Engaging China and India: A Conversation With Anja Manuel

China and India are both pivotal players in forging Asia’s future. Anja ManuelCo-founder and Partner along with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, in RiceHadleyGates, LLC, a strategic consulting firm, and author of The Brave New World: India, China and the United States (Simon & Schuster, May 2016)shares her perspective on U.S.-Asia strategy in an interview with Mercy Kuo, a recent contributor to The Strategy Bridge.  

Why do India and China matter?

China and India will have a dramatic impact on the United States in the next decade.

First, our companies will sell to them.  China has the world’s largest middle class, and by 2030, China and India will share nearly 3 billion of the world’s population between them. By 2030 India will likely have 100 million more citizens than China, making India the world’s most populous country with the world’s fastest growing middle class—a sizeable market for U.S. companies.

The U.S. will also need China and India to help solve the world’s biggest problems, in particular, climate change. India will likely lead the world in energy demand by 2030. And China and India will be the world’s first and third largest emitters of carbon—so we can’t possibly solve this concern without their cooperation.

Finally, if we want peace at home, we need to keep Asia peaceful. Asia bought nearly 50 percent of global arms imports in the past few years. A lot of those are going to China and India.  That is a worrisome trend.

Getting relations right with both countries serves long-term U.S. vital interests.

In This Brave New World: India, China, and the United States, you liken China to pre-World World I Germany rather than Nazi Germany. Explain the implication vis-à-vis U.S.-India relations.

Pundits and U.S. presidential candidates often talk as if China were already an American adversary. Yet few seem worried about Asia’s other rising giant, India.

There’s temptation to support India, a like-minded democracy, as a counterweight against the growing power of authoritarian China. Yet history shows that this approach would be a mistake. The British Empire encountered a similar situation in the late 19th century, as two other powers—Germany and the United States—encroached on its dominance in world politics. Both these rivals had strong economies, were rapidly industrializing, and sought a place for themselves in the international order. Germany was a monarchy. The United States was a democracy that shared some, but not all, of Britain’s values. 

Over several decades, Britain’s leaders chose to accommodate the rise of the United States, believing that the country would generally align itself with the rules of the international system Britain had established, by keeping the seas free for navigation, and trade mostly open. British leaders tolerated many U.S. missteps. The two avoided major conflicts and ultimately became staunch allies. However, Britain treated Germany mostly as a rival to be balanced. Both countries rapidly built up their navies in the lead-up to World War I, and ultimately fought two devastating wars.

It would be better if American leaders adopted toward both China and India the same perspective the 19th-century British held toward the upstart Americans. Be patient when China and India act impetuously, as most newly rising powers do.  Be clear about where the lines are and enforce them consistently.  And finally, practice cooperating wherever we can.  

What should be the main objectives of next U.S. administration’s strategy toward China and India?

Anja Manuel

Although the United States will of course have some interests that differ with those of China and India, Washington’s ability to ensure good relations with both countries will advance prosperity here at home.

What should the U.S. do? First, be clear and consistent about what our lines are. For example, Washington should consistently and quietly maintain freedom of navigation operations (FONOPS) in the South China Sea and engage regional stakeholders to do so as well—instead of stopping for several years and restarting, as we have done.  Less media coverage would help China save face. The U.S. should also consistently call on China to cease industrial cyber-spying and India to uphold intellectual property protection.

Most importantly, the U.S., China, and India should practice cooperation wherever possible. Creating goodwill makes it easier to defuse crises and mitigate risks.

Collaboration on climate change is a salient example of a successful cooperation, such as the 2014 U.S.-China climate change agreement and the 2008 U.S.-India civilian nuclear deal.  Having directly participated in the latter, I can attest that despite the difficult and often painful negotiating process, the exchanges taught us how to work together with our Indian counterparts. As a result, we learned how to work with the government of India on other critical issues, such as counter-terrorism and defense.

Collaboration isn’t just the job of the U.S. government.  American companies can help, for example by developing clean technologies in India and or building elder-care facilities for China’s aging population, all while supporting American jobs. People-to-people diplomacy through inviting exchange students from China and India into our homes and visiting these countries will help limit distrust and dispel cultural misperceptions.

What is the potential impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on U.S. national security?

TPP is of course currently unpopular in the United States, but it is a key part of America’s engagement in Asia. We must remain economically, militarily and diplomatically engaged. TPP is an important first step. If and when it passes, the United States should hold out an open hand to India and China, who both are not part of TPP, to join. A U.S.-led trade bloc with a rival China-led trade bloc, is in no one’s interest. Washington needs to engage the enormous economies of both countries.  

How might the next U.S. president articulate the strategic relevance of Asia globally and domestically to the American public?

It is true that American middle-class and blue-collar workers are suffering. U.S. presidential candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have made China a scapegoat for American fears.

The next U.S. president needs to explain that cooperating with China, India, and others will help Americans. It is true that China and India coddle their national champions, and make it hard for U.S. companies to invest in some sectors. The United States should push back on this economic nationalism. Despite these challenges, however, trade with China and India has made all of us—including American manufacturing workers—better off.

If the U.S. actually imposed a 45 percent tariff on China, as Trump has proposed, China will likely retaliate, and that important export market would be closed to us at great cost of jobs here.  For example, Boeing manufactures airplanes in the U.S., but sells more than a quarter of its commercial airplanes to China and India.  If those markets were closed, Boeing alone would likely have to lay off tens of thousands of American workers. China is the third largest market for U.S. auto parts exporters and second largest market for our pharmaceuticals industry and many technology firms.  

So yes, we should push back on unfair trade practices. But, “uncoupling” from trade with China or others would ultimately hurt American workers.

Anja Manuel is Co-founder and Partner along with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, in RiceHadleyGates, LLC, a strategic consulting firm. She is the author of This Brave New World: India, China and the United States. From 2005 to 2007, Anja Manuel served as a Special Assistant to Under-Secretary for Political Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.

Mercy A. Kuo authors a weekly column on the U.S. rebalance to Asia for The Diplomat and is an advisory board member of CHINADebate. She was previously director of the Southeast Asia Studies and Strategic Asia Programs at the National Bureau of Asian Research and served as an analyst of Northeast and Southeast Asian political, security, and military affairs at the Central Intelligence Agency. She holds degrees from Oxford University (Ph.D.), University of Michigan at Ann Arbor (M.A.), and Pomona College (B.A) and is proficient in Chinese, Polish, and Italian.

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