Sino-US ties add to global peace, says Har­vard ex­pert

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE -

WASH­ING­TON — China and the United States have con­trib­uted to the sta­bil­ity and pros­per­ity of the re­gion and the world over the past four decades, ac­cord­ing to Odd Arne Wes­tad, S.T. Lee pro­fes­sor of US-Asia Re­la­tions at Har­vard Uni­ver­sity, who spoke to Xin­hua News Agency in a re­cent in­ter­view.

On Jan 1, 1979, Bei­jing and Wash­ing­ton es­tab­lished for­mal diplo­matic re­la­tions. From then on, the re­la­tion­ship has served not only the in­ter­ests of the two coun­tries and de­liv­ered ben­e­fits to the two peo­ples, but also cre­ated far-reach­ing ef­fects in re­gional and global devel­op­ment.

Their re­la­tions since 1979 have been par­tic­u­larly cru­cial for the open­ness and free­dom of the global trad­ing sys­tem, pro­vid­ing devel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties and dis­sem­i­na­tion of tech­nol­ogy on a world­wide scale as well as sta­bil­ity in in­ter­na­tional af­fairs, Wes­tad said.

“Ups and downs not­with­stand­ing, the over­all re­la­tion­ship be­tween the United States and China has not been in­her­ently un­sta­ble, which con­trib­uted enor­mously to the smoother pe­riod of in­ter­na­tional af­fairs in the last phase of the Cold War and af­ter the Cold War ended,” he said.

The over­all healthy bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Bei­jing has also greatly con­trib­uted to the re­gion, he added.

“Though dif­fi­cul­ties still ex­ist in the Korean Penin­sula and else­where, East Asia, on the whole, has been a haven of sta­bil­ity and pros­per­ity, and China-US co­op­er­a­tion is

es­sen­tial for that.”

Wes­tad, a fel­low of the Bri­tish Academy and an au­thor­i­ta­tive scholar in Cold War his­tory and East Asian stud­ies, was a pro­fes­sor at the Lon­don School of Eco­nom­ics and Po­lit­i­cal Sci­ence be­fore mov­ing to Har­vard. He is teach­ing a course at Har­vard’s Kennedy School about how to un­der­stand con­tem­po­rary power shifts by us­ing his­tor­i­cal ex­am­ples.

He said on­go­ing in­ter­ac­tions be­tween China and the United States have some sim­i­lar­i­ties to pre­vi­ous power tran­si­tions, but also with sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences.

China is not a “re­vi­sion­ist state” seek­ing to al­ter the cur­rent in­ter­na­tional sys­tem, since the cur­rent sys­tem serves China well and con­tributes to China’s suc­cess with its re­form and open­ing-up, Wes­tad said.

Wes­tad also said that com­par­ing the com­pe­ti­tion be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Bei­jing to “a new Cold War,” a com­par­i­son that some­times ap­pears in head­lines, is a false his­tor­i­cal anal­ogy and ter­mi­no­log­i­cal lazi­ness.

The com­pe­ti­tion be­tween the two coun­tries in trade, in­vest­ment and tech­nol­ogy is to­tally un­like the size and scope of the global ri­valry be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Mos­cow, and their prox­ies, in the Cold War era, Wes­tad said.

“And in­stead of bipo­lar­ity be­tween the United States and China, the world is head­ing toward a more mul- tipo­lar struc­ture,” he added.

Wes­tad also men­tioned his Har­vard col­league Gra­ham Al­li­son and his best-sell­ing book, Des­tined for War: Can Amer­ica and China Es­cape Thucy­dides’s Trap?

“Al­li­son warns against the dan­ger of wars and con­flicts in power tran­si­tions. He is right about that,” Wes­tad said. “But wars and con­flicts are not in­evitable, and they all de­pend on the lead­er­ship’s pol­icy choice.”

In an­cient Greece, war came be­tween Athens and Sparta be­cause ev­ery­one was talk­ing about war and thought that might be a pos­si­ble so­lu­tion. But both the United States and China fully un­der­stand the tremen­dous cost and dis­as­trous con­se­quences of a po­ten­tial con­flict be­tween them, he said.

“Great pow­ers do ri­val each other, and this is what we learned from his­tory. But the is­sue is what kind of ri­valry is it go­ing to be, and in which ar­eas can the two sides co­op­er­ate. That is most im­por­tant,” he added.

Wes­tad said he is op­ti­mistic about the devel­op­ment of US-China re­la­tions. “The big pic­ture is that there is still a lot of po­ten­tial for the United States and China to work to­gether on some key is­sues, and a con­tin­ued en­gage­ment pol­icy would serve both sides well,” he said.

This was not be­cause they agreed on ev­ery­thing at that time, but be­cause they talked about prac­ti­cal is­sues and co­op­er­a­tion us­ing a prag­matic ap­proach, he said.

Odd Arne Wes­tad

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