SPEAKING FREELY US China could use a go-between
By Brett Daniel Shehadey
Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click hereif you are interested in contributing.
President Barack Obama met with President Xi Jinping of China last weekend. They discussed many issues of importance and concern, but was it enough?
In the discussions, the most pragmatic issue said to be facing China was reducing rampant pollution and it is expected to increase into a greater pandemic if nothing is done to counter it. The hydroflurocarbons deal was a mild win for both. A further step in common direction was agreement on some sort of denuclearized North Korea.
Unfortunately, much of those issues were clouded by another
domestic intelligence scandal involving the National Security Agency. Ironically, President Obama was meeting with President Xi to discuss the issue of China spying on America while it broke. Moreover, there are still many tangible problems between the two states.
The US is restricting China's political economic opportunities in the Pacific and sealing a virtual maritime wall around China with their partners and allies. China responds to all of this by covertly firing up massive cyberattacks, revving up its espionage and making greater financial investments to penetrate Western Civilization. Most importantly, China's political strategies are now moving at a pace greater than the West can keep up, tipping the tide and rendering the American presence of force as useless and temporal.
A sure political advantage for America is not anywhere to be seen in the picture. The lack of a go-between in this struggling campaign between Sino-American relationship is the reason for such tit-for-tat offenses. As China appears to be growing stronger, America appears to be getting weaker. Presently, they are two opposing forces locked into playing a game with few rules and no referee.
What about a referee? "Both sides have the political will to build this relationship."
- President Xi Jinping
"I'm confident that our meeting will achieve positive outcomes and inject fresh momentum into the China-US relationship."
- President Barack Obama
The pictures taken at the Sunnylands political retreat may show the benevolent future that China and America could have together, arm-and-arm, and smiling. It was a great starter for the much needed sit-down between US and Chinese top leaders. Nevertheless, it does not need to become a Camp David omen between two warring political enemies with diverging goals.
It may be necessary for settling the greater problems of meteoric disputes, all the way to preventing them on a case-by-case basis, that an independent mediator serve this function between China and the US, acting much like a referee. This would be the first international political arbiter between the two great powers - to be chosen by the two great powers - and to serve as their friend and advocate. They would encourage of constant contact, dialogue and solutions from a non-aligned third-party perspective.
That was supposed to be the role of the UN, right? The UN was to act as an appointed body of government to prevent another World War II and human atrocities. It was designed to specify a formal rule structure and generate consensus. For much of its history, it can be argued that it was somewhat effective in doing this.
Nonetheless, the UN, even with substantial upgrades from its founding, is a legislative making body for treaty signatures. Most of what is taking place right now is happening at the multilateral and bilateral state levels and thus bypassing the UN altogether.
States are gradually polarizing behind an East-West division rather than unifying under the banner of a single international body like the UN. This is why it is fundamental that such new approaches to diplomacy be considered in addition to the UN.
The envisioned third-party arbiter could be selected from a list of approved states, individuals and NGOs to harmonize a principle of strategic cooperation. China and the US would agree to accept those mutual actors on their lists. An elected supranational counsel by and for both states would hold the power of calling a session or series of talks for negotiations. This would be carried out in favor of both nation's interests and presumably the world's interest as well.
From the lists the transnational mediator would then be selected randomly if multiple matches so that neither state would have a first advantage of preference. The mediators would be on-call and under a set of intercessor rules agreed to by both parties.
Alternatively, there might be one mediator they both can accept per term. This could be set every one to two years at first until they appointed another, or the previous one might be removed under the rules.
The function of arbitration is fairly straightforward and typically reactive in the event of a political crisis. The second task of prevention would be one of monitoring both states fairly around international law, norms and peaceful cooperation. They would cite abuses by either party, act as an independent voice for harmony and with a team; offer suggestions and present better models of best practices in bilateral relations and strategic development.
An inspector general would further be selected and agreed upon from another list to keep the arbiter honest for the duration of his appointment. There may even be two inspector generals: one from China and one from the US.
All parties (China, the US, and the mediator) would have the powers to: convene and adjourn meetings; recommend and offer analyses; share ideas, highlight and prioritize areas interest.
The next step would be to solicit the participation of the chosen actor. In return for services, that actor would be compensated handsomely by the US and China. If a state, they may be rewarded with trade deals. If an NGO, they might be awarded with recognition and consultation profits.
The mediators would have an amazing portfolio alone. But most importantly, they would never control a state's decision-making process. The arbiter would acts as independent counsel for both superpowers.
Whether contenders or partners, they will still need this independent mutual counsel and speaking of things that could not be spoken to or addressed under the current structure.
Brett Daniel Shehadey is a writer, commentator and holds an MA in Strategic Intelligence from AMU and a BS in Political Science from UCLA.
Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say.Please click hereif you are interested in contributing. Articles submitted for this section allow our readers to express their opinions and do not necessarily meet the same editorial standards of Asia Times Online's regular contributors.