Pacific Dialogue
Cooperation and healthy competition
  ·  2021-03-22  ·   Source: NO.12 MARCH 25, 2021
Participants share viewpoints on China-U.S. relations and global governance at a webinar on March 12 (BEIJING REVIEW)
There is potential for China and the United States to work together in many areas and improve global governance. Competition is not an obstacle as long as it is healthy. This was the message from a webinar, Reset and Reshape—China-U.S. Relations and Global Governance, held on March 12. Hosted by Beijing Review, the event was attended by experts on China-U.S. relations from both countries. This is an edited excerpt from what they said:

Gao Anming, Vice President and Editor in Chief, China International Publishing Group 

Most will agree that deteriorating China-U.S. relations will do no good to the two countries or the world at large. Promoting dialogue and cooperation in select areas and managing differences in a constructive manner holds the key. Both sides need to be objective and rational, focusing on areas of convergence rather than divergence. 

The relationship should not be driven by ideologies. As the two countries vary in their social system, development stage, as well as history and culture, it's only natural for them to have differences. The important thing is that neither should allow the differences to hijack their common interests.

They should reinforce the mechanism of people-to-people exchanges and dialogue. The Chinese and Americans enjoy a long-standing friendship, which should stay immune to the ups and downs in the political dimension of the relations.

China is always ready to work with the United States with an open mind to build a conducive environment for people-to-people exchanges. It is also ready to coordinate policies and work with the United States to tackle COVID-19, address climate change and promote global economic recovery—the three most pressing tasks for the international community. 

Economic and trade cooperation is an important part of bilateral relations, the essence of which is mutual benefit and win-win results. The interests of the two sides are deeply entwined, both gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation.

It was announced on March 11 that the semi-conductor associations of the two countries have decided to set up a working mechanism to coordinate their policies on information sharing, export management, supply chain safety and trade practices.

This followed a spate of U.S. sanctions in recent years to restrict the development of the China's semi-conductor industry, which hurt the interests of U.S. businesses and disrupted the global supply chain, leading to a shortage of chips worldwide and the shutdown of production lines of many multinationals.

This demonstrates that economic and trade collaboration serves as a driving force of bilateral relations and has brought tangible benefits to both.

Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director, Center for Sustainable Development, Columbia University 

It's hard for U.S politicians to accept China's success and its technological excellence and rapid advance. It is the mentality of many Americans, both Democrats and Republicans, that the U.S. is safe only when it dominates the world. Any large country or region that challenges U.S. primacy or dominance is, therefore, a threat to national security. It is very dangerous to think that the only way the world is safe is if you are running the world.

But that is, unfortunately, a fairly deeply set part of U.S. psychology in foreign policy over a long period of time. We see it again in what President Joe Biden and his administration have put out in the early days, in the recent interim national security strategic guidance that the U.S., not China, must set the international agenda.

This is a strange belief because it excludes the idea that the U.S. and China and other regions could set the international agenda cooperatively, which is the only way we can really have peace. When one bloc of countries is setting the international agenda, it is guaranteed to lead to conflict. We need global cooperation.

However, the rhetoric still remains that the U.S. must set the international agenda. I hope that we move beyond it and understand that what we really want is a global rule-based system, which is based on the UN Charter and the idea of international law where all countries abide by shared international standards.

I don't think any country runs the world anymore. The best we can do is to have a system where cooperation starts within regions. 

So I am happy with the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, in which China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Australia, and ASEAN countries would work together. The Asia-Pacific should be not a divided region but a united one working for common purposes, and then boost cooperation across other regions.

Yang Jiechi, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and Director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan attend a high-level strategic dialogue in the Alaskan city of Anchorage, the United States, on March 18 (XINHUA)

Wang Huiyao, President, Center for China and Globalization 

China, the U.S. and the EU, as the three largest economies in the world, should work together to combat COVID-19. They should call a vaccine summit to address vaccine distribution, production and technology transfer.

We should also expand the Group of Seven to Group of 10, including China, India and Russia to facilitate multilateral climate cooperation. This "G10," including the biggest carbon emitters, past and present, in the world, will accelerate emission reduction and meet the needs of developing countries.

Due to the pandemic and economic downturn, many countries, especially developing ones, are in heavy debt, which may result in national bankruptcy. Developed economies such as the U.S. and the EU can work together with China to pull them out through refinancing.

We should resume the bilateral investment treaty talks, which were launched in 2008 but were later suspended. We could also discuss joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the trade agreement among 11 countries. High-level talks on the CPTPP may help both China and the U.S. to join the partnership and then help to set a high standard for World Trade Organization reform.

Peter Walker, former senior partner at McKinsey & Co. 

There are some fundamental differences between the U.S. and China, cultural and ingrained, that explain a lot of tension. The U.S. has always been a dualistic society. A zero-sum game mentality is set deeply into the culture of the competitive American

environment. China, as most Eastern countries, is focusing its culture on harmony and balance.

The second difference has to do with the worldview. The Chinese worldview has always centered on how to deliver prosperity for the people. The U.S. has adopted what I would call an exceptionalist point of view, assuming it is positioned to be the global leader. This is out of sync with reality today, where it needs instead to recognize and respect China as a coequal player globally. 

The trade war has been a lose-lose, as the economists said from day one. Free trade is the ultimate model. In terms of personnel flows, clearly, the U.S. has benefited enormously from the influx of talent. And that needs to resume.

I am optimistic that Biden will produce a change in attitude toward China and we will see it first and foremost in language. China will not be insulted by Biden or his administration ever.

Second, he will focus on the real area of interaction with China, which is the economy. The U.S. would like to have more access to the Chinese market and the Chinese would like to see fewer sanctions on Chinese companies.

Wang Wen, Executive Dean, Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China 

Over the past 20 years, the U.S. strategic definition of China has veered from "partner" to "competitor" and "rival." In his first foreign policy speech on March 3, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stressed that China is the United States' "biggest geopolitical test." So the U.S. strategic positioning of China is clear-cut now: China is the No.1 competitor.

Competition is not necessarily a bad thing. Over the past 40 years of reform and opening up, China's economy, trade, financial market, industrial capacity and cultural soft power have risen rapidly. An important reason for that is that China faced competition squarely. It embraced international competition, re-understanding the world through competition, learning from its competitors, catching up with them in some sectors and making progress together in other fields.

The Chinese are more confident today. They don't turn pale at the mention of competition, or associate competition with strategic confrontation and conflict. So even if the U.S. strategically positions China as its top competitor, it won't exclude the possibility of China cooperating with the U.S. since China is pursuing a path of healthy competition with major powers.

The new type of major power competition, or healthy competition, has four categories:

The competition for model. Which country can better meet its people's needs for a better life and can provide experience to other countries?

The competition of cooperation. Which country has the better capability to organize and promote bilateral and multilateral cooperation? This includes boosting vaccination coverage, and realizing economic recovery, technological innovation and poverty alleviation in the post-pandemic era.

The competition of dividends. Which country can offer more impetus to world economic growth and promote global trade and investment, as well as peace and stability?

The competition of vision. Which country has more far-sighted views to resolve the polarization between the rich and the poor, and the ethical challenges posed by intelligent technologies and deteriorating ecology to lead to the next era of civilization?

As long as the competition is fair and square, China has no reason to reject, fear or avoid it.

Rick Dunham, Co-Director, Global Business Journalism Program, Tsinghua University 

Combating COVID-19 is an excellent chance for the two countries to get together. Since the U.S. has effectively worked to have the vaccines available to Americans, there will be plenty of doses available for export by mid-year. A global strategy with the U.S. and China as leading actors working through the World Health Organization could be a good idea.

There are areas where the relationship will be better. Both countries have a real opportunity now to work together. With China working together with the Biden administration, global institutions are going to be stronger, and there would be chances to both rebuild and reform them. We could also get back to anti-terrorism efforts that basically were stagnant during the Donald Trump years.

I hope the dial-down rhetoric coming out of the White House would have some effect on the growth of anti-Asian, in general anti-Chinese, racism and racial attacks in the U.S.

It is vital that the two sides focus on common interests, instead of on what divides them. Managing economic differences is important. We will never overcome them. Competition is good if it is fair competition. I call for no more trade wars, no more unnecessary frictions. Nobody won during the last trade war. Everybody lost, particularly American consumers, manufacturers and farmers.

Educational cooperation is important. The U.S. should once again welcome Chinese students. It helps both countries if young people have personal relationships and understand the other culture and system.

Wang Yiwei, Director, Institute of International Affairs, Renmin University of China 

The U.S. has got the wrong lessons from the Cold War. The Soviet Union was not defeated by the West but dissolved due to domestic issues. And China is not a second Soviet Union. There should never be a new cold war against China. We cannot afford to repeat the tragedy.

Crises like the pandemic and climate change show that this is a new world. For China and the U.S., the only choice is to work together to solve our common problems. We should not see each other as the reason for the problems but work jointly to solve them.

It is not a U.S.-led global system today but the U.S. can play a more pioneering role. And China can contribute a lot to real inclusive global governance.

Copyedited by Sudeshna Sarkar 

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