20 June [CQPolitics] Rick Larsen , a 44-year-old fifth-term House Democrat from Washington’s Puget Sound, is no headline grabber. Most of the time, he tends to his district’s business. As in many parts of his state, that business is often China — more than $4 billion in sales annually from exporters such as Boeing Co. and Microsoft Corp. to the authoritarian, yet distinctively capitalist, Asian giant. “People talk about the Far East. It’s my near West,” Larsen says.
That’s what led Larsen in 2005 to join with Mark Steven Kirk , a moderate Illinois Republican also first elected eight years ago, to form the U.S.-China Working Group for interested members of the House. Lawmakers of all stripes — critics of the country’s human rights record, fans of its growing markets, hawks wary of its military intentions — all needed a forum, the two representatives decided, to learn more about the nuances of dealing with China.
The need was particularly acute to Kirk, a longtime intelligence officer in the Naval Reserve, who noticed during weekend stints at the Pentagon that China’s economic and military clout came to dominate President George W. Bush ’s schedule, both in meetings with foreign leaders and phone calls. Members of Congress and the media, according to Kirk, still weren’t making the connection.
The days when China could be ignored by official Washington, it’s safe to say, have ended.
In the span of a few years, U.S.-China dealings have grown from a wary association dominated by concerns over trade, Taiwan and human rights into a broad, all-encompassing and complicated embrace touching almost every major policy issue and underscored by China’s recently acquired status as the United States’ biggest creditor.
Indeed, while allies in London, Tokyo and Ottawa may grumble, the connection between the United States and China, underpinned by the two countries’ deep economic dependency, has ripened into a “special relationship” that dwarfs U.S. ties with any other country. That is so much the case that critics and supporters alike now speak of a Sino-American Group of 2 — a “G-2” that is becoming critical to managing the global economy and finding solutions to a host of problems. In areas where Washington and Beijing can find a middle ground, the rest of the world may find it necessary to sign on.
Partly, this stems from the realization that because of China’s sheer size — it has the largest population of any nation and is poised to overtake Japan as the No. 2 economy within two years — decisions made in Beijing have ramifications for businesses and governments the world over. If lawmakers care about international climate change negotiations, the global financial crisis, product safety or myriad security challenges from North Korea to Cuba, they now have to care about China. ...