Le monde est-il destiné à devenir un condominium sino-américain? Par pour l’instant en tout cas….
The incompatibility of values and political systems lies close to the heart of this strategic mistrust. Despite the many reforms introduced over the past 30 years, the PRC remains a one-party state run by a self-selected leadership that will brook no challenge to its authority. The gradual tightening of controls over free expression during the past several years makes it clear that China is not evolving as many had hoped; greater introduction of market mechanisms, exposure to the outside world, and the emergence of a middle class are not leading visibly to a more liberal political system. If anything, the trend has been the opposite. The stronger China has appeared to become, the more its leaders have repressed challenges, and felt comfortable rebuffing criticism from the outside. Although Obama referred to differences in their mutual approach to human right in his opening remarks, the virtual absence of serious discussion of the issue at the S&ED in Washington symbolizes the Administration’s perceived need to soft-pedal political and social differences in order to re-right the world’s economy. No bilateral condominium is likely to emerge involving two countries with such radically different values and approaches to “interference in the internal affairs” of the other.
Even the idea of an economically “symbiotic relationship” has turned out to be a chimera. The credit-fuelled consumer consumption and deficit spending by the US were propped up by massive Chinese purchases of US government or government-backed debt. China is now paralyzed by its holdings of more than $800 billion in US Treasury bills: it cannot unwind its investment substantially or rapidly without precipitating a catastrophic decline in the value of its holdings and is reduced virtually to begging the US government to “adopt policies that will protect the value of its investments,” as the regime’s official press service reported after the Washington meeting. At the same time, with America’s budget deficit ballooning under the pressure of two on-going wars and the Administration’s ambitious agenda for health care reform, economic stimulus, and other programs promised during the campaign, Washington is reduced to pleading with Beijing to continue to buy Treasuries while promising not to take measures that would destabilize China’s fragile and questionable economic recovery.
In short, Sino-American economic symbiosis has come to look more like a mutual death grip in which neither side dares make a precipitous move for fear of going over the cliff with the other. Leaders on both sides appear to recognize the very tenuous and touchy situation underlying the relationship and are eschewing grandiose claims or plans for condominium. In today’s increasingly integrated world the Sino-American economic co-dependence is one, albeit the strongest, of the connections that link the two countries. Their divergent political interests and ambitions and their many other respective connections and responsibilities rule out Washington and Beijing running a condominium. Admission of such a reality came from none other than Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who noted that in the decades ahead, “great countries will be defined less by their power to dominate or divide than by their capacity to solve problems…the fresh thinking of the 21st century moves us from a multi-polar world to a multi-partner world.”
On peut ajouter qu’un partenariat aussi manifestement inégal serait bien étrange. Quoiqu’on pense de l’avenir de la Chine, elle est aujourd’hui encore loin d’être une puissance globale capable de faire jeu égale avec les Etats-Unis.