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Foreign Policy

Let Us Focus on Cooperation and Manage Differences

May 03 , 2016
  • Wu Jianmin

    Former President, China Foreign Affairs University

On April 19, President Xi Jinping met with Mr. Henry Paulson, former US Secretary of the Treasury. Commenting on the Sino-US relationship, President Xi pointed out that China-US relations as a whole are developing in a sound manner. “In the next stage, the two countries should make joint efforts to strengthen communication, focus on cooperation and manage differences to push for sustainable, healthy and steady development of China-US relations.”

“Focus on cooperation and manage differences.” This is the right path to advancing Sino-US relationship.

There is a wide range of areas for further Sino-US cooperation, including conflicts in the world’s hotspots, bilateral economic, trade and investment cooperation, people-to-people exchanges, military-to-military exchanges and security cooperation.

President Xi said in 2013 that the economic relationship between China and US is the ballast of Sino-US relationship. He’s right. As we look back at the evolution of our bilateral relationship in the past 45 years, we can see that China-US economic cooperation has always been an important driver. In 1971, when Dr. Henry Kissinger came to China for the first time, China-US trade amounted only to $5 million yearly. By the end of 2015, the annual figure had climbed to $560 billion. China had become the largest trading partner of US. What led to this fabulous growth was mutual benefit. In the new century, to fuel continuous economic cooperation between China and US, we need a new driver, which is investment.

Currently, China and US are negotiating a BIT (bilateral investment treaty). Both President Xi and President Barack Obama want to speed up this negotiation and achieve an early conclusion, which will take China-US economic cooperation to a higher stage and will strengthen mutually beneficial ties between our two important countries.

The G20 Summit is scheduled to be held September 4-5 this year in Hangzhou. This is the first time that China will host the G20 Summit. The G20 is the most representative and most important body to guide global economy and finance: The GDP of G20 countries accounts for 90% of global GDP, and 80% of the world’s trade. Current global economic growth is sluggish. The international community expects the G20 Hangzhou Summit to give a strong boost to global economy, and China-US cooperation is the key to the success of this summit.

It’s true that China and US have lots of differences. The two sides have to join hands and manage their differences properly. That means:

First, the two sides have to acknowledge that it’s quite natural that China and US have differences. Our two countries have different histories, cultures and traditions, different political and social systems; they’re in a different stage of development. The US is the only superpower in the world. China is the largest developing country. Of course we have differences now and we will continue to have them. Even in 100 years, we may still have differences. China will not become America and vice versa.

Second, the two sides have to accept dialogue as the best way to deal with differences and reject confrontation.

I’ve just come back from Rome where I attended the plenary session of the Trilateral Commission. Because the conference was held in Europe, major issues facing Europe, especially the migrant crisis, became the focus of the conference. The migrant crisis that Europe is suffering from is not an isolated phenomenon. It is a direct consequence of the turbulence and raging wars in the Middle East and North Africa, the Pandora’s Box for the troubles the world now faces. Some European politicians said in their presentations at the session that Europe had to learn the lessons from past mistakes. The mistakes they referred to are the Iraq and Libya wars. People believe that the migrant crisis is here to stay and may last many years.

Who opened the Pandora’s Box in the Middle East and North Africa? I asked this question at the Rome Conference. I believe it was opened by three US-led wars, in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. The three wars have plunged these regions into chaos and inflicted terrible sufferings on the people there. Confrontation made everybody the loser.

The disaster in the Middle East and North Africa should serve as a lesson for the entire international community.

Third, we have to manage differences in a constructive way. This is what President Xi recommended. It means that even in differences, sometimes we can find common ground. China-US cooperation on cyber security is a case in point. Last year, before President Xi’s visit to US, cyber security was a major contentious issue between China and US. Washington had even considered imposing sanctions on China. On Sept 9-12, 2015, State Councilor Men Jianzhu visited the US, as the special envoy of President Xi. He conducted serious talks with the US side. The two countries achieved a host of consensus in this area. Thus, the two sides succeeded in turning a contentious issue into a bright spot of cooperation.

China-US relationship matters a lot, not only to our two countries, but also the rest of the world. Let’s work together to focus on cooperation and manage differences to advance this very important bilateral relationship, for the benefit of world prosperity and international peace.

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