the power of inexorable of China, which could be positive for the United States” through a movement of reform, she adds, admitting to a certain “naivety” on certain aspects.
Because in the meantime, the most populous country in the world has started to develop under the impetus of the opening to the market economy of Deng Xiaoping. Its market of over a billion inhabitants arouses lusts, and its labour cheap to attract investment: globalization is in the process of hatching, and China is fully established by its entry in the world trade Organization in 2001.
This is what is denounced today the hawks of the government of Donald Trump.
Westerners “have allowed the rebirth of a chinese economy in a crisis, only to see China biting the hand international that the fed”, has launched Mike Pompeo, in a real indictment against the chinese communist Party, a personification in his own eyes the country’s rival.
The turning point had in fact started as soon as the global financial crisis of 2008.
For Mira Rapp-Hooper, “the chinese leadership thought that the democratic model liberal american began to waver, and that China had the opportunity to establish itself as a great power”, “without bothering to adapt its business practices or its regime and the external expectations”.
It is this “structural change in the nature of chinese power,” which has helped to bring the relationship ” to their historic low,” she said, even if the crisis is also occasionally fueled by the recent activism of the administration Trump, anxious to show its muscles to the approach of the presidential election of November 3.
Result: a “negative spiral in almost all areas”, the future of Hong Kong the rights of muslim uighurs, charges of industrial espionage in the management of the pandemic, passing through the south China sea and the trade war.
“China has adopted the characteristics of the other rising powers, becoming more arrogant and pushing the defence of its own interests”, also considers Stapleton Roy, who adds, however: “it is a problem that a good diplomacy can manage, without threats or bluster”.