After the tension of the past year, relations between China and the United States seem to be on the rebound.
China and the U.S. have a consensus on relations that are no longer defined by strategic rivalry, but by cooperation and proper management of differences. Ahead of the meeting of the two Presidents during November’s APEC summit in Beijing, the sixth Strategic and Economic Dialogue and fifth High-Level Consultation on People-to-People Exchange covered almost all fields of bilateral relations, from military exchange and cyber security to climate change and agriculture.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. is not trying to contain China, but welcomes a peaceful, stable China that contributes to regional stability.
While China may want to believe that this is the case, it is going to take some concrete action by the Americans to demonstrate their respect for China’s core interests. A good start would be consistent refusal by the U.S. to take sides in regional tensions between China and third parties.
From the Chinese point of view, the U.S. is expected to be more than an trading partner. The essence of any new model of international relations must be on the basis of non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation.
China’s way is peaceful development and national rejuvenation. There is no intention of challenging the U.S. in Asia or pushing it out of the region. China has the strategic patience to assure the U.S. of its intentions.
The China-U.S. bilateral investment treaty will reposition the economic relationship for the 21st century. The U.S. should be confident of its ability to cooperate, and abandon the philosophical restrictions of the narrow definition of geopolitics.
For centuries, the world has worried about the Thucydides Trap — the notion an established power becomes so anxious about the rise of a new power that a struggle which eventually leads to war becomes inevitable. There has been no off-the-shelf solution to the Thucydides problem. Only a new model, one that excludes fear, can bring about the desired state of peaceful, mutual development.
It is going to take some good sense to accurately assess each other’s fundamental goals and keep the dialogue flowing.
The 21st century will not necessarily mark the rise of China at the cost of the fall of the U.S.