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Op-Ed: Deepening engagement with U.S. business community is the best bet for China

By Curtis Stone (People's Daily Online)    15:49, May 19, 2017

Photo/www.ship.sh

In a White House press briefing on May 12, Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security advisor, talked a little bit about Trump’s America First Policy. He said that putting America first means that the security and interests of the American people should be prioritized, and he pointed to the economic relationship with China as an example of how the U.S. is looking for ways to advance American prosperity.

But with a White House in turmoil and various views about China among individuals and between groups within the government, it is doubtful that the U.S. government has the vision and influence needed to advance American prosperity for the long run. 

Though the U.S. government recognizes the importance of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, it has yet to fully embrace the plan. One reason for this reluctance is that the West tends to view the China-proposed economic initiative in outdated geopolitical terms, and the U.S. is concerned that the global building project is aimed at reducing American power and influence in East Asia. But nothing could be farther from the truth.

The Belt and Road Initiative is beneficial by design, not imperial by design. It is China’s plan to bring the world community together under a new model of win-win cooperation, and is aimed only at promoting prosperity. Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed this point in his keynote speech at the opening of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing on May 14:

We have no intention to interfere in other countries’ internal affairs, export our own social system and model of development, or impose our own will on others. In pursuing the Belt and Road Initiative, we will not resort to outdated geopolitical maneuvering. What we hope to achieve is a new model of win-win cooperation. We have no intention to form a small group detrimental to stability, what we hope to create is a big family of harmonious co-existence.

Despite China’s peaceful efforts to enhance connectivity and lift Asia, there is still some concern in the West about China’s true intentions. For example, China was cast in a negative light at a recent U.S. Senate hearing on worldwide threats simply for its ambitions and its progress in regional integration, and the Belt and Road Initiative was singled out for some criticism. Such criticism misses the point; that is, China’s peaceful rise is an opportunity for all countries of the world, and all countries of the world are more than welcome to participate in the Belt and Road Initiative.

China believes that connectivity is the key to curing the world’s problems, and connectivity is exactly what the Belt and Road Initiative offers. As a major Western country, a cooperative China-U.S. relationship is essential for the overall success of the initiative, and the U.S. has a lot to gain if the world’s two largest economies can leverage their comparative strengths for peace and prosperity. This is why both the Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank president welcome America’s constructive participation in the region with open arms.

But if the U.S. government is unwilling or unable to run with the initiative, then the best strategy for China is to deepen engagement with the U.S. business community. Unlike the U.S. government, the U.S. business community is ready and eager to work hand-in-hand with China to advance initiative. As The New York Times reported on May 18, “Western companies are angling aggressively for a piece of the action.”

But it is not just Western companies that want in on the action. American cities, such as Los Angeles, are also working hard for their own piece of the Belt and Road pie.

In an interview with Xinhua, Jim MacLellan, Director of Trade Development of the Port of Los Angeles, said he was pleased that the U.S. government sent representatives to the Belt and Road Forum. Seroka sees the initiative as a good thing. The Port of Los Angeles accounts for 43 percent of the nation’s sea freight. Nearly two-thirds of the port’s traffic is from Asia, and more than two-thirds of that figure comes from China. As a major gateway for trade with Asia, MacLellan wants the port to play a major role in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Like many in the U.S. business community, MacLellan believes that this will help the nation’s small businesses and advance American prosperity.

Given the turmoil engulfing the U.S. government and the differing views on China’s role in a changing world order, perhaps the best strategy for China is to double-down on its engagement with the U.S. business community.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Wu Chengliang, Bianji)

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