U.S. and Chinese “Cracks” and the Future of Cross-Pacific Relations

CrackBy Andreas Kuersten

The Montreal Review

It’s a quiet Sunday afternoon in the nation’s capital, September 27th, 2015; the day after Chinese President Xi Xinping departed for New York City.  Chinese flags placed on the light posts along Constitution Avenue still wave.  They flow with the cadence of a cool fall breeze, flanked on either side by the flags of the United States of America and District of Columbia.  Following this strip of pageantry east leads one to the steps of the Capitol Building, its dome shrouded in scaffolding as the cracks from the 2011 earthquake continue to be repaired.

Under the subdued light of this cloudy day, the cracks can seem like those split along America’s standing in the world following over a decade of war and a financial crisis that cratered the U.S. economy.  The strain of being the lone superpower, foundation of global trade, world’s police force, and bearing a dysfunctional government having finally produced physical representation along the building that so stoically symbolizes America.  The country’s house of governance sits in a sling.

And here came China for two days of pleasantries and policy talk.  The rock amid the Great Recession, whose continued economic growth saved it from depression and helped pull the world back from the brink.   The mighty newcomer whose economy will inevitably surpass America’s, whose military increasingly pushes up against its East and Southeast Asian neighbors and U.S. allies, and who now speaks openly of the impending end of American global predominance.  An eager challenger parading in the shadow of the limping champion.

But America’s weakness is only visible from a certain angle.  A clear day lets in the light of economic reports and experts that repeatedly show the U.S. economy has made a dramatic recovery from the Great Recession and continues to be robust despite the growing weakness of international markets.  What other country could simultaneously take on two wars on the other side of the planet, maintain its other global commitments, and weather one of the most severe economic downturns in history?  And partially undertake all of this during a period of profound government dysfunction, when a Republican Congress and Democratic President were almost completely unable to get along.  Such a colossal feat requires a nation of extraordinary strength; a sovereign bulwark against storm surges that would have washed away anything lesser.

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Picture: hanonimas (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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