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Overcome fake fear in China-U.S. relations with foresight

By Gao Wencheng (Xinhua)    14:06, February 14, 2020

BEIJING, Feb. 14 (Xinhua) -- As the China-U.S. phase-one economic and trade agreement is due to take effect on Friday, the future development of the relationship between the world's top two economies has again landed at the center of the world's attention.

In a phone conversation last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping and his U.S. counterpart, Donald Trump, while discussing the ongoing coronavirus battle, spoke positively of the trade deal, and agreed to further promote bilateral ties. Their new consensus has assured politicians, stock brokers, manufacturers and ordinary people around the world.

In fact, close watchers of China-U.S. interaction worldwide not just fix their eyes on the deal that temporarily de-escalated the trade dispute Washington initiated around the 40th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic ties, but also seek to discern the direction of the complex and significant relationship in the next 40 years.

As they search for answers, a recently published book titled "Fake Fear: America and China Relations" may provide some useful clues. Written by Chinese scholar Xin Jiyan, the book provides a rational narrative to present the historical, cultural and economic aspects of China-U.S. relations.

It stands as the antithesis of "The Hundred-Year Marathon: China's Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower," a sensational work by U.S. China expert Michael Pillsbury fanning baseless fear about China's development.

Despite the sharp contrast, both books hint at the importance of going back in time for enlightenment. And indeed, recent history does provide a good lesson.

When Chairman Mao Zedong and then U.S. President Richard Nixon pressed the start button to normalize bilateral relations about five decades ago, they looked and thought farther than their living time, and beyond the scope of their countries.

Today, at a new crucial stage of bilateral ties in an era of growing interdependence, such a long-term and broad vision is needed ever more in designing Washington's strategy toward China.

On June 2, 1971, Nixon received a secret letter from China saying Mao looked forward to a direct conversation. He then sent his national security advisor, Henry Kissinger, to speak with China on a secret mission, which paved the way for the president's world-shaking February 1972 trip to Beijing.

"The helmsman must ride with the waves, or he will be submerged with the tide," Nixon said during a meeting with then Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai.

The momentum of dialogue and understanding was maintained despite leadership changes. On Jan. 1, 1979, China and the United States established diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level.

As Kissinger observed in his book "On China," when China and the United States started to restore relations, the most significant contribution made by the leaders of that time was their willingness to raise their sight beyond the immediate issues of the day.

It was thanks to such strategic perspectives of both sides and their persistent efforts to enhance cooperation and understanding that the two global heavyweights witnessed over the past decades a shift from an exploratory contact to an exuberant relationship, and from mutual exclusion to close interdependence.

Unfortunately, in sharp contrast with this historic momentum, China-U.S. ties are now encountering serious disturbances. The 40th anniversary of China-U.S. diplomatic relations last year saw the two countries -- instead of celebrating the moment -- locked in a trade dispute considered by many as a U.S. attempt to contain China's development.

What has become arguably the most important bilateral relationship in the world is at a new important juncture. In the future, Xin suggests in the book, the key to making a right decision for the two countries lies in an accurate judgment of each other's strategic intentions, instead of jumping into the so-called "Thucydides's trap" with eyes closed.

This piece of advice is particularly pertinent. Examining the root of the trade row, one can easily find signs showing that Washington, wielding the cudgel of tariffs in a wayward fashion, now tends to place instant rewards over long-term benefits, and is ready to throw the whole world into chaos for its own sake.

The bruising disruptions inflicted upon both economies have revealed the danger of such a shortsighted pursuit of short-term gains. From another perspective, they have also proved once again that for both China and the United States, cooperation and dialogue are better than friction and confrontation.

Furthermore, major-country relations serve as the cornerstone of world stability. In a time of globalization, China-U.S. ties carry more global importance. When contemplating how to move bilateral relations forward, the two countries need to think globally. The heavy toll the U.S.-initiated trade dispute with China has taken on the global economy serves as a sobering reminder.

As Xi told Trump in their latest phone talk, the signing of the phase-one trade deal has demonstrated that the two countries can always find solutions acceptable to both through dialogue and consultation as long as they uphold the spirit of equality and mutual respect.

Now the two sides should carry out the hard-won agreement in good faith, and, more importantly, build on the positive momentum and push forward bilateral relations on the principles of coordination, cooperation and stability for the benefit of not only themselves but also the entire world.

As U.S. veteran diplomat Chas Freeman, who served as Nixon's interpreter during his 1972 trip to China, has stressed, "we owe it to ourselves and to our posterity to try harder to work together to advance the many strategic interests we have in common."

China's "two centenary goals" and vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind, among others, have manifested Chinese leaders' political acumen for long-term thinking and commitment to global good.

It is high time that U.S. policymakers picked up the foresight their predecessors demonstrated about half a century ago, instead of focusing on what seems good only to their country for now.

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

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