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Foreign Policy

Strategic Stability Helps Build Cooperative Relationships

Feb 20 , 2017
  • He Yafei

    Former Vice Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Recently there has been some strange talk about the new American Administration secretly formulating a strategy to “balance China with a US-Russia alliance”. It was attributed to Dr. Kissinger, a world-famous strategist and lifelong friend of China, who supposedly offered it to President Trump in private.

We have no way to verify what Dr. Kissinger said or did not say to President Trump about China. What we do know from open sources is that Kissinger has expressed his clear endorsement during his most recent visit to China on building a close partnership between China and US based on the principle of non-confrontation and win-win through cooperation and mutual benefit. During the latest phone conversation between President Xi and President Trump, both leaders reaffirmed their determination to continue to foster good relations between China and the US. And President Trump reaffirmed that his administration will continue to carry out the one-China policy.

We also know with certainty that the China-Russia partnership of strategic collaboration based on mutual trust and benefit has been growing stronger year by year. For the last few years President Putin is the foreign leader whom President Xi Jinping has met more than any other and their conversations have always been productive, positive and forward-looking.

The China-Russia partnership is embedded in close economic cooperation and frequent consultation on major international issues. It is definitely not an alliance relationship. This actually sets a very good example for major powers to build stable and harmonious relations in this ever-changing new era of globalization with increasing uncertainty and risks in geopolitics.

It has been noted that the Trump Administration has been making efforts to improve US-Russia relations and so has Russia. Many experts suggest that there are mutual needs to enhance the US-Russia relationship and prevent it from further deterioration. Most people would agree with that.

But some analysts are trying to suggest that it is in American geopolitical interest to form some sort of alliance with Russia in order to drive a wedge between China and Russia. A few even went an extra mile to hint that the US and Russia were possibly plotting another “Yalta Accord” that would sell out China.

What a ridiculous conspiracy theory! We are living in a globalized world with increasing economic interdependence with one another. Our collective security is also based on strategic balance and stability among major powers. This is the reality today. It is well-known that any attempt to upset strategic balance and stability between and among major powers would undermine the global security framework, thus bringing harm to world economic growth.

In addition, the US, China and Russia are all major powers now and their relations with one another have been interwoven so closely that the only constructive way forward is to work together for world peace and prosperity, not work against one another.

Other reasons offered for closer American cooperation with Russia is that it would be helpful in counter-terrorism, especially in fighting and eventually eliminating ISIS in the Middle East. For Russia, it is suggested that improving relations with the US would end the sanctions imposed on it after Ukraine crisis and get its economy back on track. These reasons probably are closer to reality than otherwise.

No matter who is in the White House, a deteriorating US-Russia relationship is not good news for the two countries and could hurt the global security environment, making it more difficult to tackle international challenges. The same goes for the China-US relationship. In this context, any improvement in US and Russian relations is welcome and in the long-term interests of the two countries. Parallel improvements in American relations with other major powers are equally important and should be pursued with great efforts.

It should be one of the foreign policy priorities for Trump Administration to maintain and reinforce strategic balance and stability between the US and other major powers so as to build non-confrontational and cooperative relationships. That is why “The United Nations Charter” emphasized that the Five Permanent Members carry special responsibility for the maintenance of world peace and security.

It would be a tragic lose-lose scenario should the major powers somehow fall into a trap of geopolitical entanglements and even confrontation that would pit one against another. Therefore it is essential to respect each other’s core interests and maintain smooth and frequent consultations among them.

There is no legal definition to identify which nations are “major powers”. In reality any country that has regional or global influence politically, economically and culturally could be counted in. Yet no matter how many major powers are counted, the reasoning remains the same, namely close cooperation is of paramount importance both for safeguarding world peace and keeping globalization working for all.
At the annual WEF Davos meeting, Chinese President Xi Jinping recently put forward the proposal of “jointly building a community of nations with shared destiny”, aiming at reshaping global order and global governance architecture to better accommodate the different interests of all countries for the common good of humanity. This innovative concept is derived from the core values of Chinese civilization to promote long term peace and prosperity for all.

The process of building such a closely-knit partnership both regionally and globally will help consolidate strategic balance and stability among major powers by defusing present and future geopolitical frictions.

Another good example is “The Belt & Road Initiative” (B & R) proposed by President Xi in 2013 that followed the same positive and forward-looking approach and a narrative deeply embedded in Chinese culture. The core idea is to map out a long-term plan for countries involved to enjoy common development and common prosperity. Early results are coming in already. For instance, B&R dovetails with the Russian proposal of building a “Eurasian Economic Union” and with other regional integration ideas of many countries like Indonesia, India and ASEAN members. China and European countries are deeply engaged in possible cooperation on the initiative. That is why up to now B & R has been embraced by over a hundred countries. China hopes the Trump Administration will seriously review American position vis-à-vis the B & R and adopt a more positive approach to increase regional and global cooperation between the two countries.

Strategic balance and stability between major powers needs careful nurturing because it is vulnerable to unilateral actions to undermine it, either intentional or unintentional. Take the deployment of the US Missile Defense System (MDS) for example: Its actual and planned deployment in Eastern and Central Europe would undercut nuclear deterrence of Russia and has already forced the latter to respond in kind.

Should the deployment of THAAD in South Korea as part of American East Asia Theater MDS go ahead as planned this year, despite the opposition from both China and Russia, it would break the fragile strategic balance in the region and increase security risks to the region and the world as a whole.

Another delicate and essential issue concerns “the one-China policy” of the US. China has repeatedly said that this principle touches upon the core interest of China and is non-negotiable. In phone exchanges between the presidents of China and the US, the American Administration how has made that commitment clear, which is conducive to further development of our bilateral relations.

Humankind has entered a new era of globalization that is going in bifurcation; on the one hand it will continue to advance and on the other we are witnessing further fragmentation, which necessitates a reshaping of world order and global governance. The daunting challenges facing the international community today are numerous, but the most fundamental one comes from the ever-widening gap between the rich and poor and the resultant deep social division. In other words, it is basically an issue of how to distribute the benefits of globalization in a more just and fairer manner that better reflects the social equality. Deep-rooted anxiety has been driving the discontent and even anger of many in the US and some European countries, which has brought about the rising tides of populism against elites in their domestic politics and against globalization per se.

Major powers need to work together to move the process of globalization forward in the right direction and improve the existing governance system so that it can better adapt to the fast-changing situation. Any action to gain geopolitical advantage at the expense of another major power or powers will not bring risks to global security and damage prospects for world economic growth.

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