China, US must work for global common good


Editor's Note: Now that Joe Biden has assumed the US president's office, what should Washington and Beijing do to put bilateral ties back on the right track? And how can the two sides manage their differences and engage in healthy competition and win-win cooperation? Five experts with the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies shared their views on the issue with The Paper. Excerpts follow:

Leaders' decision key to resuming cooperation

As Sino-US relations enter a new phase marked by competition, can they resume their fruitful cooperation and policy coordination to meet bilateral, regional and global challenges? If yes, how can they do so given that the Donald Trump administration has squeezed the space for cooperation?

Although profound changes have taken place globally, and in the development and national strengths of China and the US-and despite the differences in their respective strategic objectives and mutual understandings-the two sides can replicate their successful cooperation in some important areas. In particular, at a time of turbulence and rapid changes in the international situation, the common interests of the two sides can help them to focus on some global challenges, keep aside, if not settle, some of their differences and find ways to resume fruitful cooperation.

First, the fact that only with sincere Sino-US cooperation can major global crises be resolved shows the strategic significance of the China-US relationship. Therefore, it is important that both countries abandon the zero-sum game and work together, because the absence of Sino-US coordination and cooperation will not only undermine the collective efforts of the international community to overcome global crises but also exacerbate them.

If Beijing and Washington engage in confrontation, instead of working for the global common good, they could trigger a major global crisis in the international governance system, leading even to the collapse of the entire system.

Second, by setting goals and mutual expectations for Sino-US relations in a rational and realistic manner, the two sides can reduce tensions and instead strengthen cooperation. Experience shows that only by refraining from viewing China-US relations through the prism of self interests can the two countries bridge the gap between the goals they set for bilateral ties and mutual benefit, and reduce disappointments caused by unrealistic expectations.

And only through rational and realistic cognition of each other's strategic intentions and development trend, accurately and objectively analyzing contradictions and their root causes, and enhancing cooperation and trust can they avoid misunderstandings about each other's intentions.

Third, the strategic decisions of the leaders of the two countries are key to promote strategic cooperation. Strategic cooperation between major countries has never been easy. And the history of China-US ties shows that without the prompt decision of the two countries' leaders, bilateral strategic cooperation on many major issues would have been delayed, or never established.

Chen Dongxiao, president of Shanghai Institutes of International Studies

US must respect China's core national interests

When formulating foreign strategies in the light of their respective national interests, the leaders of China and the US need to accurately assess the situation and seize the opportunity to shape bilateral and international relations conducive to their national security and development interests.

After the normalization of Sino-US relations, former leader Deng Xiaoping decided to establish strategic cooperation between China and the US to use American capital and technology to develop China's economy, while former US presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan did so to contain the global expansion of the Soviet Union.

Such a strategic vision, that both countries act in their national interests, is still significant. Sino-US ties should be based on mutual national interests, not on fantasies or ideologies. So, the two sides should not let their respective ideologies determine bilateral ties.

To this end, the political determination and strategic will of both countries' leaders, and the pledge to not interfere in each other's internal affairs, as well as to maintain dialogue and strengthen the communication mechanism are of great importance.

In particular, direct and candid exchanges between the leaders of the two countries are extremely important, because they can reduce political interference in each other's internal and other core affairs, improve understanding and defuse crises. Given the present sorry state of China-US ties and the closing down of formal communication channels, it is all the more important that the two countries' leaders have regular, candid exchanges, discuss major bilateral issues and identify areas of cooperation to prevent tensions and conflicts, rebuild mutual trust and put bilateral relations back on track.

Second, before the Trump administration launched an all-out offensive against China, the leaders of China and the US believed the healthy development of bilateral relations was strategically important for not only the two sides but also for the rest of the world.

The strategic collaboration between China and the US during the Cold War period brought obvious geopolitical and economic benefits to both countries. And their strategic cooperation on other international issues brought stability and prosperity to the region and the world at large.

China and the US now don't have any common third-party geopolitical rival, and even some policymakers and strategists of the two countries view each other's country as the main competitor. But global problems and transnational challenges, many of them serious and demanding immediate redress, pose a real threat to human survival and sustainable development. So it is important that the leaders of both countries more closely link the development of China-US relations with global peace, security and development.

The two countries need to build a new framework for Sino-US ties that transcends bilateral differences and rivalry. And it is important that the new framework be based on the new reality of strategic competition, so that while managing differences and disputes, the two countries can cooperate on issues of common interest and solve the common bilateral and global problems.

Third, understanding, respecting and accommodating each other's core concerns is conducive to the healthy development of China-US relations. China and the US need to be sensitive to each other's core interests, carefully handle their differences on major security and development issues, and determine in advance their points of conflict, so as not to damage the foundation of mutual trust.

That means China needs to continue its efforts to improve the world order, in order to make it fairer and more equitable, and the US should continue to play a constructive leadership role in improving international relations by promoting multilateralism rules and building an open and inclusive economic landscape in the Asia-Pacific region.

If the goal of the US policy toward China is to see a "poor, war-torn and turbulent China", not a "prosperous, peaceful and stable China", then the basis for the development of Sino-US relations will no longer exist.

So the US should also respect China's national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and its right to economic development.

Su Liuqiang, an assistant research fellow at the Institute for International Strategic Studies, Shanghai Institutes for International Studies

Making compromise when necessary

The overall vision and strategic judgment of the leaders of China and the US are crucial to the smooth development of bilateral ties. For example, at the critical time when China and the US were negotiating China's entry into the World Trade Organization, bilateral ties got a jolt as the Chinese embassy in former Yugoslavia was bombed by the US planes.

But since the leaders on both sides knew their countries' common interests far outweighed their differences and therefore the Yugoslavia incident should not prevent them from continuing their joint efforts to establish a constructive strategic partnership, the two countries gradually restored mutual trust and continued their efforts to strengthen bilateral ties.

Besides, since China saw its entry into the WTO as a positive development and the US didn't go back on its promise of supporting China's accession, the two sides finally overcame the huge obstacles and reached a bilateral agreement on China's WTO accession, which further boosted bilateral ties.

But the vision and strategic determination of the two countries' leaders alone are not enough to promote the smooth development of Sino-US ties. To achieve the common goals, the two countries need to regularly exchange information on the progress they have made on different fronts, so as to remove any misunderstandings. Only in this way can their diverse interests find a point of convergence. For example, in the talks on its entry into the WTO, China made necessary concessions to pave way for its entry into the world trade body.

To achieve their common goals, the two countries should therefore not only adhere to international principles but also respect each other's core concerns and interests, while making compromises when necessary, because no negotiation on a common goal can be concluded fruitfully without compromise and mutual concessions.

Wang Guoxing, a distinguished research fellow at the Institute of World Economy, Shanghai Institutes for International Studies

Resume dialogue on an equal footing

The way Beijing and Washington cooperated to overcome the global financial crisis offers valuable lessons for the two sides on how to promote cooperation over the next four years. To begin with, they should strengthen cooperation to reduce the uncertainties associated with globalization to promote their common interests. The continuous weakening of the real economy worldwide and the frequent collapse of asset prices indicate the global economy in its present form is not sustainable, because it is full of uncertainties and unfairness. So the two sides need to strengthen cooperation to make globalization fairer and more inclusive.

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has exposed the two countries' strengths and weaknesses, and their confrontation has had disastrous effects on the two sides and the rest of the world.

So a dialogue mechanism based on equal footing is necessary for the two countries to resume effective bilateral and multilateral cooperation. Although dialogue cannot help China and the US to resolve all their differences, the absence of dialogue can allow the festering or even escalation of some differences that could be settled through negotiation, causing harm to both sides.

The two countries should therefore make efforts to improve the global governance mechanism, to make it more equitable, in order to foster bilateral cooperation, and manage and control bilateral strategic competition and divergences.

The US' invitation to China to take part in the G20 it helped form to respond to the 2008 global financial crisis and the progress the two sides made in their economic and strategic dialogue mechanism helped deepen mutual trust, ensuring their joint response to global financial crisis yielded positive results.

China's growing national power and its increasing influence in the international market led to changes in the two countries' global roles and responsibilities, and intensified their competition.

China is committed to improving its market system and making its governance mechanism more efficient. And while China and the US agree on many development aspects, they also have their divergences on the model for the market system. But they are not fundamentally at odds with each other when it comes to building a fair, transparent, open and rule-based market system.

As such, the US targeting Chinese entities, including high-tech companies, is good for neither China's domestic reform nor global economic recovery or the development of bilateral ties. China has chosen a development path based on its unique national conditions. And it remains dedicated to deepening reform and expanding opening-up, albeit at its chosen pace.

Many of China's important reforms over the past 40 years have been inspired by Sino-US interactions, especially when the two sides had the same targets.

The problem now is that some US politicians attribute the slowdown of China's financial reforms to the imaginary regression of China's overall reforms, instead of accepting that the real cause is the global financial crisis triggered by the US' subprime crisis.

Ye Yu, a researcher in economics at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies

Shelve differences for common good

Sino-US cooperation on climate change before the Trump administration took power is a good example on how the two sides can resume cooperation in different fields during the Joe Biden administration.

The two countries should focus on common interests, which in the past helped them to finalize the Paris Agreement. They should also deepen cooperation to develop the green economy and ensure energy security so as to safeguard their common interests on climate issues.

Despite their divergences on how to respond to the climate challenge, the two sides avoided confrontation and pointing fingers at each other, and instead maintained contact with each other to discuss common interests, which ultimately led to the finalization of the Paris climate accord.

Since their first strategic and economic dialogue, the two sides have initiated cooperation in fields such as "clean coal", electric vehicles and renewable energy, and after 2013, they discussed the possibility of establishing cooperation mechanisms on smart power grids, forestry, low-carbon city and other areas at government, institution and company levels.

Cooperation at different levels can help create the right atmosphere for establishing and increasing contacts between senior officials of the two countries on climate issues.

Moreover, Chinese leaders' commitment to better protect the environment, reduce carbon emissions and foster green development has yielded many positive results, bringing tangible benefits to the people, and leading to fundamental changes in the evolution of not only a new development paradigm but also the modernization of national governance.

Before Trump assumed power, China and the US, despite being in different stages of development, set a good example of how to jointly fight climate change, as well as meet other global challenges.

The two countries can therefore pick up where they left four years ago and resume cooperation to address the climate issues. China has vowed to achieve carbon neutrality before 2060, and the Biden administration has decided to return to the Paris Agreement and vowed to realize carbon neutrality by 2050.

So it's time the two sides shelved their ideological differences and gave full play to their respective strengths to combat climate change and, in the process, build environmentally friendly societies not only in China and the US but also the rest of the world.

Li Yanliang, a researcher in diplomatic policy studies at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies

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