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Foreign Policy

A Positive Step in Sino-U.S. Relations

Feb 20 , 2017
  • Wu Zurong

    Research Fellow, China Foundation for Int'l Studies

On Feb 10, in a telephone conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping, his U.S. counterpart said that he fully understands the immense significance of Washington’s adherence to the one-China policy and that the U.S. government will continue the one-China policy. President Donald Trump’s commitment to the one-China policy marks the smooth transition of Sino-U.S. relations from the old U.S. administration to the new one. This is an encouraging result of close communication and contact between China and the U.S. since President Trump’s inauguration in January. It has sent an important signal to the whole world that China and the U.S. can work together to develop fruitful and constructive relations while controlling or eliminating their differences.

There had been worries about the uncertainties of evolving Sino-U.S. relations since Trump, then president-elect, received a phone call from Tsai Ing-wen, the leader of the Taiwan region, on Dec 2. Remarks following the telephone conversation by Trump about the U.S. one-China policy caused further worries. However, the recent history of Sino-U.S. relations shows that commitment to the one-China policy is in the fundamental interests of both China and the U.S. and also helps to ensure world peace and prosperity. Still fresh in memory are the sufferings and losses caused by the animosity and confrontation between the two countries before President Nixon’s historic visit to China in February 1972. Incidents of serious U.S. violation of the one-China principle since normalization of relations in 1979 have produced some instability but also provided valuable experiences and lessons. The enormous benefit brought to the people of China and the U.S., as well as other parts of the world, by the rapid development of bilateral relations under the one-China principle prompted the new U.S. administration to firmly stick to the one-China policy.

The two heads of state have already agreed to strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation in trade, economy and investment as well as in international affairs. President Trump got the world’s attention with his statement that as partners in cooperation, the U.S. and China can make joint efforts to elevate their bilateral relations to an unprecedented level. This author believes the following steps are more urgent than others.

First, immediately switch on the existing bilateral mechanisms of dialogues and exchanges so as to map out their annual or long-term work plans in various areas. It is necessary to work out new rules and guidelines for the two partners, based on the consensus of giving up zero-some game logic and a Cold War mentality and putting an end to treating each other as adversaries or potential strategic rivals. Partners in cooperation should always put cooperation first.

Second, address each other’s major concerns by seeking constructive approaches to achieve win-win cooperation. The most desired goal is to benefit both sides while reducing differences. To help reduce the U.S. trade deficit, China can import more U.S. high-tech products or technology while the U.S. can change some of the export control regulations and loosen unnecessary restrictions. Discussions could be started on normalized trade of ordinary military products between the two countries. Cooperation should also be seen in the financial field so as to coordinate each other’s macro monetary policies, while keeping close watch on the world financial situation so as to help maintain world financial stability. The two countries can also cooperate to create jobs, and work together on infrastructure construction in the U.S. China can be very helpful in this area, while the U.S. needs to provide more favorable conditions for China’s investment. Another urgent task: Conclude a bilateral agreement on investment.

Third, to help the bilateral relations reach an unprecedented level in the next few years, both countries need better legislation to protect and promote trade relations. The U.S. should look through the articles and clauses related to China contained in previous laws passed by the US Congress, some of which impose restrictions on or simply forbid bilateral exchanges in specific areas. As those articles and clauses have already become outdated, obstructing the smooth expansion of Sino-U.S. relations, it is time to change or abrogate them. Ideally, the U.S. executive branch would work closely with Congress to get this arduous job done at an early date.

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