Asian Re­view: De­spite ri­valry, much unites China and US

Global Times - - Front Page -

On my flight from Bei­jing to Los An­ge­les, I watched US Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence’s speech on China pol­icy and felt a chill that re­minded me of the Cold War. But when I walked out of the air­port, a ten­der breeze al­le­vi­ated that un­easy feel­ing.

All seats on my flight were taken. Although my travel was close to the end of China’s week-long Na­tional Day hol­i­day, there were some tourist groups on the flight. A Chi­nese-Amer­i­can man­ager who works for a US com­pany told me that he trav­els to China five to six times a year and it is quite nor­mal to see a full flight. Af­ter I ar­rived at Los An­ge­les, I found that Trump-nom­i­nated con­tro­ver­sial judge Brett Ka­vanaugh’s swear­ing-in as Supreme Court Jus­tice was the most at­ten­tion­grab­bing news on US so­cial me­dia and main­stream me­dia. Ka­vanaugh’s con­fir­ma­tion had come af­ter a bit­ter strug­gle be­tween the Demo­cratic Party and GOP. The driver who picked me up from the air­port showed im­mense in­ter­est in the topic, while know­ing lit­tle about Pence’s sting­ing speech on China. When asked about the trade war be­tween China and his coun­try, he just said, “I don’t feel that.”

The Amer­i­cans I talked to dur­ing my trip all thought that Wash­ing­ton’s China pol­icy was “in­con­sis­tent” and “fluc­tu­at­ing.” They then nar­rated sto­ries which showed that the economies of China and the US and even the lives of peo­ple from both coun­tries were in­ter­de­pen­dent and in­sep­a­ra­ble.

One day we drove to Lan­caster where the BYD Mo­tor Fac­tory is lo­cated. Af­ter a cross­ing, a sign ahead of us read “BYD Boule­vard.” Driv­ing along the street, we could see “BYD” in red on the grey wall with “Build­ing Your Dream” writ­ten below it.

While more and more Chi­nese com­pa­nies hope to bring their dreams to the US, more and more Amer­i­can com­pa­nies are ful­fill­ing their dreams in China. I can­not help but think of the Amer­i­can man­ager I met on my flight, whose com­pany and fam­ily are al­ready closely as­so­ci­ated with China.

The dreams of the peo­ple of Lan­caster are linked with the ar­rival of BYD, the world’s big­gest man­u­fac­turer of elec­tric ve­hi­cles head­quar­tered in China’s Shen­zhen. The plant, which started con­struc­tion in Lan­caster in 2013, has pro­vided thou­sands of jobs in this small city of 160,000.

R. Rex Par­ris, mayor of Lan­caster, told me that he as­sumed the role dur­ing the 2008 fi­nan­cial cri­sis when unem­ploy­ment was high and the econ­omy was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a steep de­cline. BYD was the first for­eign in­vest­ment he brought in. It has be­come a suc­cess­ful case of com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween two dif­fer­ent cul­tures and helped draw in more in­vest­ment. Lo­cal unem­ploy­ment de­creased to 4 per­cent from 24 per­cent.

Co­op­er­a­tion was the word most used by Par­ris. Point­ing to a lap­top on his desk, he said, if China and the US com­pete for who should pro­duce it, it will only be a zero-sum game; but if they co­op­er­ate, they can pro­duce more prod­ucts and ex­plore wider mar­kets.

Ra­jit Gadh, di­rec­tor at the UCLA Smart Grid En­ergy Re­search Cen­ter, did not di­rectly re­spond to my ques­tions about the trade war, but elo­quently said, trade fric­tions are tem­po­rary, but the di­rec­tion in which elec­tric ve­hi­cles are head­ing is for the long term.

Gadh be­lieves that the tech­no­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ment of elec­tric ve­hi­cles can­not hap­pen with­out ei­ther China or the US, es­pe­cially Cal­i­for­nia. China is the largest mar­ket with the most ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy for bat­tery man­u­fac­tur­ing. Cal­i­for­nia has a lead­ing edge in this re­gard and half the num­ber of elec­tric ve­hi­cles in the whole of Amer­ica are found in Cal­i­for­nia.

The short visit to the US makes me feel that the pub­lic in both coun­tries did not ex­pect that Wash­ing­ton’s China pol­icy would come to this, but they are un­likely to fol­low Wash­ing­ton’s drum­beat. China-US re­la­tions are about bi­lat­eral in­ter­ac­tion rather than a one-man show. Wash­ing­ton may be pas­sion­ate about time-travel dra­mas, but to­day we all live in a world of co­ex­is­tence. Peo­ple on both sides of the Pa­cific are not in­ter­ested in go­ing back to the Cold War era.

Il­lus­tra­tion: Liu Rui/GT

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