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China doesn't own the future

Overall growth in Asia will balance any threat Beijing may pose to U.S. prominence.

October 14, 2007|Walter Russell Mead | Walter Russell Mead, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, is the author of "God and Gold: Britain, America and the Making of the Modern World."

There is one other factor at work. Ever since the U.S. moved to rebuild relations with China under President Nixon, it has been trying to persuade China to engage with the international system -- to behave more like a "normal" country. That policy over time has been a spectacular success. Although the transition is not yet complete, China has come to believe that its interests are best served by participating in regional organizations and summits and by joining such organizations as the World Trade Organization.

China's pride at hosting the 2008 Summer Olympics is a sign of how far this transformation has gone. Just 40 years ago, it was news when the Chinese invited a group of Americans to play ping-pong. Now China has the ability -- and the will -- to host the most high-profile, expensive and complex festival in the world of international sport.

Promoting the peaceful development of Asia, ensuring that smaller countries are not threatened by their large neighbors and helping the Asian superpowers to find a set of economic and security relationships that can keep the region peaceful as it passes through the greatest economic and social transformation in world history -- those should be the goals of U.S. policy in Asia this century.

If we get that right, and if we preserve the social dynamism at home that is the basis of our global role, we will promote the rise of democracy and prosperity in Asia and build a better world for the future.

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