Rationality needed to stabilize China-US ties

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The national flags of the United States and China wave out of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, the United States, Jan. 5, 2009. (Xinhua/Hou Jun)

An open letter to US President Donald Trump and members of Congress last week, signed by 100 leading American specialists on China, including scholars and former government officials, expresses deep concerns over the growing deterioration in US relations with China, which it believes “does not serve American or global interests.”

It doesn’t think Beijing is an economic enemy or an existential national security threat that must be confronted in every sphere, warning US efforts to treat China as an enemy and decouple it from the global economy “will damage the US’ international role and reputation” and “end up isolating itself rather than Beijing.”

“The fear that Beijing will replace the US as the global leader is exaggerated,” the letter says. It suggests that the US approach to China must be “based on a realistic appraisal of Chinese perceptions, interests, goals and behavior.” The US should restore its ability to compete effectively rather than promote a counterproductive effort to undermine and contain China’s engagement with the world, the letter says.

It’s not difficult to see the signatories’ prejudice against China and their support for safeguarding US hegemony. What they oppose is a counterproductive approach toward China. The value orientation of this letter is consistent with what American policymakers and implementers hold, the letter only shows more rationality.

China and the US have their own national interests. At a time when major powers lack the experience on how to conduct a benign competition, it’s understandable that the US holds a fundamental suspicion toward China’s rise. But Washington and Beijing should avoid the tragedy of big-power competition, a responsibility they must take for the good of the two peoples and the international community.

The current China policy of the US is a hodgepodge of its pre-globalization experience as well as anxieties and populism caused by declining US competitiveness. It has gone too far and is creating unbearable risks for world peace, which will undermine US interests as well.

Rationality is needed regardless of strong US strategic selfishness and the country’s will to prioritize domestic politics in formulating China policy. The US is a politically diverse society. Although the signatories are very influential, their voice may not have an impact on the White House and State Department.

Nonetheless, the significance of the open letter is it at least represents an awakening of the establishment. For some time, it was believed that the current China policy received bipartisan support in Washington. But the letter shows that as the China policy becomes increasingly radical, a backlash has occurred within the country.

China-US hostility is dangerous and costly. It runs counter to the times. We should always stay sober. Since we are on the side of justice, we hold more strategic advantage. Global Times

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