what form will china-u.s. relations take in the future?
craig allen, president of the us-china business council (uscbc), delivers a speech at the uscbc 2022 gala in washington, u.s., on december 6, 2022. (photo: vcg)
edited by gong qian
the world is grappling with a range of issues currently including the food crisis, climate change, covid-19 pandemic, economic downtrend and russia-ukraine conflict.
in addition, the past few years have seen china-u.s. relations confronted with unprecedented challenges.
in an attempt to find answers to this important relationship, leading experts and scholars from the two countries shared their thoughts on the topic of "china-u.s. competition and cooperation in the post-pandemic era" at the 7th china global think tank innovation forum, organized by the center for china and globalization (ccg), china's leading think tank, in beijing on december 15.
u.s.-china relations have deteriorated at a speed and to a level that was previously unimaginable, said daniel russel, vice president for international security and diplomacy, asia society policy institute. the two countries both blame the other side for the emerging problems and insist that the things they are doing are fully justified, said russel.
xu bu, president of china institutes for international studies (ciis), pointed out that the u.s. has been making strategic misjudgments on china. examples of this are questions such as what does china want as it becomes stronger? is china going to overtake the u.s.? is china trying to drive the u.s. out of asia? the facts show that there is no way to drive the u.s. out of the asia pacific and neither can the u.s. make asean countries take sides, said xu.
nevertheless, all attendees believed that the two countries should promote exchanges and communication. a case in point is the talk between president xi jinping and president joe biden at the g20 bali summit in november 2022, which may be a turning point for china-u.s. relations. proving to be a "speed bump" or serving as an "exit ramp", the talk could prevent the bilateral relations from further deteriorating, said russel.
according to colin bradford, nonresident senior fellow at brookings institution, the talk was vital as the two leaders renewed their commitments to dialogue and will continue to have regular conversations between them.
in russel's view, there are two really urgent and essential principles that the two sides need to accept. the first is not to set unreasonable preconditions for cooperation. as the two largest economies in the world, the u.s. and china must take responsibility for the planet. this means that they have to be cooperative on global challenges such as food security, infectious diseases and nuclear proliferation. they should declare these areas as safe spaces for cooperation, no matter what the status of their bilateral relationship might be. the second key principle is that the two sides urgently need to manage military risks.
xue lan, dean of schwarzman college at tsinghua university, also said managing risks is critical and both sides have already taken effective measures to avoid the worst case scenarios.
on the other hand, managing contradiction needs to be put high on the agenda. he noted that in the past few years, the u.s. has issued some self-contradictory policies. if the problems can't be resolved, dialogues and negotiations may lead to no results.
for example, many statements and documents issued by the u.s. government refer to china as both a competitor and a rival. however, the u.s. policies in science and technology show that it regards china as an enemy not a competitor. to some extent, the u.s. hopes to drive china out of the world's economic industrial chain, even at a heavy cost to its own interests. in this case, it is difficult for both parties to understand the other's real intentions.
china and the u.s. have different political and economic systems and the two have different histories and values. "the question is, can we manage the u.s.-china relations given the differences," said richard haass, president of the u.s. council on foreign policy, in an online talk with wang huiyao, the president of ccg.
haass is optimistic about the u.s.-china relations. he believes that the two countries have common interests in managing the differences and in not seeing the differences slide into conflict.