Confrontation, competition, cooperation

Writer: Winton Dong  |  Editor: Jane Chen  |  From: Shenzhen Daily  |  Updated: 2021-04-26

With the robust development of the Chinese economy and the rapid growth of its comprehensive strength, it is obvious that the China-U.S. relationship is facing strong headwinds in recent years.

Due to the anxiety of losing control of world leadership, the United States unilaterally launched trade, science and other campaigns to curb the development of China during President Donald Trump's tenure. When President John Biden took the helm, he vowed, for many times, to strengthen exchanges and avoid conflicts with China. However, instead of rolling back the previous U.S. administration's protective tariffs and other tightening policies on Chinese imports, it seems that he is introducing even tougher measures and systematic confrontational approaches to contain China's rise.

Bilateral ties are now overshadowed by Washington's playing the Taiwan card, stepping up official contacts with Taiwan and seeking greater alignment with some Asia-Pacific allies to press China. Besides Taiwan, the superpower also more frequently sends military airplanes to fly over the South China Sea, targets Xinjiang cotton with a disinformation campaign, and uses Hong Kong and other sensitive issues to irritate China.

Citing national security as a reason, the Biden administration added seven Chinese supercomputer laboratories and manufacturers to a U.S. export blacklist April 9. Much more than that, the U.S. is continuing to expand its scrutiny by the Committee on Foreign Investment to limit China's technological development. The U.S. Senate's recent drafting of the Strategic Competition Act of 2021, which mandates diplomatic and security initiatives to contain China, overemphasizes the confrontation between the two countries. The bill describes sanctions as a powerful means for the U.S. and stresses the need to prioritize its military investment all over the world.

In my point of view, Washington's recent aggressive moves serve its aim to frustrate China, especially the production and supply chains that matter to China's economy and its technological sectors. As the two biggest economies in the world, the China-U.S. relationship is surely one of the most important and difficult bilateral relationships on our globe. For strong nations like China and the U.S., competition may be unavoidable. Nevertheless, competition should be healthy and constructive, and not be allowed to become a zero-sum game.

Decoupling between China and the U.S. will benefit neither side, so the two sides should meet each other half way to work towards more shared interests.

Even without the thaw of their overall ties, the two big nations can try to find a better way to coexist and collaborate on some specific and selected issues.

Just as many people thought, climate cooperation is a good starting point to reboot bilateral relationships. The recent four-day visit by U.S. special envoy John Kerry was the first visit to China by a senior Biden administration official and the tone of discussion was significant. After negotiation, the two sides agreed to cooperate with each other under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement on climate. In addition to climate change, the two countries have also provided favorable COVID-19 vaccination assistance for each other's diplomats. Both these are positive trends that should be encouraged.

During 40-odd years of communication, the China-U.S. relationship has witnessed many ups and downs and met many new problems. Now, it is time to make some changes and make compromises. Compromise is not one-sided but mutual. Both China and the U.S. should rethink and reshape future bilateral ties in a more constructive way. Based on mutual respect and equal footings, the two sides should view each other's strategic intentions in a more rational and objective manner, set up strategic cooperation, enhance political trust and try to avoid misjudgment.

In conclusion, a healthy China-U.S. relationship is fully in line with the interests of both peoples. More importantly, at a time when the world is facing profound uncertainties, a welcome signal between the two countries could not only enhance bilateral friendship, but also serves as a demonstration that no country can be a self-sufficient insulator in today's highly interconnected world.

(The author is the editor-in-chief of the Shenzhen Daily with a Ph.D. from the Journalism and Communication School of Wuhan University.) 

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