China, US should eye the larger picture

Updated: 2015-01-16 08:14

By Cui Liru(China Daily)

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With the tectonic shift in international relations, structural tensions and strategic competition between the two countries are on the rise, raising uncertainty about the direction of relationship. A particular source of concern is the risk of confrontation caused by misjudgment following unexpected incidents. The possibility of a head-on collision could thus become very real.

As a matter of fact, the ongoing debates about the so-called inevitability of rivalry between a rising power and an established power or the emergence of a new Cold War all boil down to one question: Will there be a fundamental shift in the future direction of China-US relations?

To answer that question, China needs to answer the following questions first: How should it perceive the world? As it grows in strength and forges closer ties with the world, what kind of relations and global order does it desire? What does it want to achieve with the US?

What China wants is primarily determined by what the world looks like to China and how it would like it to look in the future. Some argue that China's goal is to become a major power with global preeminence. Others argue it is better for China to focus on East Asia alone and be content with being the leader of the region - a wise decision weighing its strength and bearing in mind what happened to empires that came before the US. There are even those who urge China to be more ambitious and replace the US. But that raises the question of how can China achieve that? Does China have the capability? When should that happen? In what way can it happen? Most people in China have not considered these questions.

Instead of taking over the US' pole position in the world, China can also choose to live in peace with the US. Ideally, the gap between the two countries will gradually shrink and eventually they will get along with each other in a multipolar world. But before we ever reach that day, we still need to ask ourselves: What exactly does living in peace with the US mean for us? What is the best path to achieve that end? Can China and the US live together peacefully in Asia? As big as these questions may be, they hold the key to keeping the China-US relationship on the right track into the future. This is the larger picture, and it explains why the Chinese leadership has proposed the concept of a new model for a major-country relationship.


The author is the former president of China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

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