BC Expert: US-China Relations
Professor of Political Science Robert S. Ross
Professor Ross' research focuses on Chinese security policy, nationalism and Chinese defense policy, East Asian security, and U.S.-China relations. Ross is currently a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the National Committee for U.S.-China Relations and a senior advisor to the Institute for American Studies, Shanghai. He has testified before various Senate and House committees and the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee and he advises various U.S. government agencies. He is the author/co-author of several books, including Chinese Security Policy: Structure, Power, and Politics; Negotiating Cooperation: The United States and China, 1969-1989, and Great Wall and Empty Fortress: China’s Search for Security. Ross is co-editor of the books: China’s Ascent: Power, Security, and the Future of International Politics; US-China-EU Relations: Managing the New World Order; and New Directions in the Study of Chinese Foreign Policy. Ross’ works have appeared in World Politics, The China Quarterly, International Security, Security Studies, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The National Interest, and Asian Survey. His books and articles have been translated in China, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, and various European countries.
Secretary of State John Kerry heads to Beijing tomorrow for the Economic and Security Dialogue, an opportunity for the United States to push a much needed restart button with China, given the deteriorating relations between the two super powers.
“U.S.-China relations are more difficult than at any time since the normalization of relations," says Boston College Political Science Professor Robert Ross, who just returned from a two month research trip in Beijing. "And East Asia today is more polarized than at any time since the end of the Cold War.”
"The last six months in U.S. - China relations has seen a decline in the bilateral diplomacy," says Ross, who is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the National Committee for U.S.-China Relations. "There's mutual distrust which has increased with each side trying to pressure the other to accommodate each other’s interests - this has been largely unsuccessful for both sides."
Earlier this year, China tried to block a Philippine vessel from entering disputed waters and it deployed an oil drilling rig into disputed waters off the Vietnamese coast. Ross says Chinese believe that American support for these countries has emboldened them to challenge Chinese authority, and that China's modern maritime capabilities is allowing it to answer most any challenge against its sovereignty.
"In this context the Chinese are less likely to accept the status quo, less likely to accept American policy, more likely be more resistant; they can push back on things they don’t like," says Ross, a senior advisor to the Institute for American Studies in Shanghai. "With this in mind, it will be a more difficult U.S. – China relationship – and the United States has to find ways to respond to China’s more proactive diplomacy while simultaneously not encouraging its allies to be more forward leaning in their own policies. At the same time, the U.S. has to find ways to maintain regional stability with Chinese cooperation."
All of which brings us to a face-to-face meeting in Beijing where groundwork for improved relations and mutual understanding could be built in what Ross calls a new era for U.S. - Chinese relations.
"We’re in a new period where China can begin to do things it couldn’t do before that will challenge regional stability, will challenge American security, will challenge U.S. policy toward China but simultaneously challenge China too," says Ross, author and co-author of six books on China and Chinese relations with the world. "China has to learn how to use its power in ways that are not counter-productive."
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