15 Jul 2013

US policy expert says US keen to co-operate with China in region

7:12 pm on 15 July 2013

A senior adviser with the Washington-based think tank, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, says the United States is keen to co-operate with China in the region.

Ernest Bower says the two countries are focused on different areas of development in the region but there's room for better co-operation.

Mr Bower was speaking at this year's Otago University Foreign Policy School which highlighted the activities of the United States and China in the Pacific and afterwards he spoke to Sally Round.

ERNEST BOWER: If China wants to build roads and stadiums and government houses, that's good. I don't think the Americans are doing that kind of thing. That's not part of our aid programme right now. But we're really good at governance and development of business and development strategies for long-term sustainable engagement, empowerment of women, rule of law. These are the kinds of things that we do really well with friends in New Zealand, for instance, and to some extent, Australia. But we should do that alongside an enlightened China approach, though. Why make countries choose? Why not have the stadium and the roads and better governance and linkages to markets and more educated leaders - have it all? That sounds good, but we all have to work together.

SALLY ROUND: That comes down to co-operation, and how much is the US trying to co-operate, at the moment with China? And is that being reciprocated?

EB: We very much are trying. We recognise that one of the limitations of our aid programme is just resources right now while we rebuild our economy and get back on track to recovery. China has got a lot of money, and we recognise the fact that the Chinese are going to be a major force in the Pacific for a long time. And we want to work with them. So we're, I think, putting the hand out to do that. I think, quite frankly, it could be done better, by us, and we'd like to see the Chinese... I think the Chinese are going to have to build up new levels of strategic trust working with the Americans. Right now, the narrative is one that doesn't promote innovative new levels of co-operation. And that's too bad. We should find ways to get over that hump.

SR: Where's that problem coming from? Where's the sticking point?

EB: I think both sides need to do more. There's been sort of a Beijing narrative and a Washington narrative developing that undermines strategic trust. And strategic trust is absolutely vital if you're going to communicate and collaborate effectively. I think New Zealand is sort of... The minister put his hand up the other night and said they would be a broker or help the effort to go on. That's a tough job. But I think we'd welcome ideas and friends and countries that could help create a context for the Americans and the Chinese to find a way to pull on the same rope in the Pacific.