Language : English 简体 繁體
Foreign Policy

Three Grave Challenges Facing China-US Relations

Jun 21 , 2013

President Xi Jinping, on the heel of successful state visits to three Latin American countries, flew into the United States for his first face-to-face meeting with US President Barack Obama at Sunnylands, the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Estate, in California on June 7 and 8. The Xi-Obama summit, their first after the two countries completed leadership transition, grabbed global attention, because the meeting was said to set the tone for the two major powers to balance cooperation and competition, to seek harmonious coexistence between the “dominant major power” and the “rising major power,” to foster a “new type of major power relationship” for mutual benefit and inter-dependence, and to jointly lead the peaceful development of the world. 

Xi, in his meetings with Obama, expounded the foreign policy strategy in China’s peaceful development and the connotation of the “Chinese dream.” He said the “Chinese dream” means to seek economic prosperity, national rejuvenation and people’s well being. It is about peace, development, cooperation and win-win results, and shares identical features with the American dream and beautiful dreams of people in other countries. Xi and Obama agreed that amid the rapid economic globalization and the practical needs of all countries to sail in the same boat when faced with difficulties, China and the US need to work together to establish a new type of major power relationship that is different from the past one characterized by inevitable confrontation and conflicts. The two countries reached consensus on constructing the new type of major power relationship, which will feature mutual respect and cooperation for win-win results. China-US relations could serve as the ballast stone for world stability and the booster for world peace, and could bring benefit to the peoples of the two countries and the people of the world. 

President Xi focused on the feasibility for building the new type of relationship. First, both sides have the political will to foster such a relationship. Second, cooperation in the past 40 years provides a good foundation for cooperation. Third, between China and the United States, there are more than 90 inter-governmental mechanisms, including the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) and high-level consultations on cultural and educational exchanges, which provide the institutional underpinning for building the new relationship. Fourth, there is strong public support for this kind of relationship between China and the US. There are 220 pairs of sister provinces, states and cities between China and the US, and there is a large number of Chinese students in the US and US students in China. Fifth, there is enormous scope for future cooperation between the two countries. Xi also stressed that in the course of deepening mutual understanding, strengthening mutual trust, developing cooperation and managing differences, China and the US will promote the construction of the new type of relationship. Both sides need to have confidence and determination, wisdom and patience, in achieving this. As long as the two nations stand high and look far, and as long as they make specific progress, they will succeed in this endeavor that is unprecedented and will inspire future generations. 

Obama responded positively, saying it is very much in the interests of the US for China’s continuous peaceful rise. If China is successful, that helps drive the world economy and puts China in a position to work with the US as equal partners in dealing with many of the global challenges that no single nation can address by itself. Cooperation, not confrontation, between China and the US will make it more feasible for each other to achieve its security and prosperity. 

The current China-US relationship is becoming increasingly complicated, with positive and negative factors intermingled. On the one hand, the two nations share extensive common interests and broad scope for cooperation. Cooperation in economy, trade, energy, environmental protection and people-to-people communication and exchanges continue to deepen, and the two sides also strengthen communication and coordination on such issues as the Korean Peninsula issue, the Iran nuclear issue and the Syrian crisis, on promoting the global economic recovery, and on tackling the climate changes. On the other hand, the new type of major power relationship between China and the US is something easy to define but difficult to act on because the two nations still have to face up to three grave challenges. 

First, the geostrategic challenge for China and the US in the Asia-Pacific region. The United States is advocating its Asia-Pacific rebalancing strategy, leading to increasingly complicated territorial disputes between China and Japan and the Philippines. The “third-party factor” poses direct challenge to the China-US relations, and the actual stance of the US on the marine disputes between China and Japan, and between China and the Philippines is ambiguous and inconsistent, and it tends to take side with Japan and the Philippines. 

Second, China and the US face challenges in the global economic market, trade market and their rules. The US is aggressively promoting its “double oceans and double P strategy” — the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) — in an attempt to comprehensively stifle the international marketplace for the rising Chinese economy. 

Third, the rules of the cyber world hold challenges for China and the US. Before the Xi-Obama meeting, US media fanatically played up the so-called “threat of hacker attacks from China” in an attempt to exert pressure on China in a preemptive manner. And US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel openly accused the Chinese government and military for such attacks at the Shangri-La security meeting in Singapore. All these showed the US intent to dominate and monopolize the cyber world. 

Due to these factors, we should have a sober mind about the complexity of the tug-of-war strategies between China and the US, and have a better understanding of the long-term and unsmooth nature for constructing the “new type of major power relationship.” We must have a dialectic and scientific view and must not be carried away while we work confidently and steadily in promoting China-US relations. And the US side must act in the way it preaches, work for the same goal and cooperate with China in a more active manner.

Chen Xiangyang, Deputy Director of the Institute of World Political Studies at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.

You might also like
Back to Top