Some Western politicians and academics tend to believe in a tragic destiny for great power, predicting that China and the United States are going to collide just as the Athens were vanquished by Sparta in the Peloponnesian War more than 2,000 years ago.
They call such thinking the Thucydides Trap. However, history should be taken as past lessons, rather than a foretoken of the future. It can not be stressed more in the case of the China-U.S. relations.
On February 9, Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi met with U.S. President Donald Trump, and expressed Beijing's willingness to have a stronger cooperation with Washington in trade and on other fronts, and to strengthen coordination on the Korean peninsula nuclear issue.
Yang's trip came as the Trump administration seems over the recent weeks to have been recalibrating Washington's strategic understanding of its ties with China and Beijing's role in the world.
In his first State of Union Address delivered late last month, Trump said China is among the "rival" countries that challenge America's interests and values. Not long before that, Washington, in its newly-published National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy, tagged China a strategic competitor and a revisionist power.
The recent days have also seen some bumps in trade ties between the world's top two economies. Earlier last month, Washington has imposed 30 percent tariffs against its solar panels imports, 70 percent of which are from China and Malaysia. Also, the results of a probe into what it alleged intellectual property theft by China will be released soon.
These unfriendly labels and unilateral trade moves have reflected a growing misunderstanding of China's policy intentions, as well as a failure to recognize the huge global significance of a stable and sound China-U.S. ties among some beltway politicians.
China, though the world's second largest economy, remains a developing country. Many of its pressing priorities still focus on boosting domestic economic and social reforms and development.
Beyond its borders, Beijing is trying to work with the rest of the world to improve the existing global governance system so that it can reflect the rise of the emerging economies, and better serve the interests of all. Those in the United States and the West who suspect China is trying to pull down what they call the current "liberal world order" with its own are just seeking to tilt at windmills.
In crafting and carrying out its China policy, President Trump and his administration need to fully grasp a fact that, as the world turns increasingly globalized, China's interests and that of the United States are highly intertwined. That means it would be a lose-lose situation when China and the United States pit against each other instead of working together.
Take the recent solar panel tariffs for example: it's true that some Chinese companies in the industries are going to take a hit over the punitive measures, yet many American consumers would also be hurt for rising solar power prices. Related industries in the United States are also going to lose jobs.
Also, China should not be blamed for America's high-flying trade deficits. Leaving aside the fact China's trade surplus with Washington is mainly a result of the Asian country being a last assembly point for many products, economists and statistics have already pointed out that is because the Americans are consuming increasingly more than the country can produce, and the U.S. trade gap with its trading partners, not just China, is continuing to skyrocket.
Again, these differences do not mean that the two sides should work against each other. They should resolve these disagreements through certain dialogue mechanisms just as what Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, agreed to set up at the U.S. leader's Mar-a-lago resort last April.
More than that, the world's two major countries also need to work more closely to address the world's most imminent challenges, like climate change and the fight against terrorism.
It is interesting to note that, one day ahead of his meeting with Yang, Trump arranged a meeting with Henry Kissinger, former U.S. secretary of state and an expert on China. According to later media reports, the two talked about situation on the Korean peninsula, the Middle East, and China.
Almost 46 years ago, it was Kissinger and then U.S. President Richard Nixon who came to Beijing and joined the Chinese leaders to break the estrangement of the two countries.
In his book "On China," Kissinger wrote "what a culmination if, forty years later, the United States and China could merge their efforts not to shake the world, but to build it."
It is hoped that Trump can follow that good advice, and join Beijing to ensure that the countries can build a shared future instead of falling into the Thucydides Trap.
(Xinhua News Agency February 10, 2018)