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Overcoming ‘Abnormal Normality’ in the US-China Relationship

Oct 29 , 2014

The China-U.S. relationship is undoubtedly one of the most important and unique bilateral relationships in contemporary world politics. Hence, any change or even fine tuning of the Sino-U.S. relationship can result in substantial consequences for nearby countries or even the world. The importance of this relationship comes from the size of these two great powers, as well as their political influence, economic power, and military capacity.

The uniqueness of the China-U.S. relationship primarily comes from the differences that exist between China and the U.S. in almost all aspects. Regarding these differences, especially when it comes political ideology and values, China’s position has been very clear: “seek common ground while reserving differences.” However, the U.S. remains keen to use its still dominant leadership role in world politics to promote so-called universal values or principles such as Western-style democracy. This cognitive divergence is a fundamental cause for the lack of trust and thus the antagonism between these two great powers, a situation which can be described as “abnormal normality.”

When it comes to U.S.-China relations on a global scale, there are three main possibilities for the future. First, China could refuse to completely join and merge into the U.S.-led system, instead trying to create a new regional or even global system. Second, China could merge entirely into the dominant system and passively adopt U.S. leadership. Third, China could join the U.S.-led world system but take the initiative to change and reform the system until China seizes leadership from the inside.

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