John Kerry has been nominated to be the new secretary of state by reelected US President Barack Obama. Since Kerry has no competitor and is a veteran senator himself, with a long term on the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, there's little doubt he will be the next secretary of state.
Will the relationship between China and the US be better in Obama's second term than it was over the past four years? The answer to this question will decide the strategic atmosphere of the whole Asia-Pacific region and have a substantial impact on people's expectations of the nature of international relations in the 21st century.
In fact, there were no serious conflicts between China and the US over the past four years when Clinton served as secretary of state. However, both these two powers are now more suspicious toward the other side of the Asia-Pacific. They have more direct or indirect contests and are seriously preparing for deteriorating relations. Objectively, Clinton has been a driving force behind strategic suspicion between China and the US.
The two countries have already come to a crossroads: to expand contact to build a future bilateral relationship, or let strategic suspicion develop toward hostility.
The US is a world hegemony while China is gradually developing a global strategic role. The next four years will be important in terms of deciding whether there will be more peace or more tension in the Sino-US relationship.
The gap between the strength of China and the US will narrow. Previous experiences in international politics will be viewed as realistic reasons to exacerbate tensions between the two sides. This is a dangerous era.
As an assertive secretary of state, Clinton has branded US policy toward China with her own character. Her aggressive attitude has been brought into international relations, which created more misunderstandings and mutual discomfort between China and the US.
Kerry participated in the Vietnam War. Due to his complex experiences, he may have a broader attitude. Most analysts believe that he will be a more moderate secretary of state. We hope this is true.
Both sides' attitudes toward the other depend on their strategic interests.
Sino-US relations have a firm realistic foundation. The tension between the two countries mostly comes from their methods of understanding geopolitics.
Since the US has been the leading power in the world, especially after World War II, it has had sufficient capabilities to cope with geopolitical challenges. But China is an unfamiliar case to the US. The US needs new ways of thinking to understand China.
Strategic interaction between China and the US may lead to progress in terms of human civilization. The success of this will mean that the history of no powers rising peacefully has been ended and that the tragedies of power politics have to an extent, been stopped. However, the failure of this will be a major setback for all mankind.
Due to Obama's personal life and experiences, the outside world has many expectations of him. The world is changing all the time. Whether there will be more openness in US national interests will depend on Obama's next four years.