Firecrackers to the Year of Tiger
Year 2010 is the year of Tiger accordig to the Chinese zodiac. It is special for many reasons. One for me is that the Chinese New Year and Valentine’s Day meets on the same day – February 14th, 2010. Last time it happened, it was 1953, when Korean war was not over yet. It won’t happen again for many years. It is almost as rare as Halley’s comet, which comes very close to our solar system once every 76 years.
When I was little, living in a mid size city in Northern China, I enjoyed the Chinese New Year gift of 1,500 round of fire crackers. With a string of incense, somewhat fragrant, I would be happily occupied most of Chinese New Year’s eve and Chinese New Year day. Those were a lot of fire crackers. If you set off one by one it would last a long time. The maker of the firecrackers braid them together so that if you really do not have time to play it one by one, you may set it off all together in a matter of a couple of minutes. The children will come and cheer, jump up and down if one of us could quickly empty our rounds like that. Noisy but fun.
In the run up to the Chinese New Year, the principle parties in world’s most important bi-lateral relationship (someone dubbed G2) set off a few fire crackers on their own. In January 2010, China appeared to be non-cooperative to the U.S. when it came to the inspection of the reduction of carbon intensity/emission. A few days later, the U.S. declared they would sell $6.4 billion dollars worthy of arms to Taiwan, which is regarded by China their renegade province. To make the matter spicier, President Obama informed China that he would meet Dalai Lama, whom China labeled as “separationist”. Even Google joined the foray, accusing China’s censorship and hacking, which prompted Hillary Clinton lecturing China about Internet freedom. China immediately rejected Clinton’s claim and labeled the U.S. “information imperialism”. It then slapped tariff on American chicken parts and threatened to sanction those corporations involved in the Taiwan arms sale. A few days later, Chinese foreign minister lectured the American and Western counterparts that Iran had the right to “peaceful use of nuclear energy” and the “diplomacy is the only way”. All of a sudden, it feels like fire crackers setting off in a noisy venue to the Chinese New Year. Where was the fun?
As noisy as it is, it does not blur the fact that the two most important countries in the world can no longer live without each other. They are essentially joined together at the hip. It has gone a long way since the late 1970s when they finally normalized their relationship. China is now the largest creditor to the U.S. while U.S. is China’s largest export market. Their economies are regarded as complimentary. Each year, the U.S. government and consumers gain hundreds of billions of dollars through the trade with China. The export to the U.S. created and sustained tens of millions jobs in China. When one of the two has a hiccup, the other will feel it. The extent of the deepening relationship will someday make people realize the most of these firecracker events are too trivial to stay in the way. The U.S. will come to its senses to end so called “Taiwan Relationship Act”, which is more than 30 years old and no longer makes sense. Regardless how attractive $6.4 billions are, the arms sale is just a chomp change that should not be on anyone’s agenda. After all, China is lending close to $1.8 trillions to the U.S. government and U.S. economy. The protection fee that the U.S. collects from Taiwan is no longer worth all the arm twisting between the G2. Rather than wasting scarce air time between the G2 on such issue as the non-existent “Internet freedom”, it can be better spent on the cooperation for nuclear non-proliferation and climate change.
Compared with the enemies engaging in daily ideology debate 30+ years ago, the G2 nowadays are more like partners in the same boat. The quarrels are temporary. Besides all those noises, the Chinese New Year will come, and the politicians will get tired. Life goes on. The year of tiger will be filled with events such as the Winter Olympics at Vancouver and the World Expo at Shanghai. The U.S. has to export in the future to sustain its jobs domestically. They needs China as its export market. China needs the U.S. technology and know-how and the access to the U.S. market even though it has to expand its domestic consumption. In the end, the folks will remember the vastly more important and improved collaboration than the a few firecrackers in the past two months.