China-US new type of major power relations: positive narratives needed to help turn negative tide


Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

New type of great power relations

Xi Jinping’s upcoming visit to the US comes amid the two sides’ pledge to push for a “new type of great power relations.” Though tensions come part and parcel of ties between great powers, China and the US have vowed to navigate those dangerous waters through dialogue.

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China-US are on way to a new type of major power relations

Recently, worries have been heard in the Western academia and strategic circles on China’s development direction, foreign policy changes and thus the possible deterioration of China-US relations.

Two catchy phrases are mostly used to describe the current situation, the “Thucydides’s Trap” and “tipping point.”

The “Thucydides’s Trap,” which means a rising power generates fear in an established power that it ultimately leads to a war between the two, is not persuasive to describe the possible prospect of nowadays China-US relations. On the one hand, it neglects significant changes of the external environment. In addition, the theory hardly explains the peaceful transition of power in history.

On the other hand, the “Thucydides’s Trap” puts too much blame on the threat of the rising country, missing the possibility that the established country could be more comfortable in launching a preemptive war.

“Tipping point” is another phrase that has caused a round of discussion about China-US relations in both countries. David Lampton, a senior China scholar, delivered a speech in May, worrying that China-US relations were approaching “a tipping point.” After that, some US politicians and scholars followed the suit and expressed worries about bilateral relations. Even in China, people began to write articles, discussing how to avoid a hot war with the US.

Paying too much attention on the two phrases will exaggerate the competitive sides of the two countries and are not helpful for China-US relations. It will lead people to imagine more difficulties and feel frustrated about the relations.

We should adopt positive narrative about China-US relations and concentrate more on cooperation rather than competition.

It is a good chance for the two countries to strengthen the positive and grand narrative about bilateral relations during the upcoming state visit paid by Chinese President Xi Jinping to the US. A new type of major power relationship in general is a useful guideline and positive narrative for the future development of bilateral ties.

Meanwhile, the two countries should inject more concrete contents into the idea by narrowing divergences and expanding cooperation. China-US relations are the most important and complex bilateral relations in the world. It is impossible for the two countries to shun competition, but strengthening bilateral cooperation still forms the major part of the relations.

China and the US need each other. Although some US scholars and politicians argued that the US government should change its grand strategy toward China, namely balancing China’s rise, the fact is that the US needs China’s cooperation on a bunch of issues ranging from bilateral issues to global governance such as climate change.

Xi’s visit will provide a great opportunity to facilitate cooperation between the two countries. The communication between the two leaders will first of all enhance the strategic mutual trust and ensure the relations on the right track. Numerous highlights might pop up during Xi’s visit.

On cyber security, the two may reach some fundamental consensus like promising not to attack each other’s key infrastructure, regulating their own actions and forming basic norms.

On economic cooperation, as the top two economies in the world, the countries should express their willingness to lead the global economic development.

On climate change, the countries may carry on the momentum and release another joint announcement to accumulate more dynamism for the upcoming Paris Climate Conference.

In addition, Xi might share his experience of China’s development path to disperse US misunderstandings about China’s domestic policies and interact with the US public, offering a solid foundation of the bilateral relations.

By Sun Chenghao Source:Global Times

The author is an assistant research fellow at the Institute of American Studies, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

Related:

Young adults stress key role of Sino-US ties ahead of Xi’s trip

Nearly 80 percent of young US respondents are interested in Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to the country, according to a survey by China Daily.
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