|(Photo provided to People's Daily Online)|
I am not an "expert" on China. Rather, I am just a reasonably informed elder citizen who is deeply concerned for the welfare of future generations. It is my earnest prayer that China and the United States will successfully find ways to surmount current tensions and old resentments in order to avoid repeating the sad litany of horrors that so brutalized our world in the 20th century.
The US remains a relatively young country. The physical isolation afforded by the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and the fact that our nearest neighbors posed no threat, allowed us to focus almost exclusively on internal affairs. Americans are not, unfortunately, particularly knowledgeable about history, even their own. Those legends and remembrances of their past that they do recall tend to celebrate noble themes and deeds.
There is also a distinctly unsettling messianic thread in our collective self-understanding. Because the earliest colonists believed that they had the opportunity to forge a new society free from the poverty, discrimination, and oppression they had experienced in their homelands, they became convinced that they had a mission to also guide others towards societies free from tyranny and oppression. This is a key reason why American rhetoric can assume that lecturing tone which so annoys others. Further, because our critical focus tends to be outwardly directed, we are more likely to recognize other societies' imperfections than our own. Most Americans seem unaware of how this discrepancy can make our words and actions appear hypocritical to others.
While forging a successful working relationship between the United States and China obviously requires sincere efforts on both sides, I believe that my own country should:
Accept China's repeated requests that we speak and act with mutual respect, sincerely striving to understand and sympathize with the other's problems, perspectives, and challenges.
Speak with the wisdom that can come only with true humility. Americans would profit greatly by practicing genuine self-reflection, especially before attempting to criticize others' attitude or behavior. Indeed, how can we still believe that the United States occupies a superior moral ground after our repeated military interventions in Viet Nam, Iraq and Afghanistan? The truth is that we are all part of the same flawed human family. No single people or nation has all the answers.
Return to its original commitment to support and work through the United Nations. Twice in the 20th Century, American presidents have led efforts to create a world community through which nations could work together in order to avoid the horrors of future wars. Unfortunately, American support of the UN since 1945 has waned as we succumbed to the temptation to act as a self-appointed world policeman.