China and US can escape trap of past great power conflict

Historically, there are many precedent examples of newly emerging powers challenging established hegemonies.

Some international scholars think that China is most likely to challenge the US in the future.

According to a survey carried out by the US-based Center for Strategic and International Studies in 2008 among 300 strategic experts in nine Asian countries, 65.5 percent of those surveyed believed that China would become the world’s most powerful country in 10 years.

Recent polls show that 75 percent of ordinary Americans believe the rise of China is the greatest challenge the US faces. Given the historical precedents, US anxiety seems reasonable. 

However, history does not simply repeat itself. And great power conflict is not the destiny of Sino-US relations.

As long as the two sides both maintain an objective and cool strategic vision and deal with their problems with political wisdom, both China and the US can definitely avoid the historical precedent of great power conflict.

China pursues a strategy of “peaceful diplomacy” and “peaceful development.” And it has no intention to extend its boundaries and challenge other countries. Meanwhile, although its total GDP is now the second largest in the world, China is still a developing country that needs to focus on issues including sustainable economic and social development and national reunification.

The strength of the US has experienced only a relative decline. For a long time in the future, it will remain the world’s only superpower, with an irreplaceably important status and role in the global order.

The influence of Sino-US relations on the global situation has significantly increased, which is essential to maintaining world peace and stability. Sino-US confrontation will only lead the world back into the Cold War quagmire.

Given above reasons, the US should avoid the old-fashioned approach of seeing China as its “imaginary enemy” in a blind pursuit of maintaining and expanding its absolute advantages.

At the same time, it should also avoid strategic alliance and military power displays stemming from stratgic suspicion. During the Cold War, these effects were merely counterproductive.

China’s actions will shape the way the world views it. As a developing country, it should stick to peaceful development while actively undertaking the corresponding international obligations. Facing a suspicious international public, China should actively and gradually shape and improve its image of being progressive, democratic, open, peaceful and harmonious.

In addition, as the significance of healthy and stable development of Sino-US relations has gone far beyond the interests of both countries, the two sides should treat their equal existence, mutual respect, and cooperation as ethical requirements which will affect the well-being of people worldwide.

In an international system in which all countries are becoming more interdependent, both China and the US should work to keep the system running and contribute to world and regional peace and development.

Sino-US diplomatic relations have been established for more than 30 years. The two sides should continue to take efforts to establish and improve various mutual mechanisms of trust.

At the same time, they should also establish game rules that can be followed by both sides and create a framework of long-term strategic trust.

If differences and problems between the two sides could be properly and effectively solved within this framework before going out of control, Sino-US relations could be a role model for world powers to break the historical precedent of conflict and achieve mutually benefited cooperation.

Forty years ago, when the late Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai first shook hands with US National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger, Sino-US relationship was far harsher than ti is now.

Today, although Sino-US relations have experienced ups and downs, relations will develop healthily as long as the two sides take a pragmatic problem-solving attitude to discuss differences frankly, eliminate suspicion, establish trust and reduce misjudgments.

At this historic juncture, President Hu Jintao’s visit to the US has provided an opportunity for the two sides to resolve differences, increase trust and strengthen cooperation.

The significance of this visit is undoubtedly important for the future development of Sino-US relations.

The author is a scholar of international studies.

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