Home>>Columnists >> Li Hong's column

A familiar cycle for Sino-US relations

17:11, April 12, 2010

    Email | Print | Subscribe | Comments | Forum

By Li Hong

Tensions between China and the United States have eased significantly in recent days, with the countries now working together on eradicating nuclear proliferation dangers, and with the Obama administration backing off a politically charged clash over China's currency.

Chinese believe that cooperation is always better than confrontation. As the past few months of unnerving tensions between Washington and Beijing have enlightened both that a strained relationship serves neither interest. It has resulted in lose-lose.

Typically, after President Barack Obama approved in late January selling Taiwan $6.4 billion worth of missiles, helicopters and other weaponry, Beijing retaliated severing military and security dialogues with Washington and threatening to punish American companies involved in the deals. From then on, bilateral resonation on multilateral security talks, including Iran's nuclear program, also has ebbed.

Later, Obama's decision to meet the exiled Dalai Lama at the White House further alienated him with vast numbers of Chinese residents who used to be his acute well-wishers. It is by no accounts a sound calculation to invite the wrath of a 1.3 billion nation, whose rapidly growing economy has been the major bedrock to bolster an anemic recovery in America from a chilling crisis.

If history is any guide, governments are never too late to readjust foreign policies. In receiving China's new ambassador to the United States, President Obama spoke lavishly of China's attainments and highly of its international role, which is construed as a fend-mending speech here. Beijing accepted the move as good-will. After an hour-long phone chat between President Obama and President Hu Jintao, Beijing announced that it was Hu himself who would make his presence at this week's 47-nation summit in Washington on global nuclear security, orchestrated by the Obama administration.

The two countries, and the whole world, have much at stake for the governments to establish normal and collaborative working relations. It is important for the policy-makers in Washington and Beijing to set aside the clichéd psychology of "friend or enemy" of each other, and distance them from proponents who are either China-bashers or America skeptics at their jurisdictions. As World Bank President Robert Zoellick has put it, theirs ought to be two "responsible stake-holders" relationship, or, two trenches of efforts towards building a better world system.

Now, both the United States and China have kept qualms about one another, and it is not abnormal as one sees the other challenge its decades-old dominance in world affairs. There are also people in China thinking America is deliberately obstructing its rise to a major political power. However, it is up to the two countries' top leadership to think of globally, of the future, and of true statesmanship, to nourish a spirit of cooperation and oppose hostility towards each other.

The two must eliminate the "zero-sum" game mindset, for drastically worsening relations between the two will lead the world to disarray, which could easily be taken advantage of by the unruly. After 30 years of rapid development, people in the West, including in America, have come to recognize that China cannot be "contained", on accounts that the people here are too hard-working while intelligent, and the country is now far too interwoven into the global system.

Some have pointed out that aligning the two countries' policies of economy and national security will prove to be the most constructive feat in the 21st century. But, it will take a time for Americans to accept it. Western media has struck the discordant line, by assembling and propagating Chinese "trimphalism" -- America has passed its crest and China will soon take the hype, and now "nationalism" and "mercantilism" –- using very competitive, or even predatory means, to grab wealth from American families.

In their descriptions, China looks like a different place from the previous scripted polite, harmony-seeking "Middle Kingdom" many Westerners have anticipated. Seldom anyone asks the truthfulness of those craved lexicons to vitriol China.

But, the media never fathom to the essence why, for most of the past 30 years, American Presidents arrived in office bashing China and left praising it? Were all of the leaders misjudging? Or is China truly a magic land?

The articles in this column represent the author's views only. They do not represent opinions of People's Daily or People's Daily Online.

Post your comments:

About this column

Li Hong has been a reporter and column writer, mainly on China's economy and politics.

He was graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University, and once studied in University of Hawaii and the Poynter Institute in Florida.


Dai MinJohn
Dai Min

John Milligan-Whyte and Dai Min, the executive producers and co-hosts of the Collaboration of Civilizations television series adapted by the eight books they wrote in the America-China Partnership Book Series published in English and Mandarin in 2009-2010 that created the "New School of America-China Relations." They founded the America-China Partnership Foundation and Forum in 2008 and the Center for American-China Partnership in 2005, which was recognized in 2009 as "the first American think tank to combine and integrate American and Chinese perspectives providing a complete answer for America and China's success in the 21st century."

Li HongmeiLi Hongmei

Li Hongmei, editor and columnist of PD Online.