US needs to come to terms with Bei­jing’s rise


China and the United States agreed to a “new type of ma­jor power re­la­tion­ship” in June 2013 when US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama hosted Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping at Sun­ny­lands in Cal­i­for­nia, where the two lead­ers also dis­cussed im­por­tant re­gional and global is­sues for more than eight hours.

In re­turn, Xi hosted Obama in Bei­jing in Novem­ber 2014, and the two lead­ers took a stroll on Ying­tai Bridge over a lake near Xi’s of­fi­cial res­i­dence dur­ing which they dis­cussed many im­por­tant is­sues. Later, Obama said the Ying­tai talks fur­ther deep­ened his un­der­stand­ing of Chi­nese lead­ers and gov­er­nance, and helped him bet­ter un­der­stand why Chi­nese peo­ple value na­tional uni­fi­ca­tion and sta­bil­ity so much.

Since Obama is ea­ger to leave be­hind a rich diplo­matic le­gacy, he should make more ef­forts to im­prove the US’ re­la­tions with China. In­deed, the two sides have made progress on this front.

That China and the US agreed to ne­go­ti­ate the Bi­lat­eral In­vest­ment Treaty on the ba­sis of “preestab­lish­ment na­tional treat­ment and neg­a­tive list” was a ma­jor break­through in it­self. In 2014, China-US trade reached $555.1 bil­lion, and mu­tual in­vest­ments ex­ceeded $120 bil­lion. Both were record high fig­ures de­spite the slug­gish global eco­nomic re­cov­ery.

Last sum­mer, the Chi­nese navy took part in RIMPAC, or the Rim of the Pa­cific Ex­er­cise, at the in­vi­ta­tion of the US for the first time. In Novem­ber, the two coun­tries’ de­fense de­part­ments signed two agree­ments to in­form each other of their ma­jor mil­i­tary ac­tiv­i­ties and se­cu­rity code for mil­i­tary ac­tiv­i­ties in in­ter­na­tional wa­ters to re­duce mis­judg­ments and deepen mu­tual trust.

More­over, the world’s two big­gest en­ergy con­sumers is­sued a joint state­ment on cli­mate change late last year, set­ting their en­ergy-sav­ing and emis­sion-cut­ting goals. And the two op­po­nents at pre­vi­ous UN cli­mate change talks have vowed to work to­gether to push the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to agree to a cli­mate treaty in Paris later this year.

But de­spite th­ese achieve­ments, Xi still has a host of is­sues to dis­cuss with Obama dur­ing his visit to the US in Septem­ber. The two coun­tries’ long-term joint ef­fort to build a “new type of ma­jor power re­la­tion­ship” is full of op­por­tu­ni­ties as well as chal­lenges. China’s rise of­fers more mu­tual benefits than con­fronta­tion to the US, be­cause Bei­jing has drawn lessons from the strate­gic er­rors of pre­vi­ous big pow­ers and be­lieves in the prin­ci­ples of peace­ful devel­op­ment and win­win co­op­er­a­tion. More im­por­tant, China wants to chart a course that is dif­fer­ent from one that marked the ColdWar pe­riod.

The US has ben­e­fited from the world or­der it helped es­tab­lish and dom­i­nated since the end of ColdWar. But it has to aban­don the zero-sum men­tal­ity, based on mil­i­tary and geopo­lit­i­cal su­pe­ri­or­ity, to come to terms with China’s rise. It needs to adopt a new out­look to deal with a ma­jor coun­try that has dif­fer­ent val­ues and so­cial sys­tem.

In other words, China and the US have to em­ploy in­no­va­tive thoughts and dy­namic diplo­macy to man­age bi­lat­eral re­la­tions. To prop­erly han­dle their dif­fer­ences and con­flicts, the two sides need to re­spect each other’s core in­ter­ests and ma­jor con­cerns, es­pe­cially be­cause China will strongly de­fend its sovereignty, se­cu­rity and devel­op­ment rights, and play a big­ger role in world af­fairs with the ex­pan­sion of its na­tional in­ter­ests.

The US should keep the big­ger pic­ture in mind, be­cause co­op­er­a­tion with China will ben­e­fit not only the two sides, but also the world as a whole. The com­mon in­ter­ests China and the US share of­fer a broad space for co­op­er­a­tion, leav­ing lit­tle room for con­fronta­tion. There­fore, the two sides should con­sider their re­la­tion­ship in the light of their over­all global strat­egy, be­cause the evo­lu­tion of their ties is closely re­lated to the world sit­u­a­tion.

And keep­ing the global sit­u­a­tion in mind will help China and the US both to keep their re­la­tion­ship on the right track. The au­thor is a for­mer Chi­nese am­bas­sador to the United States.


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