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What’s In A Name? Defining the US-China Relationship
媒体来源: 中国法律博客

Well-written diplomatic piece in the Washington Post on the Obama trip and how his administration needs to "define" the relationship between the two nations.

Some interesting history and talk of current policy issues, but what I found most worthy in the article was the argument that words really do matter in public diplomacy and that framing the relationship has actual effect.

Over the decades, U.S. leaders have run through a kaleidoscope of terms, from "tacit allies" against the Soviet Union in the early 1970s to "strategic competitors" at the start of President George W. Bush's administration.

I certainly buy into that. I believe it to be true.

At the same time, it is ultimately an exercise in diplomatic masturbation – that's the term they taught us in IR Theory class at SAIS, if memory serves me – and I therefore find the whole thing amusing.

And it certainly is amusing:

On the rhetorical front, observers will be keeping watch for a seemingly innocuous phrase that has stirred much debate in recent weeks in diplomatic circles: "strategic reassurance."

Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg rolled out that term during what was billed as a major foreign-policy address in September. The core idea, Steinberg said, is a "tacit bargain" in which the United States would assure Beijing that Washington isn't out to curb China's rising power while Beijing would work to ease Washington's concerns about its global intentions.

The phrase triggered much puzzlement and debate.

I wonder why?

It's even more funny when administrations purposely avoid stupid labels and empty paradigms. They are then accused of not having a policy at all. George HW Bush, who was pushed into confessing that he did not do "the vision thing" all that well, was actually one of the better modern US Presidents when it came to international diplomacy.

I hope Jeff Bader and the Prez don't pull too many all-nighters coming up with pithy language to put on the next US-China bumper sticker.

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