Unprecedented endeavor

Updated: 2012-05-09 13:52

By Tao Wenzhao (China Daily)

  Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

US and China agree they must work together to forge a new type of power relations centered on peaceful coexistence

The fourth round of the China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue has fully demonstrated the common interests and responsibilities that China and the United States share in meeting regional and global challenges.

The dialogue produced a wide range of positive outcomes. Among them, the two sides decided to hold the next round of sub-dialogues on policy planning, Africa, Latin America, South Asia and Central Asia on a regular basis, and they affirmed their support for establishing the China-US Maritime Safety Dialogue Mechanism and holding the first dialogue later this year.

The Strategic and Economic Dialogue has served as an important platform for China and the US to enhance communication and mutual trust in recent years. The two sides have reached common ground, and agree that they need a relationship of peaceful coexistence, benign competition and mutual benefit. This is the most profound outcome ever achieved through the platform.

In fact, the two countries began exploring such a relationship after former US president Richard Nixon visited China 40 years ago and especially after diplomatic relations were established in 1979. Despite all the ups and downs, the bilateral ties have continually moved forward.

China maintains economic growth within the existing international system and the US benefits from China's development. Relatively stable Sino-US ties are beneficial to both sides.

But despite their deepening interdependence, insufficient mutual trust as a result of the changing balance of power is still an obstacle.

The US is now facing political, economic and social problems on a scale it has never experienced and people inside and outside the country are questioning whether it is in decline. Wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq have worn down the country's resources and divided the American public. The subprime mortgage crisis in 2007 and the global financial crisis that began to take hold in 2008 exposed the deep-seated problems in the US economy. Youngsters from the middle class in the US, especially the lower middle class, feel increasingly helpless and fear for their future. They see themselves as the 99-percent group at the mercy of the 1 percent that control a large part of the country's wealth.

Meanwhile, China's dynamic growth, especially its economic surge during its first decade as member of the World Trade Organization, has resulted in it becoming the world's second largest economy, the second largest importer and biggest exporter, and the largest holder of foreign exchange reserves. China has developed too fast for itself and the rest of the world to get fully prepared for its growing clout.

Predictions that China will overtake the US as the world's largest economy within the next decade further intensify the US' concerns that China will threaten its dominance, especially in Asia.

The China threat theory, when it appeared in the 1990s, had a rather paranoid air, but nowadays with China's economic success and increasing military funds, many in the US do view China as a potential threat. Thus although China and the US share more common interests and are deepening and widening their cooperation, a "trust deficit" has arisen. The mutual trust between them still lags far behind what is required for further development of the bilateral ties. This leads many people to believe that China and the US are doomed to the historical tragedy of great power politics.

However, although the rise of powers has historically often led to conflict, international relations today are undergoing some profound changes. US Vice-President Joe Biden wrote an article for the New York Times after he visited China last year, arguing China's rise is not the US' demise. US President Barack Obama has more than once emphasized that the US welcomes a strong, prosperous and successful China and that its rise has brought with it economic benefits for American people.

China and the US have maintained decades-long mutually beneficial cooperation, and people on both sides have the wisdom necessary to shake off the shackles of great power politics of the past.

The author is a researcher with the Institute of American Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.