Four strategic opportunities for China-US relations

UPDATED: 15:48, July 13, 2005

Currently, the US political circles and think tanks are all filled with concerns about whether China's peaceful rise will threaten the global interests of the United States, and a debate is unfolding in the country. There are among it both constructive, inspiring voices and pessimist, conservative views. Is confrontation with the United States unavoidable once China becomes strong? Is there any opportunity for the China-US relations in the 21st century? And where is the opportunity?

On July 10, when meeting with visiting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, President Hu Jintao said that China highly values its relationship with the United States. China is ready to work along with the United States to handle the overall relations from a strategic perspective, strengthen dialogues, mutual trust and cooperation, respect and care for each other's concerns in an effort to achieve greater progress in the bilateral relations.

By handling the overall China-US relations from a strategic perspective, we must not regard the bilateral ties as "driven forward by external force". From both a short-term and long-term view, the China-US ties enjoy quite considerable room for "growing in pace with each other" as well as development opportunities.

The first opportunity lies in profound interdependence and mutual needs for the sake of their respective interests in a time of globalization.

It is out of this reason that the bilateral trade volume has risen from US$500 million in the late 1970s to US$170 billion today. Meanwhile, China has spent more than 70 percent of its US$660 billion foreign exchange reserve on US Treasuries, binding the two parts quite closely with common interests. If the US side could refrain from "politicizing" trade questions, the trade ties will sure to witness another great leap.

The second opportunity comes from the new security concept of "cooperation between big powers" brought about by rising non-traditional safety threats.

Non-traditional security threats, such as terrorism, WMD proliferation, environment degeneration and disease, have risen to major threats facing today's world. China and the United States have excellent conditions for further in-depth cooperation in the field of strategic security, for which the key lies in building up mutual trust.

The third opportunity stems from the common efforts to address regional hot issues and to maintain international order.

The Asia-Pacific region serves as the stage of China-US common development. The region, however, remains unstable in the shadow of both cold war and hot war. Therefore, the two countries face both the historical task of clearing up Cold War legacies and the realistic challenge of avoiding the breakout of a hot war.

If the two sides can share such a broader vision in observing their relations, the worry about "China's exercising of an Asian version of Monroeism to elbow out US interests" can be dispersed and they will be able to seek for co-existence, common development and peace on the basis of caring their respective interests. As for safeguarding the international order and promoting reform to such an order, the two countries, in particular, shoulder unshirkable responsibilities.

The fourth opportunity is brought by the co-existence and converging of the two civilizations.

The time of globalization is not an era of "clash of civilizations", but one of cultural exchange and harmony. By now, China-US exchanges and cooperation in cultural resources and cultural industry have become an important part of China's fast-moving cultural market. For the United States, a deeper understanding of the Chinese culture is increasingly serving as a base of co-existence of the two nations.

Opportunities are not windfalls, but must be created by common efforts. We hope that the United States could achieve three "break-aways" in handling China's rise and the bilateral ties.

First, to break away from the Cold War mentality which draws lines by ideology and social system, for this mindset easily leads to misjudgments on the socialism with Chinese characteristics and the Communist Party of China.

Second, to break away from the "cultural superiority" theory, which stresses a certain set of values, because we have entered a new era featuring long-term coexistence and blending of various civilizations.

Third, to break away from the traditional idea that a newcomer is sure to challenge existing powers, for this theory can hardly explain China's road of peaceful rise and its role as a staunch force in maintaining world peace.

This article by Zheng Bijian is carried on the first page of the People's Daily Overseas Edition, July 12, and is translated by People's Daily Online

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