40 Years of China­u. S. Re­la­tions

His­tory teaches how to keep the ties sta­ble and pro­gres­sive

Beijing Review - - WORLD - By Tao Wen­zhao

FThe au­thor is a se­nior re­searcher with the

In­sti­tute of Amer­i­can Stud­ies at the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sci­ences

our decades have passed since the nor­mal­iza­tion of Sino-u.s. re­la­tions. As two ma­jor coun­tries with dif­fer­ent cul­tural back­grounds, so­cial sys­tems and ide­olo­gies, differences and fric­tions do ex­ist, but the grow­ing com­mon in­ter­ests go far be­yond the fric­tion. With the world si­t­u­a­tion and the do­mes­tic sce­nario of both coun­tries un­der­go­ing dra­matic changes, Sino-u.s. re­la­tions have also ex­pe­ri­enced ups and downs, but in gen­eral, ties have kept ad­vanc­ing.

Through­out the 40 years, what can be assured is that co­op­er­a­tion and mu­tual ben­e­fits have been the theme as well as the essence of bi­lat­eral re­la­tions. And both coun­tries have ben­e­fited from a healthy and sta­ble Sino-u.s. re­la­tion­ship, which, at the same time, has also pro­moted peace, sta­bil­ity and pros­per­ity in the world. The ba­si­cally be­nign in­ter­ac­tion be­tween the two coun­tries in the past 40 years has helped them garner rich ex­pe­ri­ence in han­dling their re­la­tions.

Mu­tual un­der­stand­ing

To main­tain sound bi­lat­eral ties, the two coun­tries need a clear and cor­rect un­der­stand­ing of the strate­gic mo­tives and in­ten­tions of the other side. This was also the premise for Sino-u.s. re­la­tions re­turn­ing to the right track in the 1970s. At that time, only af­ter China re­al­ized that the United States’ Viet Nam war was not tar­get­ing China, it be­gan sin­cerely to set about eas­ing re­la­tions with its pre­vi­ous out­sized foe. On the other hand, the U.S. rec­og­nized that China had no in­ten­tion to ex­pand its power in Asia and that the Com­mu­nist Party of China would re­main China’s pow­er­ful lead­er­ship core, a reality that could not be chal­lenged by ex­ter­nal forces. The two sides then de­cided to meet each other half­way. Forty years on, mu­tual un­der­stand­ing re­mains the foun­da­tion of their ties.

China fol­lows the path of peace­ful de­vel­op­ment, and the re­ju­ve­na­tion of the na­tion is in­tended to re­al­ize peo­ple’s as­pi­ra­tion for a bet­ter life. China does not in­tend to chal­lenge the United States, or to re­place its supremacy. U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s cur­rent China bash­ing pol­icy stems from the mis­per­cep­tion of his ad­min­is­tra­tion to­ward China, and China will demon­strate its sin­cer­ity with con­crete ac­tions.

Re­spect­ing core in­ter­ests

Re­spect­ing each other’s core in­ter­ests is ex­tremely im­por­tant for the sound and steady de­vel­op­ment of bi­lat­eral re­la­tions. In April 2001, a mid-air col­li­sion be­tween a U.S. air­craft and a Chi­nese in­ter­cep­tor fighter jet near the Chi­nese is­land prov­ince of Hainan re­sulted in an in­ter­na­tional dis­pute. But once that was set­tled, Chi­naU.S. re­la­tions re­mained sta­ble for eight years dur­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion of Ge­orge W. Bush. It was the long­est pe­riod where the two coun­tries en­joyed such sta­ble de­vel­op­ment in their re­la­tion­ship, the main rea­son be­ing that both re­spected each other’s core in­ter­ests.

For China, pro­mot­ing na­tional de­vel­op­ment and safe­guard­ing na­tional unity are of vi­tal im­por­tance. The United States in­di­cated its stance against “Tai­wan in­de­pen­dence.” The two coun­tries also de­vel­oped sound eco­nomic ties af­ter China joined the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion in De­cem­ber 2001.

At the same time, com­bat­ing in­ter­na­tional ter­ror­ism and prevent­ing the pro­lif­er­a­tion of weapons of mass de­struc­tion were ma­jor tasks of the United States. China, with con­crete steps, stood to­gether with the United States in the fight against global ter­ror­ism.

China also plays an ir­re­place­able role in me­di­at­ing the Korean Penin­sula is­sue, co­op­er­at­ing with the U. S. side over its con­cern on nu­clear pro­lif­er­a­tion. Com­mon sup­port and co­op­er­a­tion on these ma­jor is­sues in­volv­ing core in­ter­ests have en­sured the sta­bil­ity of Sino-u.s. ties.

The Tai­wan ques­tion is the most sen­si­tive one in Sino-u.s. re­la­tions. Three joint com­mu­niqués have es­tab­lished the guid­ing principles for both sides to han­dle the is­sue, but the United States has main­tained a two-faced pol­icy. While rec­og­niz­ing the one-china prin­ci­ple—that there is only one China and Tai­wan is an in­alien­able part of it—it also main­tains mil­i­tary re­la­tions with Tai­wan, sell­ing it arms, which has a cycli­cal im­pact on Sino-u.s. ties. How­ever, if there is any at­tempt by a sep­a­ratist force to split Tai­wan from China, the United States would also warn the sep­a­ratists. The United States has, to a cer­tain ex­tent, helped to curb the pro-“tai­wan in­de­pen­dence” forces and worked to­gether with the Chi­nese Gov­ern­ment to safe­guard the sta­bil­ity of the Tai­wan Straits.

How­ever, there are still “Tai­wan in­de­pen­dence” sup­port­ers in the United States, who could af­fect cross-straits ties. If the U.S. chooses to stand in the way of the re­uni­fi­ca­tion of the Chi­nese main­land and Tai­wan, there would be more se­ri­ous con­se­quences than trade fric­tion.

Cri­sis man­age­ment

Bi­lat­eral ties have faced sev­eral crises over the past decades. Be­sides the midair col­li­sion in­ci­dent, the at­tack on the Chi­nese Em­bassy dur­ing the NATO bomb­ing of Bel­grade, Yu­goslavia, in May 1999 was an­other in­stance. How­ever, both crises were con­trolled suc­cess­fully, lim­it­ing the neg­a­tive im­pact to a rel­a­tively small scale and a short pe­riod of time.

Some im­por­tant lessons can be learnt from these ex­pe­ri­ences. For in­stance, main­tain­ing ef­fec­tive chan­nels for com­mu­ni­ca­tion helps pre­vent mis­un­der­stand­ings

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