When the principal threats and opportunities for global economic development exist at a transnational level, it is simply not feasible to have an international arena in which one nation effectively calls all the shots, disproportionately promoting its own interests.
In the wake of the global financial crisis, new patterns of multi-directional and multi-dimensional economic interaction are emerging, and with these new constellations of power and influence are forming in international relations.
Washington must adapt to this new order, not only to promote its national interests, but also to avoid becoming marginalized in international discussions and distrusted and isolated by emerging powers.
In this context, the yuan issue represents a point of principle for China. As things stand, China is the primary contributor to global growth.
Global efforts should be focused on harnessing, not dampening, China's growth. Moreover, while the US economy remains the world's largest, it can only retain this status by seeking win-win cooperation with emerging partners.
Unfortunately, it's not clear if US foreign policy is capable of fully adapting to this new reality, and the yuan issue encapsulates the often self-defeating nature of their behavior neatly.
China has long acknowledged that a free-floating yuan makes long-term economic sense, but maintains that it will only make these reforms when conditions allow. The Chinese government is highly unlikely to diverge from this policy, as to do so would cause significant damage to the economy.
Thus, by pressing the issue, the US succeeds only in antagonizing China and creating difficulties in relations across the Pacific. For some sections of the US political class, whose approach remains rooted in the old zero-sum diplomacy of the Cold War, this may seem like a worthwhile goal.
However, one can only hope that their compatriots will be more open-minded, since the yuan issue serves as notice that only by affording greater respect to the interests of other stakeholders can the US thrive in the new international order.
The author is a Beijing-based British freelance writer specializing in Chinese political economy. firstname.lastname@example.org