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The Promise and Limitations of a Sino-U.S. Partnership

The Washington Quarterly, Vol.27, No.4, Autumn 2004

What Did 9/11 Change? - Xinbo  Wu

The Promise and Limitations of a Sino-U.S. Partnership

Wu Xinbo is a professor at the Center for American Studies, Fudan University, in Shanghai.

Terrorism’s emergence after September 11, 2001, as the primary threat to international security introduced a new focus to Chinese foreign policy and brought about a great opportunity for improving relations with the United States. The broadened and deepened cooperation with Washington on counterterrorism and nonproliferation raised the prospect of a Sino-U.S. partnership in a new international setting. The effects of U.S. foreign policy adjustments on U.S. relations with China, however, are mixed. Although September 11 lowered China’s status on the United States’ threat list, the way the Bush administration has pursued the campaign on terrorism, particularly the invasion of Iraq, has aroused strong Chinese concern about the orientation of U.S. foreign policy, thus constraining the two countries’ emerging partnership.

Although Chinese leaders and scholars have long been aware of the rise of nontraditional security challenges, a new recognition of terrorism’s capacity for destruction in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks has largely reshaped China’s security concept as well as its foreign and security policies. As the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs explicitly acknowledged, “the 9/11 incident underscored the imminent threat of terrorism to international peace and security.” New concern over the terrorist threat in the global war on terrorism in the three years since the attacks has encouraged the Chinese government to undertake a series of security and foreign policy initiatives in counterterrorism, nonproliferation, and regional security, as well as develop a greater commitment to multilateralism.

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