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Foreign Policy

Window of Opportunity Opens

Nov 22, 2022
  • Xu Hongcai

    Deputy Director, Economic Policy Commission

China has recently engaged in a series of diplomatic activities that have sent frequent positive signals to the international community reinforcing its international reputation as a supporter of world peace and development and promoting reform and opening-up.

In particular, the face-to-face meeting in Bali, Indonesia, between President Xi Jinping and his American counterpart, Joe Biden, at the G20 summit, as well as Xi’s meetings with other leaders, have strengthened the world’s confidence in China.

If China is to achieve its Second Centenary Goal of becoming a great modern socialist country in all respects by 2049, it must promote high-quality development and foster a new pattern of development that is focused on the domestic economy and that features positive interplay between domestic and international economic flows. Therefore, it will be necessary to properly handle various complex international relationships, especially with the United States, to create a favorable external environment for achieving high-quality development.

Recently, the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China was successfully held, and the results of the U.S. midterm elections are largely clear. For China, the way forward in the coming decades is also clear.

In the U.S. midterm elections, the Democratic Party retained its majority in the Senate, and its gap with Republicans in the House of Representatives is small. The so-called Republican “red wave” predicted by Donald Trump and others never appeared. This provides certain assurances for Joe Biden’s governance over the next two years.

In short, a rare window of opportunity has opened for the China-U.S. relationship. Neither China nor the United States wants to intensify confrontation, and both have an inherent need to ease tensions.

In his opening remarks at the Bali summit on Nov. 14, President Xi framed the issue this way: “Currently, the China-U.S. relationship is not working in the fundamental interests of our two countries and peoples, and it’s not what the international community expects of us.”

“As leaders of two major countries, we need to chart the right course for the China-U.S. relationship,” he said. “We need to find the right direction for the bilateral relationship going forward and elevate it.”

China, he added, will unswervingly pursue reform and opening-up and promote an open global economy.

On Nov.15, at the summit, Xi delivered a speech entitled “Working Together to Meet the Challenges of Our Times and Build a Better Future.”

“Faced with these challenges,” he said, “it is imperative that all countries embrace the vision of a human community with a shared future and advocate peace, development and win-win cooperation. All countries should replace division with unity, confrontation with cooperation and exclusion with inclusiveness. All countries should join hands together to answer the question of our times — What is wrong with this world, what we should do about it? — to tide over difficulties and create a better future together. All G20 members should take the responsibility inherent in being major international and regional players should lead by example in promoting the development of all nations, improving the well-being of all mankind and advancing progress in the whole world.”

President Biden’s speech also had some new elements. Previously, he often spoke of “four nos and one no intention” — that is, the United States does not seek a new cold war with China, does not seek to change China’s institutions, does not seek to revitalize alliances against China, does not support Taiwan independence and has no intention to enter into a conflict with China.

This time Biden made additional commitments. He added that the United States does not support “two Chinas” or “one China, one Taiwan” and has no intention to seek “decoupling” from China, to halt China’s economic development or to contain China.

Biden said that the way the relationship develops is of crucial importance to the future of the world. He agreed that China and the United States share a responsibility to show that they can manage their differences, avoid misunderstandings and misperceptions and not allow fierce competition to veer into confrontation. The U.S. side shares the view that it’s necessary to work out principles to guide relations. The two teams may continue discussions on the basis of the common understandings already in place and strive for early agreement.

China welcomes President Biden’s statement and hopes he will match words with deeds and implement it.

Competition between China and the United States is inevitable, but both sides want to regulate it by managing risks and preventing conflicts. This year, the United States has introduced its Indo-Pacific Economic Framework and the Chip 4 Alliance. In response to the Belt and Road Initiative, the U.S. and its Western allies are competing with China by expanding infrastructure investment. On Nov. 13, the U.S.-ASEAN comprehensive strategic partnership was established during the ASEAN Summit. These are signs that strategic competition between China and the U.S. is not only reflected in the head-to-head encounter between them in many fields, such as science and technology innovation, but also in the competition for more middle ground.

China is the world’s second-largest economy, with the world’s most manufacturing value added, a complete industrial chain, the best supporting capacity for this chain and a huge domestic market. And its economy is resilient. Looking ahead, China will continue to uphold multilateralism, promote reform and opening-up, advocate rules-based healthy competition with the United States and resolutely oppose zero-sum games. In addition, it will continue to pursue economic development as its central task and deal flexibly with the U.S.

I believe that China and the United States should work together to promote multilevel practical cooperation. The economy should not be politicized in any way. Both sides should resume cultural exchanges and deepen cooperation in addressing climate change.

They should move faster to launch a new round of economic and trade negotiations to ensure that the United States fully eliminates unreasonable tariff increases. They should strengthen cooperation between enterprises and financial institutions and promote investment cooperation, especially in infrastructure. They should actively carry out cooperation at the local government level, and gradually restore the role of economic and trade cooperation as the anchor and booster of bilateral relations.

In short, a window of opportunity has appeared. China and the United States should make their efforts count. I look forward to the improvement of Sino-U.S. relations.

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