Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts A Tale of Two Summits: Hu Jintao in Washington, Wen Jiabao in New Delhi and U.S.-China-India Relations

A Tale of Two Summits: Hu Jintao in Washington, Wen Jiabao in New Delhi and U.S.-China-India Relations

Who, When and Where? 

A top Chinese leader arrives in the capital of Country X for his first visit in five years. The relationship between the countries is routinely described as one of the world’s most important bilateral relationships and is so characterized by the visiting leader, who declares it to be a defining relationship for the twenty-first century world. Although little of substance is expected from the meetings between the visitor and his host-nation counterpart, the trip is widely seen as important for the symbolism and atmospherics of a long-standing, complex and recently-and especially in the last year or more-troubled relationship. Commentators on all sides point to a worrisome lack of mutual trust in the relationship, which the visit seeks to begin to repair.

The Chinese side wants to focus on economic issues and stresses the importance of trade openness. Beijing’s delegation includes an entourage of businesses on a shopping spree, promises increased investment in the host country and agrees to reduce barriers in key service sectors. Those moves are understood partly as palliatives for Country X’s concerns about a large bilateral trade deficit that many local assessments blame on China’s manipulated, artificially low exchange rate and Chinese barriers to Country X’s exports. The Chinese visitor’s agenda of further liberalization faces resistance based on such currency concerns, fears that greater economic openness will expose local industry (especially in lower tech sectors) to ruinous Chinese competition, and complaints that China has not adequately opened its markets to imports and foreign competition despite Beijing’s WTO-related pledges to do so. Underlying such concerns are Country X’s worries about its own economic situation, prospects and policies (especially in the wake of the 2008 international economic crisis), and a mixture of envy and concern toward China’s having seemingly escaped the global crisis relatively unscathed and, more broadly, having maintained for many years eye-popping growth rates that have often dwarfed Country X’s. Mirroring such insecurities in Country X, relatively nationalist voices in the Chinese media express near-contempt toward Country X’s economic performance and, more fundamentally, its economic model, with obvious implications for views about trends in the two countries’ relative power.

For country X, a long list of political and security issues are on the agenda as well. They include complaints that China has been insufficiently cooperative on international security issues that are a top priority for the host, and that Beijing has done too little to rein in a troublesome ally with nuclear arms that the host regards as a significant source of security problems, proliferation risks and terrorist threats. On some views, the legacy of military conflict, occurring decades ago and involving China and Country X on opposite sides, still casts a shadow over bilateral relations.

Country X’s policymakers and pundits also worry about China’s military modernization (especially of naval forces), and its cultivation of access to possible bases along the Indian Ocean and the threat this poses to the host state’s interests in maritime Asia. Also among the sources of unease is the prospect that China’s rising martial capacity and the leverage that comes from China’s burgeoning economic relations (especially with Southeast Asia) may pose problems for the host state’s often-strained but recently recovering ties with regional states. That concern is mitigated by these states’ pursuit of hedging strategies toward China through enhanced security cooperation with Country X. Recent Chinese assertiveness on long-running territorial disputes along its periphery reinforces such strategies, as well as the concerns about China’s rise and aims that underlie them. Further complicating matters is China’s very different take on the evolving regional security landscape: what others may describe as hedging against a more powerful and assertive China is a more threatening development according to Beijing, allegedly serving (or at least potentially serving) a Washington-led plot to encircle China and check China’s ascent.

Familiar frictions related to differences in the two states’ political systems and ideologies hang over the visit as well. Media commentaries in Country X point out the contrast between its own democratic system and China’s authoritarian one. Predictably, human rights issues are in the mix as well. Host country commentators and activists loudly criticize China’s human rights record generally and in Tibet specifically in connection with the Chinese leader’s visit. This unfolds against the backdrop of China’s long-standing resentment of the host’s claims to democratic and human rights superiority and, more recently, China’s pointed displeasure at the host country’s expression of support for Nobel Peace Prize winner Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. Even though both states face international criticism for being laggards on global warming issues and impediments to climate change negotiations, addressing Chinese actions that threaten significant environmental consequences are also on Country X’s list of issues.

Prospects for progress are further clouded by political leadership questions. The Chinese leader is nearing the end of his term and China’s characteristically long transition to his-and his fellow top leaders’-designated successors already looms. Perhaps more acute is the problem of Country X’s leader’s questionable political clout. Having secured an impressive electoral mandate for a term in office that began in 2009, his standing at home has waned amid economic troubles (despite a recent rebound in growth) and attacks-largely from a conservative opposition party but also from the left-in a polarized political setting. Revelations from Wikileaks have created additional foreign policy-related difficulties for the major political party behind the host’s leader.

In the end, the meeting of leaders produces the requisite joint statement on the strength and importance of the relationship, the areas of bilateral accord, and the commitments made, and progress achieved. The joint statement also recycles most of the long-settled and carefully crafted language that the two sides have employed to handle perennial issues on which they hold dissimilar positions. Among observers, there is consensus that the session did not exceed relatively low expectations for substantial progress on difficult and important issues in the bilateral relationship.

“Country X” could be the U.S. or it could be India. The foregoing is a serviceable synopsis of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s mid-January 2011 state visit to Washington and of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s mid-December 2010 trip to New Delhi.

Finding the Right Triangles? 

The parallels between the late 2010 Sino-Indian meeting of premiers and the early 2011 U.S.-China presidential summit-and the broader contexts of the two bilateral relationships-are striking. As the agenda of relationship repair and maintenance and the modest accomplishments on substantive issues from Wen’s India trip show, China has-and knows that it has-an India problem. Much the same can be said about Hu’s state visit to Washington and its attempt to address what China recognizes as its America problem.

The difficulties that China hoped to address (albeit in limited ways) through the two top leaders’ trips partly reflect some intractable challenges facing Beijing’s diplomacy. For the lone superpower that China is rising to challenge in Asia and for the other great rising power in Asia, China’s rapidly growing prowess has become a major source of concern. In both New Delhi and Washington, an ever-more-formidable PRC has become the biggest traditional security contingency for which their defense establishments must prepare (albeit in an era when terrorism and other nonconventional security threats make very large claims on attention and resources).

Moreover, in the U.S. and India (and many other places as well), concern about the implications of China’s fast-developing capacities has been compounded recently by rapidly deepening suspicions about Beijing’s intent. Increasingly, the PRC has been willing to sacrifice the “soft power” that it seemingly had so assiduously cultivated through much of the last decade and to sideline the “charm offensive” it appeared to have so ardently pursued in its own region, much of the developing world and beyond. Beijing has downgraded those once-central elements of its foreign policy in favor of more assertive, even aggressive, stances. Although far from a full reversal of what had long been a mixed practice, the center of gravity in Chinese statements and actions has shifted toward less accommodation and cooperation on issues ranging from North Korea (including the Six Party Talks and responses to the sinking of the South Korean naval ship Cheonan and the shelling of the village of Yeonpyeong), to disputed islands and waters in the South China Sea and East China Sea (including the incident over the Japanese seizure of a Chinese fishing boat and renewed tensions over the Diaoyu / Senkaku Islands), to U.S. military and naval reconnaissance operations in China’s EEZ, to Washington’s arms sales to Taiwan, to China’s test of a stealth fighter during an otherwise breach-patching pre-summit visit to Beijing by the U.S. Secretary of Defense.

The pattern in China’s handling of issues of concern to the U.S. parallels its approach to issues important to India. In the months and days before Wen’s visit, China had become more assertive in its claims to Arunachal Pradesh (the Indian-governed territory that Beijing calls Southern Tibet), shifted to a more pro-Pakistan position on Jammu and Kashmir (by stepping up China’s presence in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, denying a visa to the Indian general in charge of forces in the Indian-governed part of the disputed region, stapling-rather than permanently affixing-Chinese visas to the passports of Indian nationals from the Indian-ruled contested area, and shortening the customarily referenced unsettled boundary between India and China to imply that the disputed territory could not be India’s), and completing a militarily useful transportation link between the Chinese heartland and the portion of the PRC’s Tibetan Autonomous Region abutting India (and doing so against the backdrop of a modest resurgence in Chinese sources’ positive references to the 1962 Sino-Indian border war).

Beijing’s forceful, even strident, stands in these relatively specific contexts have accompanied a more assertive and less clearly status quo-accepting strand in Chinese foreign policy more broadly. In security affairs, this has meant emphasis on force-projection and access-denial capabilities, more far-flung foreign naval base access (especially along the Indian Ocean) and countering (and denouncing) perceived U.S.-led (and India-abetted) encirclement strategies that threaten a possibly expanding sphere of China’s self-defined “core interests.” On economic issues, it has included pointed criticisms (including from Wen) of failures of U.S. policy, regulation and economic model as causes of the global economic crisis, barbs (accompanying Wen’s visit) pointing out the great development challenges still facing India, slow and limited responses to criticism from Washington, New Delhi and elsewhere of China’s currency and trade practices, and claiming a central role in the G20 process for China, and thus for China’s interests and agendas, alongside those of the U.S., India and other major economies.

These developments have spawned distrust and ill-will toward China. In many affected states, the response has been to rethink tendencies to accommodate or even bandwagon with Beijing and to explore or pursue hedging through increased reliance on Washington. India and the U.S. have behaved more conventionally like great powers. This makes China’s India problem more akin to China’s America problem. Recent moves in Indian foreign policy and the U.S.’s regional policy have notable similarities. Where the Obama administration has emphasized that the U.S. is “back” in Asia and has undertaken accompanying diplomatic and security efforts (including notable reaffirmation or strengthening of cooperation with Japan, Korea and Singapore), India has pursued a “look East” policy (including prime ministerial visits to regional democracies Japan and South Korea), explored security cooperation with Vietnam, and cultivated closer ties with other regional states. Washington and New Delhi both have paid increased attention to U.S.-India ties, while continuing to insist that relations with China remain nearly uniquely important and of special global strategic significance.

Both the America problem and the India problem are, in their current forms, relatively new challenges for China’s foreign policy. For the first decades of the post-Mao period, China could not-and, following Deng Xiaoping’s anciently rooted imperative of taoguang yanghui (literally, hide brightness and nourish obscurity or, as commonly rendered, bide time while building capacity), should not-aspire to be a regional rival to the United States or a challenger to a largely U.S.-created status quo. India was not until recently a state that Chinese foreign policy planners had to-or appeared to-take seriously as a regional great power. India’s China-like growth rates and, more recently, efforts to leverage its strength through improved ties with other Asian states and the United States have altered the regional environment for Beijing.

That simultaneously troubled relations with India and the U.S. are new and serious worries for Beijing is suggested by characterizations of Wen Jiabao’s pomp-laden and fence-mending trip to New Delhi as a highly important venture and a bid to secure a foreign policy legacy for Wen. Much the same is true for Hu Jintao’s state visit to Washington the following month. The equally high-formal and positive-vibe-seeking U.S. summit is no less a legacy issue for Hu, whose term in office coincides with Wen’s and whose previous trips to Washington had not been accorded the full status of a state visit. Chinese media accounts and analysts’ assessments cast this as an especially vital presidential meeting, calling it a “bridge” to future relations, stressing the significance of the issues to be addressed and noting the flurry of reciprocal high-level visits preceding the summit. Observers on both sides agreed that it was important to Beijing that the state visit be seen as having gone well, undoing some of the damage recently done to bilateral relations, avoiding the embarrassments (such as Falungong protestors and protocol glitches) that marred Hu’s 2006 U.S. visit, and giving Hu—and therefore China—appropriate respect.

To the extent that China’s summitry-ameliorated but still-persisting India problem and America problem go beyond coexistence to coalescence, the challenges for PRC foreign policy are greater still. Given the parallels in New Delhi’s and Washington’s concerns about Beijing’s agenda and actions, a sweeping historical analogy might seem to become plausible: a U.S.-China-India triangle might come to resemble the U.S.-Soviet Union-China triangle from the late Cold War. In some respects, a U.S.-India coalition to check China would seem to be more promising than the U.S.-China collaboration to counter the USSR had seemed on the eve of its emergence. Independent India and the PRC have never had the ideological or strategic alliance that China’s communist leaders and the Soviet Union maintained (despite strains) from before the Chinese Revolution through the first years of the People’s Republic. Unlike the U.S. and China in the 1970s (and since), the U.S. and India share political values and specific views on their relationships with the third member of the triangle.

Intriguing as the idea might be, several contrasts warn against pressing the parallel. True, India worries about China’s military build-up, its cultivation (and construction) of Indian Ocean naval facilities for possible use by the PRC’s navy, its construction of infrastructure that will ease troops’ passage to the India-China border, and its venerable and recently reaffirmed strong backing of China’s “all weather friend” Pakistan. Beijing’s shift to a less neutral position on sovereignty over territory concurrently claimed by China and India and by Pakistan and India rankles in New Delhi and recalls more bellicose times in bilateral relations. India’s dropping of the previously routine reference to a “one China” policy in the joint statement during Wen’s visit was read as a tit-for-tat response. China’s refusal in the joint statement to call clearly for swift justice, and point a finger at Pakistan, concerning 26/11 (as the November 26, 2008, terrorist attacks in Mumbai are known in India) confirmed for Indian critics that China did not, or would not, take sufficiently seriously India’s concerns about Pakistan-based terrorism. Still, China does not pose-and is not seen as posing-the severe threat to India’s national security that China’s leaders perceived from the Soviet Union in the years preceding-and following-U.S.-China rapprochement. Few things can match a sense of mortal peril as motivation to cooperate with the threatening state’s archrival.

So too, despite the many points of contention, U.S. relations with China do not remotely resemble the Manichean struggle over the future of a divided world that shaped Washington’s and Moscow’s approaches to one another during the Cold War. True, sources of concern and potential conflict abound in Beijing’s: support for North Korea and other problematic or rogue regimes such as Iran and Sudan; renewed assertiveness on territorial disputes along China’s periphery and with U.S. friends and allies in the region; rapidly growing capacity-and emerging determination-to impede or deter U.S. military and reconnaissance activities in China’s neighborhood and to project force further afield; and accretion of economic influence that could be exploited to serve political and strategic ends (albeit not without considerable cost to China’s interests). Still, it would take much exaggeration-or grand projections from recent trends-to suggest that the security issues in U.S.-China relations resemble those in U.S.-Soviet relations during an earlier era.

A U.S.-India alignment is not as promising as it may initially seem. True, a U.S.-India entente would not need to bridge the cavernous ideological gap that divided the U.S. and China in the early 1970s, or even the smaller one that persists today. But common commitments to liberalism, democracy and human rights do not mean easy alignment between Washington and New Delhi. Once-defining principles of nonalignment still linger in Indian foreign policy thinking, supplemented by the ideal-common among rising powers-of an independent foreign policy. On some environment, trade, finance and other issues, India’s positions are closer to those of fellow developing countries (including, on some questions, China) than to those of the United States. Washington has not quickly or easily overcome its former coolness toward India, with its roots in India’s former closeness to the Soviet Union and India’s Nehruist/socialist ideology (which resonated with its ties to Moscow). Indian wariness toward the U.S. has been sustained by long-standing and ongoing U.S. support for Pakistan.

Moreover, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, U.S. President Barack Obama and their foreign policy aides (and likely their successors) are not Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger or Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. For reasons of political skill, inclination or circumstances at home and abroad, they will not so set aside issues of ideology, values and the like in favor of balance of power and realpolitik. And there are doubts in both capitals (and Beijing as well) about both countries’ leaders’ ability, commitment and resources to navigating the complex diplomacy that would be required to forge the U.S.-India side of a new strategic triangle.

The most important disanalogies between U.S.-China-India relations today and the Cold War strategic triangle stem from the positive and dense ties between the U.S. and China and between China and India that were celebrated during Wen’s trip to India and Hu’s state visit to the United States. These connections had no parallel in the thin and hostile relations between the U.S. and the USSR and between China and the Soviet Union in much of the Cold War period. During an era of high international economic interdependence, U.S.-PRC trade and investment relations are among the very largest globally-far surpassing $300 billion annually and with China ranking as the U.S.’s second largest, and the U.S. ranking as China’s largest, trading partner in goods, and the U.S. being among China’s top sources of foreign investment and China among the U.S.’s largest creditors (holding nearly $1 trillion of U.S. debt). China-India economic connections have been developing rapidly from very low recent baselines, with trade having grown from less than $2 billion at the beginning of the decade to over $60 billion now and with China having become India’s biggest trading partner.

The expansion and deepening of such ties was a focus of Wen’s trip, including announcements of a goal of $100 billion in bilateral trade by 2015 (a figure consistent with recent trends), $16 billion in business deals, and plans to expand Chinese investment and economic activity in India, particularly in the fast-growing area of infrastructure construction. So too, Hu’s state visit brought along a large business delegation and announcements of a $45 billion buying binge (including a massive, if already largely in-the-works or likely-to-occur, purchase order to Boeing), more modest commitments to increase investment (particularly if the U.S. reduced regulatory impediments for Chinese firms), a pledge to step back from “indigenous innovation” policies for Chinese government procurement (which favored Chinese-created technology and threatened to put much-increased pressure on U.S. and other foreign intellectual property owners to transfer rights to Chinese firms), and promises to do somewhat more to address perennial U.S. concerns about intellectual property rights protection and currency exchange rates. China’s continued (if gradual) acquiescence in renminbi appreciation, Beijing’s repeated (if thin) commitments to rely more on domestic demand for growth, and U.S. talk of relaxing restraints on high-technology exports (long a target of Chinese criticism) portended some narrowing of the trade gap through gains for Obama’s export-promotion agenda.

Such patterns contrast sharply with the low and often near-zero levels of economic engagement between the U.S. and the USSR and between the USSR and the PRC from the 1960s through the 1980s. Although they also spawn conflicts (including several prominent among the issues addressed-or that leaders hoped to address-on Wen’s and Hu’s visits), the large and growing economic linkages between the U.S. and China and between India and China have created national interests and powerful domestic political constituencies (especially in the business communities) in the U.S. and India that generally favor good relations and weigh against strongly adversarial or confrontational stances toward China.

In U.S.-China relations more broadly, the U.S. policy sometimes described as “congagement,” includes much engagement alongside the modest if recently growing elements of containment. Through building economic ties, supporting China’s integration into international organizations and the international order, and forging myriad channels of influence through educational, business, NGO and social connections, the U.S. has sought to foster China’s transformation into a more benign and liberal system. Although Beijing chafes at U.S. aims and endeavors as “peaceful evolution,” Reform-Era China has moved notably (although far from fully) in the direction envisaged by proponents of engagement. Despite its complaints about American schemes and their potentially nefarious effects, the Chinese regime has found it worthwhile to tolerate, and even welcome, many of the activities that create entry points for ideas and ideals from the U.S. and other parts of the liberal-democratic and rule-of-law world. Hu’s state visit brought a prominent reaffirmation of these aspects of the relationship, with both sides praising and committing to further expansion on such diverse fronts as business ties, science and technology cooperation (including to address climate change), student exchanges, and tourism. Also notably on the post-summit agenda was the resumption of symbolically charged (if far from transformative) rule of law and human rights dialogues.

As this suggests, although differences in, and over, political system types are sharp in both China-India and U.S.-China relations, and although they were among the storylines for Hu’s and Wen’s respective visits to Washington and New Delhi, they pale in intensity and impact when compared to the Sino-Soviet and U.S.-Soviet clashes of old. To be sure, U.S. editorial pages, members of Congress and civil society groups criticized China’s authoritarian politics and human rights record during Hu’s visit. Reporters at the two presidents’ joint press conference raised such issues as well. Obama’s remarks, with Hu at his side, affirmed U.S. policies supporting—and U.S.-China differences over—human rights in China generally and Tibet specifically. Obama asserted that Americans saw First Amendment-type freedoms as universally valid and called for a continuation of China’s evolution in a positive direction on human rights during the last thirty years. Hu and the Chinese contributions to the joint statement responded with familiar assertions of the need to respect state sovereignty and differences in national approaches and circumstances. So too, Indian officials and media at the time of Wen’s visit expressed pride in India’s accomplishment of development with democracy and noted China’s failure to match India on the latter front. India’s foreign secretary rebuffed China’s displeasure with critical Indian press reports by saying China would have to get used to India’s “noisy” democracy. Unsurprisingly, relatively nationalistic Chinese sources took umbrage at what they saw as India’s democratic arrogance.

Despite such exchanges, the Hu and Wen visits mostly spotlighted cooperation and mutual tolerance. In the Indian case, they also looked to shared Asian pride and solidarity. Chinese and, in some cases, Indian statements amid and around Wen’s trip spoke of: a new “Asian century” in which China and India would play large international roles; India and China’s common features as large developing countries that are heirs to great ancient civilizations poised for new glory; their co-membership and common interests in the BRIC or BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India and China, plus South Africa); and their history of two thousand years of mutual exchange, sixty years of diplomatic relations, and nearly six decades of joint commitment to the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence/Panchsheel in international relations. Wen’s visit also heralded an expansion of institutional frameworks for interaction and cooperation (including regular foreign minister meetings, a prime ministerial hotline, a Strategic Economic Dialogue and a CEO’s forum). These were reminiscent of familiar features in U.S.-PRC relations (such as the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade and the frequent bilateral presidential and U.S. cabinet secretary-PRC State Council minister meetings) that received prominent and predictable reaffirmation at the Hu-Obama summit. Although Wen’s call for the “dragon and elephant to tango” overshoots and the purported quest for a “strategic consensus” with India remains elusive, contemporary India-China ties contrast sharply with Sino-Soviet relations from the era of reciprocal charges of communist apostasy and competing (if uneven) efforts to export rival versions of socialism. Much the same can be said about the “cooperative partnership” proclaimed as a bilateral goal at the Washington summit. Although overly rosy and beyond reach, it reflects a tone and a significant part of a complex underlying reality that—despite occasionally alarmist rhetoric—are not on course for a new Cold War.

India and U.S. China Policy 

A new strategic alignment among the U.S., India and China that would parallel the former triangle among the U.S., China and the USSR is fanciful. Still, the U.S. can and should pursue closer cooperation with India even as it seeks to preserve and build on the positive tone of the Hu-Obama summit. The U.S. can and should do this partly to advance U.S. policies that respond to China’s rising power and assertiveness—trends that are not likely to go away in the aftermath of Hu’s state visit. The U.S’s and India’s shared liberal, democratic and rule of law values, broadly compatible foreign policy interests, and extensively overlapping agendas in relations with China provide relatively sturdy and probably enduring foundations on which to build. The George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations have taken sensible and substantial steps, including reciprocal state visits, a defense framework agreement, a civilian nuclear cooperation accord, and support for India’s integration in international nuclear regulatory regimes and permanent membership on the United Nations Security Council.

Consolidating and extending these gains will require sustained effort and attention. Although the focus on fellow democracies in Obama’s 2010 Asia trip and his characterization of U.S.-India relations as a “defining partnership” were well-received, much of the significance of such gestures for India was their contribution to addressing concerns that the U.S. administration regarded relations with other Asian states as secondary to the central, if troubled, U.S.-PRC relationship. Washington will have to continue to assuage such doubts in India (and elsewhere). U.S. policy also will have to contend with Chinese efforts to discourage a much-strengthened U.S.-India leg of the triangle. Beijing’s tactics likely will include: complaining about U.S. efforts to enlist India in attempts to impede China’s rise; stressing areas where India and China have commonalities of identity or policy interests not shared by the United States; and playing up cooperation in Sino-Indian relations (as Beijing has done with the refrain that China and India are “partners not rivals” in a world where there is “enough space” for both to develop and “enough areas” where the two can cooperate). Fortunately for the U.S., such efforts from Beijing face limits rooted in relatively deep-seated conflicts between Chinese and Indian national interests, the PRC’s worse-than-the-U.S.’s positions (from India’s perspective) on the crucial and overlapping issues of Pakistan, terrorism, territory, and Security Council membership, and China’s seeming inability to resist unleashing its newly assertive and acerbic rhetoric occasionally in India’s direction.

To counter Chinese gambits targeting U.S.-India relations, the U.S. also can invoke another contrast-one that China ostensibly accepts-between contemporary U.S.-China-India relations and former U.S.-USSR-PRC relations. Beijing acknowledges that the former are much less of a zero-sum game: praising global economic interdependence; touting a menu of “win-win” or “mutual benefit” foreign policy options; declaring in connection with Wen’s New Delhi trip that the connection between China-India relations and U.S.-India relations is positive, or at worst neutral; confirming in the Hu-Obama summit joint statement that China “welcomes” the U.S. as “an Asia-Pacific nation” implicitly with legitimate interests and strong ties in the region; and asserting in connection with Hu’s state visit to Washington that the U.S. and China’s “vital and complex” relations are on a solid footing, are making continuous progress toward a “cooperative partnership,” and implicitly provide no cause for a China-checking U.S.-India alignment. Insisting on this aspect of fundamental dissimilarity to the strategic triangle of an earlier era can, ironically, nurture U.S.-India ties to support U.S. policies toward a difficult and rising China that are in some-but far from all-respects evocative of ties the U.S. once forged with China to support U.S. policies toward a powerful and intractable Soviet Union.