Amid de­bil­i­tat­ing trade war, si­lent ma­jor­ity key to sta­bi­liz­ing China-us ties

Global Times US Edition - - FORUM - By Zhang Ji­adong Page Edi­tor: yu­jin­[email protected]­al­times.com.cn

With trade dis­putes and Huawei row in the fore­front of ties, China-us re­la­tions have seen un­prece­dented ten­sions. Strate­gic com­pe­ti­tion between the two pow­ers has drawn global at­ten­tion. Why has the US pol­icy to­ward China changed? Are re­la­tions head­ing to­ward a new cold war? Should China ad­just its strat­egy to as­sim­i­late with the new in­ter­na­tional en­vi­ron­ment?

There have been changes in the US pol­icy and pub­lic opin­ion on China, which may harm bi­lat­eral re­la­tions. As China rises, the mind-sets of Chi­nese and Amer­i­can schol­ars have also changed. Amer­i­can schol­ars are in­creas­ingly alert over China’s strate­gic in­ten­tions and mea­sures, with crit­i­cism of the East Asian power ris­ing. For Chi­nese schol­ars, the crit­i­cism is be­com­ing un­ac­cept­able. They be­lieve that China needs to voice its side of the story. As a re­sult, Chi­nese and Amer­i­can schol­ars find fewer com­mon grounds at in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ences and in the global arena.

Un­der such cir­cum­stances, some Amer­i­can China hands have also changed their at­ti­tude. Once sup­port­ers of China-us co­op­er­a­tion, these peo­ple are now doubt­ful of and even against such bi­lat­eral con­tacts. Other Amer­i­can peo­ple who know China well choose to lie low, or are de­prived of op­por­tu­ni­ties to make their voices heard. Anti-china Amer­i­cans have dom­i­nated Wash­ing­ton’s pub­lic opin­ion on Bei­jing. Some China hands even be­lieve that al­though an­tichina Amer­i­cans’ thoughts and ac­tions may be wrong, they may help China change. This is ac­tu­ally in­dulging an­tichina forces in the US.

Be­sides, right-wing forces have a larger say in the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. Other fac­tions are not will­ing to join the gov­ern­ment, or have been ex­cluded. Thus, an un­usu­ally small group is for­mu­lat­ing China poli­cies of the US. This has shaped the nar­ra­tive that the US is try­ing to sup­press China.

But the si­lent ma­jor­ity still ex­ists in the US. This group is com­prised of China hands and cen­trists. They are on the same page with the ad­min­is­tra­tion on cer­tain is­sues. For ex­am­ple, they all be­lieve that China’s rise and ide­ol­ogy may ex­ert strate­gic pres­sure on the US. How­ever, their world­view dif­fers from the cur­rent US ad­min­is­tra­tion’s. The si­lent ma­jor­ity ad­heres to lib­er­al­ism, equal­ity, pro­tec­tion of mi­nor­ity groups, bal­ance between coun­try and so­ci­ety, and between gov­ern­ment and busi­ness. It is there­fore against some ma­jor poli­cies of the ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Boosted by pop­ulism, an­tichina sen­ti­ment is ac­quir­ing no­tions of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness. Al­though the si­lent ma­jor­ity prefers to keep a low pro­file, it acts to re­strain the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ex­treme im­pulses. This group is pre­vent­ing China-us re­la­tions from es­ca­lat­ing into a full-blown con­fronta­tion, a cold war or a “hot war.”

His­tory shows that the US may adopt ex­treme poli­cies be­cause of fear. The Chi­nese Ex­clu­sion Act of 1882 and Mc­carthy­ism af­ter WWII are both ex­am­ples of US pol­i­tics partly go­ing to ex­tremes within a short pe­riod. But it has not stretched to ex­tremes in the long run. A di­ver­si­fied so­ci­ety and demo­cratic ethos are still the ba­sis for peo­ple to un­der­stand US pol­i­tics and its for­eign poli­cies.

China-us re­la­tions have in­deed come un­der huge pres­sure. What should China do? The op­tion is not in US hands, nor in con­trol of ex­treme rightwing Amer­i­cans but in the hands of the Chi­nese peo­ple.

The cur­rent change in the world has been mainly caused by China’s rise and other coun­tries’ re­sponse to it. In five cen­turies, it is the first time China has be­come the in­spi­ra­tion for global change, and thus the Asian power should also be the source of re­solv­ing prob­lems.

Many of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s state­ments on China are one-sided, but at least one thing is cor­rect: China join­ing the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion was a junc­ture that changed the na­tion’s in­ter­na­tional stand­ing. This shows the mean­ing of deep­en­ing re­form and open­ing-up.

China’s devel­op­ment em­anates from re­form and open­ing-up. Changes in China-us re­la­tions, pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive, are the re­sult of China’s re­form and open­ing-up. To ad­dress prob­lems in ties with the US and the world, China should fur­ther strengthen re­form and open­ing-up.

In the era of glob­al­iza­tion, par­tic­i­pa­tion rather than pro­tec­tion­ism is the best way to avoid risks. China has been com­bat­ing US bul­ly­ing. Try­ing to seek a con­sen­sus with the si­lent ma­jor­ity in the US and in­ter­na­tional so­ci­ety will be a good way to sta­bi­lize China-us re­la­tions and im­prove China’s own in­ter­na­tional en­vi­ron­ment. The au­thor is a pro­fes­sor at the Cen­ter for Amer­i­can Stud­ies, Fu­dan Univer­sity. opin­[email protected] glob­al­times.com.cn

Il­lus­tra­tion: Liu RUI/GT

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