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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 11:26, September 23, 2005
Sino-US ties to progress well if handled with care
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China's attitude towards the United States is an important part of its foreign policy. The basic tenets of this policy are: On the basis of the three joint communiques, China will strengthen co-operation, reduce differences, avoid confrontation, develop a constructive co-operative partnership between the two countries, and ensure long-term stability and development in bilateral relations.

This policy is founded on a very deep understanding of the Sino-US relationship.

First, the United States is the only superpower with the greatest national strength in the world. This state of affairs is not going to change for a long time. China, in its effort to strive for an environment that is conducive to its peaceful development, regards the cultivation of a positive co-operative relationship with the United States as most important.

Second, there are a vast number of common interests and a high level of effective co-operation in the areas of commerce, trade and security - including regional security, and non-traditional security areas such as prevention of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and counter-terrorism.

However, the two countries have different social systems and ideologies, and both must handle the relationship with each other well if they want to develop their mutual interests and resolve such matters as human rights.

Third, in recent years, the Sino-American relationship has evolved to one between a superpower and a major rising power. Improvement or deterioration of this relationship is increasingly influencing regional and international arenas. China is worried that the United States, in order to sustain its dominant position, is bent on obstructing China's development. This has helped heighten the importance, complexity and sensitivity of the relationship between the two countries.

Following the end of the Cold War, the Sino-US relationship has undergone many upheavals. However, since 2002, this relationship has seen balanced development to the extent that the former US Secretary of State Colin Powell described it on a number of occasions as the best in the 30 years since the two countries normalized ties.

But since the beginning of this year, Sino-US conflicts have been on the rise once more. Apart from the intensification of economic and trade conflicts, friction has also appeared in the political and security arenas.

The matters in question touch on the European Union lifting the arms sale embargo on China, China's enactment of the Anti-Secession Law, the United States and Japan treating security in the Taiwan Straits as their common strategic objective, China's military development, and China increasing its status and influence in the Asia-Pacific region.

Under these circumstances, the notion of the "China threat" has gained ground in the United States. At the same time, in both China and the United States, there are voices arguing that, now the anti-terrorist war has entered a new phase, conflicts between China and the United States will once again emerge, and the United States will consider China a major competitor.

I am not in favour of such an argument. Indeed, it is not the mainstream opinion in China or in the United States. Although friction has intensified, particularly in commerce and trade, the two countries have generally maintained stability and the pace of development in bilateral ties. Behind this there lie several important factors:

First, China has a clearer understanding of the external concern the country's rapid development is giving rise to, and has responded in a far less ruffled manner. This is fairly demonstrated in China's attitude towards the United States.

Second, in the United States, there is intense debate about the renewed "China threat." The Bush administration has adopted an even policy. While it is showing more concern about China, it has not changed the tenets of its co-operation with China.

Third, Sino-US relations are far more different from the Soviet-US relations in the past. China is in no position, nor does it have the ambition, to challenge the United States. For a long time to come, the greatest threat to the United States will remain terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, not a "rising China."

Fourth, since the end of the Cold War, China and the United States have gone through several major ups and downs, but both countries have accumulated a great deal of experience in handling conflicts between them. Several mechanisms have been established so the nations' ability to counter the risk of confrontation has increased. To certain extent, this is also a demonstration that the bilateral relationship is maturing.

Fifth, the argument that the development of China's military strength may upset the regional military equilibrium is without basis. Many objective American experts do not agree with this argument. On this question, through increasing strategic dialogue and through the increasing transparency of China's military affairs, US concern should be allayed.

Sixth, the United States is increasingly worried that China is curtailing US influence in East Asia, as well as the whole of Asia, and is attempting to exclude the United States from the region altogether. It is an undeniable fact that China's influence is increasing in the region, but it is definitely not China's policy to exclude the United States.

The Chinese Government has explicitly stated that it welcomes the United States to undertake a positive and constructive role in regional security. China and the United States have worked well in multilateral forums such as the Six-Party Talks. China will not object to the US-Japan alliance as long as it does not affect the sovereignty of other countries. China is willing to work with the United States to promote regional peace and stability.

Seventh, energy is a new problem for China and the United States. Many people in both countries realize this can only be resolved through dialogue and co-operation, and the potential of Sino-US co-operation in this regard is great indeed.

China's effort to strive to achieve an energy-efficient society is of great importance in resolving this clash. As to the questions of sustaining peace and stability in oil-producing regions and maintaining smooth passage on maritime routes, there exist common interests.

Lastly, the Taiwan question is very important for both sides across the Straits. The reduction of tension across the Taiwan Straits is conducive to steady development of Sino-American relations.

Should a framework for peaceful and steady development of the Sino-US relations be formed, this will accord precious time for China and the United States to increase co-operation, resolve differences and gradually build strategic mutual trust.

Source: China Daily

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