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Foreign Policy

China’s View of the New Type of Relations between Major Powers

Oct 15 , 2012
  • Chen Xulong

    Director, China Institute of Int'l Studies

China’s view of “a new type of relations between major powers” has drawn much attention in the world, especially from people interested in the China-US relationship. A good understanding of this concept is necessary.

China’s Exploration of the “New Type of Relations between Major Countries”

Since the beginning of the 21st century, Chinese leaders have been exploring the way towards a better and more stable China-US relationship. Their exploration is based on the understanding of the importance of the bilateral relationship. The China-US relationship is a bilateral relationship of great importance, vitality and potentiality in the world, and is also highly representative of a rising power and an existing dominant power. The past history of China-US relations has showed us that China and the US both gain from peaceful coexistence, and will lose from confrontations, that the mutual interest serves as the bedrock of cooperation, and that China-US cooperation is conducive to stability in the Asia-Pacific region as well as peace and development in the world.

The Chinese leaders’ exploration is also based on the understanding of the characteristics of this age and the developing trend of the world. They have realized that peace, development and cooperation are irreversible trends of the times. With the development of multilateralization, globalization and informatization, all the countries share a more common destiny with mutual dependency and intertwined interests.

China’s mission is for peaceful development towards a harmonious world. This cannot be accomplished without healthy and stable relations between major countries, especially between China and the US.

Hopefully, this Chinese exploration has met with largely positive responses from the US, and this concept of a “new type of relations” has been accepted by some American leaders, at least orally. As the then US President Bush said to Chinese Premier Wen, during his stay in Beijing for the Olympics, the U.S.-China relationship is not one in which “I win you lose” or “you win I lose.” Gains for China do not mean losses for the United States, and vice versa. The United States can benefit from China’s prosperity and development and the two countries can prosper together.

The Content and the Policy Implications of the New Type of Relations between Major Powers

The “new type of relations” discussed here should be the relationship characterized by win-win cooperation, mutual trust and favorable interaction. The concept is a new way of thinking about international relations. It gets rid of the traditional idea of a “zero-sum game” and the mentality of a cold war and hot war, which has resulted in confrontation and even wars from time to time in history.  It is a new concept for pursuing a common destiny, under which all parties cooperate for mutual benefits and join hands in conquering difficulties.

This new concept should include the following elements:

The first is mutual respect and mutual trust. Both sides should respect each other’s sovereignty, core interests, choice of social system and approach of development. The world is big enough to accommodate the interests and development of all the countries. The US should approve a more powerful and successful China that can play a more important role in international affairs. Therefore, the US should not seek to contain China or irritate turbulence in China. Meanwhile, China persists in peaceful development and has no intention to challenge the US. China is looking forward to a constructive US role in the Asia-Pacific.

The second is coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit and win-win results. Both countries need to further strengthen practical cooperation for common interests, enforce coordination in regional and global issues, address regional and global issues brought about by globalization, and jointly make contributions to world peace and development.

The third is seeking common interests while properly addressing the differences. China and the US should maintain and emphasize the positive aspects of the bilateral relationship and try to maximize the common interests. At the same time, both sides should deal with differences with respect and understanding of each other’s interests and concerns. The two countries should improve the understanding through dialogue and communication so as to positively address and resolve the existing disputes. The unsolved problems might be put aside temporarily, in order to avoid disrupting the main stream for cooperation.

The fourth is sharing responsibilities and facing the challenges together. China and the US should cooperate in dealing with the increasing regional and global problems and various challenges to the sustainable development of the world.

The fifth is building up solid friendships and favorable public opinion. The two sides should promote people to people exchanges at all that a more understanding atmosphere will be created for better relations.

Obviously, it is no easy task to establish such a new type of relationship between China and the US. What is more urgent and important right now is to respect each other’s core interests and concerns, to assess each other’s strategic intentions in an objective and reasoning way, to manage and control the disputes and conflicts, to avoid strategic misconception, and to prevent provocation and vicious competition. The rising power will not challenge the existing power, while the latter should learn to co-exist with the former.

This new concept can be implemented only by efforts from both sides. The good news is that President Obama has shown his willingness to explore with China the building of this new relationship between major powers, which will definitely be in the interest of both countries.

Dr. Chen Xulong, Director and Associate Research Fellow, Department of International and Strategic Studies, China Institute of International Studies


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