The Decades-Old Slight that Poisons U.S.-China RelationsRoundup: Historians' Take
Rana Mitter is professor of the history and politics of modern China at the University of Oxford and author of Forgotten Ally: China’s World War II.
...The uneven relationship between the U.S. and Chinese militaries is no surprise in an era when China's influence is rising. However, there is an increasing disparity in the way that the two sides view each other's actions. American interests are more and more tied to an unstated "containment" of China's presence in the Asia-Pacific region. Yet the Pearl Harbor exercise has a historical aptness for a different reason: In China, there is a growing sense that American actions are tied to an unjust regional settlement that dates from the end of World War II.
After a significant Chinese contribution to the Allied victory in Asia, many in China argue, the United States has failed to recognize an unpaid debt. And just as America sought to contain China taking its rightful place in the world in the 1940s, so it seeks to do so again. At the start of the joint exercise, Rear Adm. Rick Williams, commander of Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific, declared to his Chinese visitors, "We are linked with you together in history, and we will be linked together in the future." For China, which is rediscovering its historical relationship with the United States, Williams's statement rings true, but in ways that may not be comfortable for America ears....