Albright: US rebalance not about limits, containment

Source:Global Times Published: 2016/6/20 23:08:00

Madeleine Albright Photo: courtesy of She Zhijun

Editor's Note

As China is raising support for its position in the South China Sea ahead of the arbitral tribunal ruling on the Philippines case, it faces a complicated international landscape. In an interview with Global Times (GT) reporter Wu Ningning, former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright (Albright) reiterated that the US is a Pacific power and that the Asia rebalancing strategy of the US, in her view, is misunderstood in China because it is not about limits or containment.

GT: Many countries, including the US, consider China's rise as a looming threat especially in the South China sea, but China thinks of itself provoked, not provocative. How do we understand the security dilemma both China and the US face?

Albright: Let me just say, as I have said so many times, that the US-China relationship is the most important relationship of the 21st century. It is a relationship that has many facets, and as many important relationships, there are some good days and bad days, and complications. We just had a very good set of talks at the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, but not everything was resolved in terms of currencies, negative lists and all that.  

I do think that the issue right now that is the most worrisome is the South and East China Seas. It is important for Chinese to understand the US is not just an Atlantic power, it is a Pacific power. We order the Pacific and the Japanese and South Koreans are US allies. We have a long-standing relationship with the Philippines and a relationship now with the Vietnamese, which is a positive one.

I think those countries are very concerned about what China is doing on the reefs and why. And what's surprising, from their perspective and American is why the Chinese are not more interested in having freedom of navigation and developing a code of conduct that is not confrontational. But this clearly is a very difficult issue now and I think we need to be very careful there is not some kind of accident happens.

GT: You value deeper or even personal relation between leaders. But your good relations with your then Chinese counterpart Li Zhaoxing didn't prevent the US bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999.

Albright: The Chinese embassy bombing was a mistake, US has made that clear over and over again. I certainly did. Li Zhaoxing had been the permanent representative of China to the UN and when I became the secretary of state, he became the ambassador. I went to see him, for whatever reasons, and I don't know what they were, the Chinese refused to accept our explanation. It was a long time ago. It is not something that will help in terms of making sure this important relationship is done on the basis of facts, not on the basis of suspicions and made-up stories.

GT: Political scientist David Shambaugh commented that China's reform is stagnating and lacks a big push in his recent interview with the Wall Street Journal. What do you think of the ongoing reforms in China?

Albright: I think from coming here and also from a business perspective is that people are confused about what is happening. Xi Jinping came in with a lot of very forward-leaning ideas on the reform and various plans, but the growth has slowed and people don't quite understand what the steps forward are going to be in terms of welcoming outside investment, and what about what's happening on currencies. So there is more skepticism about what is happening and I think there needs to be more contact, not only government to government but businesspeople. I think that American businesspeople are finding it harder and harder to do things. My business partner and I were just talking in there and explaining there is a certain amount of concern that things are slowing down.

GT: To what degree do you agree with US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter's claims that China is isolating itself?

Albright: People don't quite understand what China wants to do and what is happening in South and East China Seas is very worrisome. I think people are looking at Xi as having a kind of more outward looking approach and concern about the rise of nationalism.

GT: How do you evaluate rising nationalism?

Albright: I think actually nationalism is very dangerous and is dangerous everywhere. I have said this in terms of what's happening in Central and East Europe and have said this about the US. Patriotism is one thing, to be proud of your country, but if you are nationalist, when you hate or mistrust another country and blame another country for your problems, that is very dangerous.

GT: Will the rise of Donald Trump cause lasting damage to the US image overseas?

Albright: Yes. I think it is very hard to explain it. I usually, as a former diplomat, do not like to criticize my country when I am abroad. But I have got so many questions about what Trump is saying or doing that I think it is confusing people because he is making statements that some of them have no basis in fact and are raising nationalism. I think that there is confusion between globalization and trade, but I do think that fair trade agreements are very important. They have to be fair to our workers and your workers, but simply saying that we are not going to deal with China or other countries is ridiculous. I mean he says things that from a US perspective, don't make any sense.

GT: If Hillary Clinton is elected as the first female US president, what advice would you give her as a female diplomat who also once broke political glass ceilings?

Albright: She does not need my advice. She understands the importance of the relationship with China, the rebalance which goes back to one of your earlier questions, I think there has been a misunderstanding in this part of the world, it has nothing to do with our trying to limit or contain. If you look at the map, we are a Pacific power, we have friends in the Pacific, we want to have very positive relations, and she understands how we state our relationship. One of the things that is frankly expected is that if one country has a problem with another, then you raise it with them.

Newspaper headline: Albright: US rebalance not about limits

Posted in:

blog comments powered by Disqus