Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday the United States was not seeking conflict with a rising China but urged emerging powers to act more “constructively” in the world.
As academics in China and elsewhere increasingly speak of US decline, Clinton offered a robust defense of the United States and said it still had the military power, innovative companies and core values to make it “exceptional.”
But addressing aspiring military leaders at the US Naval Academy, Clinton said bluntly that 2012 “is not 1912, when friction between a declining Britain and a rising Germany set the stage for global conflict.”
“We are not seeking new enemies. Today’s China is not the Soviet Union. We are not on the brink of a new Cold War in Asia,” Clinton told the academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
“A thriving China is good for America, and a thriving America is good for China – so long as we both thrive in a way that contributes to the regional and global good,” she said.
Clinton acknowledged concerns overseas about US intentions but denied that the United States was bent on “denying rising powers their fair share” or on bringing them into “a rigged system” designed to preserve US power.
But Clinton said that rising Asian powers – naming China, India and Indonesia – have been able to prosper thanks to an international system supported by the United States.
“Some of today’s emerging powers act as selective stakeholders, picking and choosing when to participate constructively and when to stand apart from the international system,” she said.
“While that may suit their interests in the short term, it will ultimately render the system that has helped them to get where they are today unworkable. And that would end up impoverishing everyone,” Clinton said.
The United States has frequently voiced concern that China, despite its rising wealth and ambitions, has not taken the role of a leading power on tough issues such as North Korea, Iran and climate change.
Clinton conceded that many Americans faced “difficult” economic times but said that there was “simply no substitute” for the United States in the world.
“Only the United States has the global reach, the resources and the resolve to deter aggression, rally coalitions and project stability into diverse and dynamic regions of danger, threat and opportunity,” Clinton said.
“There is no real precedent in history for the role we play or the responsibility we have shouldered. And there is also no alternative,” she said.