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Geopolitics

USA-China: Détente Or Cold War?

Chinese President Hu Jintao’s state visit to Washington this week could signal a thaw in relations between the United States and China, or proof that a new “Cold War” is around the corner

Chinese soldiers (Dominic Rivard)

Détente or Cold War, past clichés are inappropriate when discussing the complex relationship between the old superpower of the United States and the emerging one of China. But these are the words being used as Chinese President Hu Jintao embarks on a closely watched visit to Washington.

When veteran political scientist and diplomat Henry Kissinger writes an article in The Washington Post headlined "Avoiding a U.S.-China Cold War", it means the danger of this happening is real. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made assurances for her part that the United States is not trying to "contain China", as was the case with the Soviet Union following the Second World War.

On the Chinese side, President Hu has called for a thawing of relations, asking his U.S. hosts to abandon the "zero-sum Cold war mentality".

This return to language reminiscent of the Soviet Union era reflects the climate of distrust in the air, even if the purpose of Hu's visit is to mark improved relations between the two nations. The White House state dinner scheduled for Wednesday will, in any case, be presented in Beijing as evidence that the People's Republic is finally being treated as an equal by the United States.

The Chinese people's perception of their place in the world is changing faster than the impression given by their representatives.

The test flight of a stealth fighter in China on the day U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was visiting Beijing last week, was seen as yet another worrying Cold War sign, as well as an indication of the aggressive stance of the People Liberation Army, which appears to be marking its autonomy in relation to civil powers.

The Chinese president for his part is not ready to agree to any of the demands being made by the new Republican-dominated Congress. Instead, has sent mixed messages recently about policy toward currency values in both China and the United States.

If China wants to transcend this heritage, ensuring at the same time that the United States doesn't fall back on reflexes of a bygone era, the country will need to unite with those who are seeking to move things forward.

Read the original article in French

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