At the 53rd Munich Security Conference (MSC), a major global forum for the discussion of security policy, Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi gave a keynote speech about adhering to the concept of cooperation and making the right choice. During his speech, Wang talked about the importance of strengthening cooperation between major powers; particularly China and the U.S., saying that bilateral relations between the two countries are one of the most important in the world. Given that importance, the U.S. should do all it can to work with China as a partner on the world stage to build a new model of relations.
It is in the interest of the U.S. to embrace a new model of major country relations, and abandon the old model that places fear and competition over trust and cooperation. At a meeting of G20 foreign ministers in Bonn, Germany, shortly before Wang Yi’s speech at MSC, Wang and his U.S. counterpart Rex Tillerson met on the sidelines, and they both agreed that bilateral relations should be strengthened. At both meetings, China signaled its readiness to work with the new administration on moving the bilateral relationship forward in a new direction that features “no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect, and win-win cooperation.” There is no strong evidence to support the assumption made by some scholars that the new model is a “trap.” The new model proposal is a reasonable solution to a difficult problem in international relations.
The Trump Administration should reject the argument that China’s vision for a new model of relations is merely a power play intended to gain position on the international stage. The concept is a rational starting point for major powers including China and the U.S. to build a peaceful and stable world order. In March 2014, Former U.S. President Barack Obama recognized the potential of the concept for future peace and prosperity. “President Xi and I are both committed to continuing to strengthen and build a new model of relations between our countries,” Obama said. Today, the China-U.S. relationship is at a crossroads, and the Trump Administration must choose between cooperation and competition. It is in America’s national interest to move the bilateral relationship forward in a promising direction by fully embracing the concept of a new model of major power relations.
Security should be inclusive, not exclusive. Fu Ying, Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress, stressed at a sub-forum of the MSC that tension in the Asia-Pacific has been rising over the years in part because there is concern on the U.S. side that China is competing with it for leadership in the region. In fact, the U.S. just recently deployed an aircraft carrier strike group to the South China Sea for “routine patrols.” At the heart of the debate is the question of exclusive or inclusive security, Fu said. For the U.S., military alliances are the linchpin of security and stability in the region. However, this old-model approach fails to take into consideration the security of all regional partners by making the U.S. and its allies secure at the cost of non-allies. “When everybody feels secure, then there is security,” Fu said.
There is a powerful assumption in international relations that a rising power and an existing power are in some manner destined for conflict, and there are historical cases that support this claim. But it is wrong and dangerous to assume that relations between major countries are based on some immutable law of physics. To avoid the Thucydides Trap and advance the national interest, the U.S. will need to fully embrace the concept of a new model of major country relations, which places cooperation over competition and is the right choice.