A new test for bilateral ties
Updated: 2011-08-20 07:53
By Ma Zhengang (China Daily)
China and US can break traditional cycle of conflict between two powers if they establish a partnership on mutual respect
During his visit to the United States in January, President Hu Jintao agreed with his US counterpart Barack Obama to establish Sino-US cooperative partnership on the basis of mutual respect, reciprocity and mutual benefit, and made some concrete arrangements for further development of bilateral relations.
Since then, the two countries have held another round of high-level talks on people-to-people exchange, the third round of Strategic and Economic Dialogue and the first-ever talks on bilateral affairs in the Asia-Pacific region. The mutual visits by their chiefs of general staff have resumed the suspended military exchanges between the two countries and are widely seen as a crucial step toward developing healthy ties.
The flow of communications between China and the US on bilateral and international issues and their deepened coordination and cooperation in a variety of fields after Hu's visit show that Sino-US relations have the potential to be taken to newer heights. And they testify that Beijing and Washington can put their ties on a stable track, and their cooperation can produce mutually beneficial results if they keep their long-term interests in mind and handle bilateral disputes appropriately and prudently.
But despite the momentum of positive development, Sino-US relations are still plagued by several issues. The US still has misgivings about China's rapid rise and has not stopped its attempts to contain that. It has little or no respect for some of China's core interests and prefers to exert pressure on China whenever a bilateral dispute crops up. The US has become used to pointing fingers at China for the normal buildup of the latter's national defense capability by using the "China threat" theory.
Though the US possesses many aircraft carriers, some of them nuclear-powered and colossal, and has flexed its naval muscle near China's maritime waters, it still voices "concern" over Beijing's first aircraft carrier, which is strictly for scientific research and training purposes. Washington has even demanded an explanation from Beijing on the aircraft carrier issue.
In doing all this, the US has turned a blind eye to its own economic and financial problems that have afflicted the rest of world, and tried to shift its responsibilities for the global economic woes by blaming the yuan's exchange rate for them. The yuan has risen almost 30 percent against the US dollar since it was depegged from the greenback in 2005, but US officials still complain that its revaluation is "very slow". Such accusations not only disrespect China's national interests, but also blatantly deny facts.
But China and the US share many common interests, too. As two significant powers, the two have overlapping interests in resolving a series of bilateral and multilateral issues, as evidenced by the 30-plus years of bilateral relations. Take bilateral trade for example, Sino-US trade volume was only $2.4 billion when diplomatic ties were established in 1979. It increased to $385.3 billion last year, even though the two countries have not stopped quarreling in recent years over the gaping trade surplus in favor of China. In the first four months of this year, bilateral trade grew 24.8 percent year-on-year. China and the US are now the second largest trade partners in the world and the tangible benefits they have harvested from bilateral trade reflect their growing interdependence.
In the era of globalization, countries have to make joint efforts to overcome global challenges. As two big countries with common global responsibilities, China and the US should work more closely to make greater contributions to world peace, security and development. Sino-US cooperation aimed at helping the international community overcome the global financial crisis should become an example of bilateral cooperation for the rest of the world.
New situations created across the world by profound changes in international relations demand that China and the US develop ties with a new mindset.
With the rapid development of China, some considerable changes have occurred in power comparisons between Beijing and Washington, which are a new test for Sino-US relations. The US should abandon its Cold War mentality and hegemonic handling of relations with other countries. It should no longer consider China's rise as a threat to its self-proclaimed world leadership, a concept that has long distorted Washington's perception of Beijing and become a big obstacle to building strategic mutual trust with China.
Since Sino-US ties are one of the most important in the world, their importance is far beyond the bilateral scope. The way the US perceives China - whether as a strategic partner or rival and whether it pursues economic cooperation or vicious competition with China - will not only be closely related to the fundamental interests of the two countries and their people, but also will directly affect the security and welfare of the Asia-Pacific region as a whole.
Facts prove that China and the US can break the traditional cycle of confrontation between two big powers if they establish a cooperative partnership based on mutual respect and mutual benefit and develop their ties into a new type of power-to-power relationship beyond systematic and ideological differences.
The author is former president of China Institute of International Studies.
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