Groundwork laid for better China-US ties

By Cao Desheng (China Daily) 08:07, December 22, 2023

President Xi Jinping meets with US President Joe Biden at Filoli Estate in the US state of California, Nov 15, 2023. [Photo/Xinhua]

Increased engagement in past year raises hopes for key bilateral relationship

Editor's note: Head-of-state diplomacy leads the way in which China pursues peaceful development and advances the building of a community with a shared future for mankind. China Daily presents a series of stories about interactions between China and the rest of the world, recollecting the country's diplomatic endeavors led by President Xi Jinping over the year.

Analysts are optimistically regarding the prospects next year for the world's most important bilateral relationship, when Beijing and Washington celebrate the upcoming 45th anniversary of diplomatic ties, which falls on Jan 1, following the China-US summit meeting in San Francisco in mid-November.

The summit raised hopes that the two countries could reverse the downward spiral of their relations.

Despite the challenges that remain ahead, the resumption of dialogue and engagement between China and the United States at various levels and in different sectors could pave the way for the two countries to turn "co-evolution", a concept coined by former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, into a reality, they said.

During the summit meeting, President Xi Jinping told US President Joe Biden that "for two large countries like China and the United States, turning their backs on each other is not an option. Planet Earth is big enough for the two countries to succeed."

He reaffirmed China's commitment to having a stable, healthy and sustainable relationship with the US, and emphasized that "China has interests that must be safeguarded, principles that must be upheld, and red lines that must not be crossed". He called on both countries to advance mutually beneficial cooperation while jointly managing their disagreements effectively.

The Xi-Biden meeting took place amid concerns over the growing risks of the two major countries' economic decoupling and even military confrontation, as Washington defined Beijing as a "strategic competitor", which China has rejected.

As the US seeks to compete with China, it has, unfortunately, been peddling narratives such as "China replacing the US", "China rewriting the global rules" and "China exporting models", all of which sow the seeds of nationalism and racism at home and aggravate the already strained relationship.

The US' fanning up of the "balloon" incident, in which the US military shot down a Chinese civilian airship that had drifted into US airspace earlier this year, inflated tensions between the two nations.

The positive momentum in the relationship started in May, when the world witnessed a discernible acceleration in high-level exchanges between China and the US. China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi held a meeting with US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on May 10-11 in Vienna.

Following that meeting, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo successively visited China. Wang and Sullivan met again in Malta in September.

Meanwhile, the first meeting of the China-US Economic Working Group, conducted via video link on Oct 24, helped to strengthen economic and trade ties, as well as minimize macroeconomic and financial policy miscommunications. To restart military contacts with China, the Pentagon sent delegates to the Beijing Xiangshan Forum, a high-level security and defense platform for international exchanges, which was held from Oct 29 to 31.

California Governor Gavin Newsom made a weeklong visit to China starting on Oct 18, focusing on topics such as climate change and economic cooperation. His visit followed US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's trips to Shanghai and Beijing earlier in October, further underscoring the increased engagement between the two nations.

Wang visited the US at the end of October, and Vice-Premier He Lifeng visited the country in early November.

The intensive high-level engagements between Beijing and Washington raised expectations in the international community about the stabilization of relations between the two countries.

Against such a backdrop, the Xi-Biden meeting in San Francisco was significant in terms of enhancing trust, removing suspicion, managing differences and expanding cooperation between the two countries, observers said. It was also significant for injecting certainty and stability into a world of turbulence and transformation.

"Under the stewardship of the two presidents, the giant ship of China-US relations has navigated hidden rocks and dangerous shoals," Wang said after the summit meeting.

The two sides reached a series of important consensuses on issues including climate change, artificial intelligence, counternarcotics cooperation and people-to-people exchanges.

"From San Francisco onward, the two sides should foster a new vision, further consolidate the foundation of their relations, build pillars for peaceful coexistence, and move their relationship in the direction of healthy, stable and sustainable development," Wang said.

There is a prevailing view among analysts that an improved China-US relationship is in the best interests of both countries and the global community at large.

Jeffrey Sachs, an economics professor and director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, said that in economics, there is no such thing as China's gains being the US' losses.

"China is not a threat to the US economy. China is not a threat to US prosperity. China is not a threat to the US political system. So there is nothing that has happened that gives me any worry about China," Sachs said when addressing a forum organized by the China Institute in the US on Nov 15.

Rorry Daniels, managing director of the Asia Society Policy Institute and Senior Fellow at the Center for China Analysis in the US, said that it's critically important for the US and China to manage their relationship responsibly as the world faces existential crises, including the climate crisis and crises emanating from food insecurity and energy insecurity.

"The countries of the world don't want to have to choose between the US and China. It's not useful for them to feel as though this is a divided world where the US leads one side and China leads another," she said.

Sun Chenghao, a fellow at Tsinghua University's Center for International Security and Strategy, said that the US needs a clearer understanding of the nature of US-China relations, and should make greater efforts to expand cooperation with China rather than gradually fall into the trap of great power competition.

Sun warned of the immediate challenge that might arise from the US election year in 2024, which could bring more uncertainties and risks to China-US relations. "Politicians from both parties will more aggressively play the China card, demonstrating a tough stance against China to gain political support," he said.

(Web editor: Tian Yi, Liang Jun)


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