It's not hard to understand where the anxiety comes from. If economic interdependence is a contributor to bilateral peace, then rebuffing Chinese attempts to invest in America risks creating
opportunities for conflict. Beyond the frustration that that engenders on either side of the Pacific, Chinese firms that perceive the United States as a
hostile place to do business might be inclined to invest elsewhere and hasten the rise of other would-be foreign rivals. Is U.S. national security worth the price of these opportunity costs? Caution might imply that it is. But that doesn't mean we've crossed an economic Rubicon.
It's best not to read too much into the hype. The specifics of these recent cases should help explain why. In the wind-farm example, Obama ordered the Chinese-owned Ralls Corp. to divest its funds after a nine-agency federal task force concluded the national security risks
associated with the deal had no effective remedy. (Several of the planned wind turbines would have been in or near U.S. Navy-restricted airspace.) It's
rare for the federal committee, CFIUS, to recommend nixing a deal -- it hasn't happened for more than two decades. But the last time it occurred, guess
what: It involved a transaction by another Chinese company, China National Aero-Technology and Export Corp. We've been here before, and the U.S.-China
relationship emerged no worse for wear.
Special circumstances mark the case of Huawei, too. The world of cybersecurity is still new and loosely defined. Washington knows relatively little about
how it's vulnerable, electronically; even less about the right tools it needs to defend those weaknesses; and still less what cyberweapons foreign
governments have in their arsenals. Under these conditions, fearful rhetoric about what might happen can easily trump tempered analyses about what's most
likely to happen. It doesn't help matters that Huawei, the company in the hotseat, was founded by a former Chinese army officer -- a matter that only
heightens suspicion against the firm. It's only natural that U.S. policymakers would get skittish about something like this. If the two countries'
positions were reversed, Chinese leaders might well react the same way.
Which brings us to the question of perception. How well does Beijing really understand where Americans are coming from? Can they see themselves in
President Obama's shoes? Probably. Here's what China's presumptive new president, Xi Jinping, had to say during his February visit to the United States:
"This year marks the election year of the United States. I believe no one of insight from the U.S. side would like to see that the election factors would
have a regrettable impact on the development of ties between the two countries," Xi said during a meeting with several former senior U.S. officials.
Xi is clearly issuing something of a warning -- Hey, America: don't say or do something you'll regret later! -- but what's important is that he
acknowledges domestic politics puts pressure on politicians to behave in ways that create unintended problems at the international level. As long as
Beijing remains aware of that, and it's hard to think it won't, given how much of China's own governance strategy revolves around maintaining domestic
stability, we can probably expect some amount of understanding from the Chinese regime that what looks like a snub is sometimes just part of doing