This month, China will participate for the first time in the U.S.-led Rim of the Pacific naval exercise, better known as RIMPAC. Four Chinese navy ships, including a destroyer, are sailing to Hawaii to join 25,000 sailors, 200 aircraft and nearly 50 ships from more than 20 countries.
The Obama administration’s decision to include China in the world’s largest naval exercise is only the latest U.S. move designed to encourage Beijing to play a more productive role in the world. Such efforts have been a signature feature of Washington’s China policy since the normalization of relations in 1979.
The problem, however, is that, after 35 years of such engagement , China is now calling into question its commitment to preserving the very system that facilitated its rise. This argues for a careful reassessment of the overall U.S. approach to China.
The current approach has been premised on the idea that China’s integration into the prevailing economic and security order not only is in China’s interest but also benefits the United States and the whole world. Washington has supported China’s accession to leading multilateral institutions, such as the World Trade Organization, and steadily enhanced bilateral relations with Beijing through a panoply of diplomatic engagements, including the annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue that will convene in Beijing in July.