Sino-US relations on a steady track?

peoplesChinese President Xi Jinping’s upcoming visit to the US is seen as particularly important because it comes at a time when the mood in Washington is argued by some to be turning against cooperation with China. Against the backdrop of difficulties in the South China Sea, the “New Normal” in the economy, and accusations over cyber theft, will the future course of relations between the two powers be smooth? Are both committed to keeping ties on a steady track? People’s Daily asked several experts for their opinion.

Yuan Peng, vice president of China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations

In the China-US relationship, two great powers, which differ in social system, ideology, values, development phase, history and culture, have been able to maintain a peaceful and stable relationship for over 30 years since the normalization of the diplomatic ties. This has created a framework for a new model of major power relationship. What we are doing now is to theorize and enrich the connotation of this relationship, gearing it to the needs of the future, so as to keep the China-US relationship on a stable and continuously advancing track.

Bilateral economic and trade ties, as in the past, will put the overall China-US relationship on more solid footing. Currently, the China-US trade stands at nearly $560 billion. The figure speaks a thousand words. It’s estimated that the two countries could tap a further $500 billion in trade potential in the next decade. Such enormous benefits are very likely to bind China and the US into a community of common interest and a state of profound interdependence that is hard to break.

In addition, there is also huge potential to be tapped in investment terms, which is why China is actively pushing the signing of the Bilateral Investment Treaty as soon as possible. The US and China, both permanent members of the UN Security Council, the world’s biggest and second biggest economies, and the biggest developed country and developing country, will change the world if they proceed hand in hand. China-US cooperation cannot solve all global issues, but none of the problems can be solved without China-US cooperation.

Shen Dingli, vice dean of the Institute of International Affairs at Fudan University

The US, shortly after the founding of the nation, established trade contact with China. The seeds of the now all-important US-China trade relationship were sown over 200 years ago, when the Empress of China, a ship commissioned by first US president George Washington, set sail from New York en route to Canton (Guangzhou).

Washington was pleased by the news of the ship’s return and spent $200 on the Chinese goods it brought back.Now, in 2014, the volume of trade in goods between China and the US has amounted to $560 billion and the two countries have become important trading partners to each other. With the development of both countries, the demand for expanding cooperation is further increasing. Mutually beneficial cooperation has laid a solid foundation for the state-state cooperation and could benefit the people of both countries. The China-US relationship is not an empty concept, but one that has rich connotations.

Douglas H. Paal, vice president of Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

We need cooperation at least at two levels:  first, far sighted statesmanship and a commitment to find ways to make room for each other in the Asia-Pacific region and in international bodies, not to exclude each other; and the leaders need to signal that they are determined to pursue economic reform and re-balancing and that they are convinced they can contribute together to global growth.

The second level is concrete accomplishments to address nagging issues such as cyber intrusions, frictions in the South and East China Seas, and the climate for foreign commerce and investment.China is only just beginning to extend its global reach. The number of areas where it can make a contribution is relatively small, but growing. The US must accustom itself to thinking of China as a necessary part of the equation leading to peace and development. And the US must think about what it says and does in terms of how China will view it.

China must not see areas of action as necessarily a zero sum game, or anything involving the US as another attempt to prevent China’s rise. We need to listen to each other more carefully.

Fan Jishe, a research fellow at the Institute of American Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

A solid foundation has been laid to construct a stable strategic relationship between China and the US. They have become politically and economically interdependent. In the middle and later periods of the Cold War, China and the US cooperated strategically to grapple with a common security threat; after that, they turned from cooperation on bilateral issues to interaction on multilateral and global issues for the sake of common interests and challenges.

As China integrates with the current international order and expands its interests overseas in globalized times, maintaining a stable and prosperous international society serves the interests of both countries. A rising China is dedicated to avoiding the Thucydides Trap and developing a relationship with the US that features no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation. This is where the core value of their new type of major power relationship lies. In the over 36 years since the two countries established their diplomatic ties, one important feature of the bilateral relationship is to define and conceptualize it.

In general, it was the US that used to define the direction of the Sino-US relationship and now China proposes to build a new model of major power relationship, an active try to develop their relations. The differences between China and the US mostly relate to sovereignty issues. They are politically sensitive and offer limited room for compromise. They are potential sources for confrontation and can be categorized as a “red area,” which can hardly be resolved in a short period.

But the two countries have accumulated abundant experiences to deal with these bilateral differences. Their differences on regional issues are not as sensitive as on bilateral disputes and can be categorized as a “yellow area,” which has certain room for compromise. China and the US can narrow their differences if they handle the regional disputes properly; otherwise, these issues may also lead to conflicts.

On global issues like climate change, nuclear non-proliferation, energy and pandemics, China and the US have many converging interests and fewer sensitive differences. This constitutes a “green area” that suggests broad prospects for cooperation. Building the new type of major power relationship requires the two countries to expand their cooperation in “green area” issues, work together more on “yellow area” issues and gradually turn some of them into “green area” ones. They should effectively manage the differences over “red area” issues and try to address them.

Huang Jing, director of the Centre on Asia and Globalization at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore

The Chinese and US people have never had irreconcilable confrontations. In the two world wars, especially WWII, they supported each other. Even during the Cold War, their desire to have friendly relations never perished.

Since China’s reform and opening-up, the US has been closely linked to China in economic, cultural and political spheres. Despite unavoidable conflicts over national interests, the two peoples don’t want to become enemies. It is unimaginable that either side would like to see war breaking out between the two countries. Most people hope that the two countries can have exchanges, seek cooperation and develop a good relationship, which lays a foundation for building the new type of major power relationship.

In political, economic and security exchanges, the two sides should work together toward institutionalization. After all, by building a new type of major power relationship, China and the US intend to avoid a zero-sum game and seek for win-win cooperation and compromise. Most importantly, they intend to translate such a consensus into concrete policies and measures through institutionalizing the bilateral relationship so as to effectively manage the problems and difficulties between them.

Source: People’s Daily