Susan Rice: "We can’t afford to play fast and loose" with China

Susan Rice on China relations

Susan Rice has served in the Obama administration since 2009, first as ambassador to the United Nations. Since 2013, Rice has been the national security adviser, responsible for giving the president his daily national security briefing and for coordinating the administration’s foreign policy, intelligence and military efforts.

In an interview with “CBS This Morning” co-host Charlie Rose, Rice said China is our country’s most consequential international relationship, one that has been threatened by President-elect Donald Trump saying he would reconsider the One China policy -- a break from decades of diplomatic norms. Rice said that would not be wise.

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“The One China policy has served the United States, Taiwan, and China well. And it has been a foundational element of the U.S.-China relationship since normalization back in 1979,” Rice said. “We are a friend and partner of Taiwan. We adhere to the Taiwan Relations Act. We provide defense equipment and support to Taiwan. And that has served Taiwan and the United States well.  But to abrogate the One China policy, or to bring it into an ancillary negotiation, say, on an economic or trade issue, I think, would be a grave mistake.”

“I think that we will find that China -- with whom we have managed to forge a far more pragmatic and effective relationship, where we cooperate in a far wider range of areas than ever before -- whether it’s climate change, or peacekeeping, or global health, or non-proliferation -- and we manage our differences and our competition, whether in the economic sphere or in the South China Sea in a constructive fashion to avoid conflict,” Rice added. “But that whole balance could be upset in a very devastating way.”

Rice also said China is an “indispensable player when it comes to North Korea.”

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“Our global economy is such that the U.S. and China’s economies are intimately linked. They hold a high proportion of our debt. There are just many ways in which we can’t afford to play fast and loose with what is the most consequential bilateral relationship on the planet,” she said.

“But here’s what some people are looking at,” Rose said. “They see Xi Jinping at Davos giving a major speech -- first time he’s been there, first time the president of China had been there -- basically saying, ‘Look, globalization is good.’ When the whole populist revolution is about ‘globalism is bad.’ It’s almost like China is saying, ‘We are the champion of globalization, not the United States.’”

“Well, the United States has been the biggest beneficiary of globalization, and free trade, and open markets. It has reinforced democratic rule in many places. It’s raised living standards, and it’s -- the exports are a huge basis of our economy. So, I think, if -- we would be very remiss if we ceded the mantle of leadership on free trade and economic openness to China,” Rice said.

Rice also told Rose that although China has been more aggressively building a presence in the South China Sea, she believes the U.S. has “managed” them in that regard.