China as the "responsible stakeholder" is back on the agenda – it seems that the wheels are still turning in Congress despite the distraction of the US mid-terms.
The stakeholder slogan – or, more the point, concern that China isn’t living up to this moniker – was raised by the US-China Economic Security Review Commission in the fourth of its annual reports to Congress.
The commission has earned a reputation for China-bashing and this year’s principal accusations are likely to receive the standard "Why are you trying to demonize us?" response from Beijing. Notably, the commission questions whether China is willing or able to become a pillar of the international system when it:
a) is aiding Iran’s nuclear program
b) is not doing as much as it could to stop North Korea’s nuclear program
c) has in recent years allowed the transfer of nuclear technology from North Korea to Iran across Chinese territory
d) has a patchy record in terms of meeting its WTO accession obligations
e) is chasing energy resources so doggedly it could pose a threat to US energy security
f) may be developing biological and chemical weapons in contravention of international commitments not to do so
Debate has, and will no doubt continue to, run as to whether these accusations are valid and whether the US is throwing stones from its glass house.
If we are indeed looking at a superpower and a would-be superpower becoming increasingly estranged in the long term, further questions will be asked of the UN, which, amongst other things, is supposed to be a body that allows such differences to be amicably resolved.
It is a house of contradiction: China and the US appear united on North Korea but divided over the small print; ever closer trade partners but ever more inclined to stalk each other around the WTO negotiating table; forging deeper diplomatic and military ties but increasingly suspicious of one another’s motivations as their footprints of influence expand and inevitably collide.