​It's time to turn a fresh page in US-China relations

​By Tom Fowdy
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, January 22, 2021
Adjust font size:
Photo taken on Sept. 24, 2015 shows the national flags of China (R) and the United States on the Constitution Avenue in Washington, capital of the United States. [Photo/Xinhua]

Joe Biden is now President of the United States. The Trump administration is gone.

After the inauguration on Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol, leaders around the world have expressed hope and optimism for a return to normality from America. Not least of course, is in Beijing, as China had a rough ride from the Trump's policies that sought to increasingly escalate confrontation until the very last minute.

Individuals such as Mike Pompeo pushed increasingly aggressive rhetoric and measures, aiming to "box" the new Biden administration into following this "tough on China" legacy and make it a new normal, increasingly dubbed as a "new cold war" by the media.

This was not and is not the way forwards for U.S.-China relations. Although undoubtedly, things cannot completely return to the way they were, and many differences will remain in the diplomatic relationship, it is time for a fresh page to be turned towards stable and managed co-existence and dropping the irresponsible nonsense of zero-sum confrontation, that is not in the true interests of either country.

What is described as "competition" can be undertaken in a fair and sportsmanlike manner, rather than an aggressive and reckless way. America and China have many things on which they can work together, forging a new mood of cooperation.

The United States and China constitute the world's two largest economies. Both countries are financial, technological and commercial giants. Together, they both make up over one third of global gross domestic product. Hundreds of American businesses have a presence in China, whilst 200 or so Chinese enterprises have a presence on the New York Stock exchange.

Both countries have deeply intertwined their economies and trajectories and shaped globalization accordingly under their own merits through the past 30 years. There are no other countries in this present era that have such a decisive influence over the direction of the planet than the United States and China.

The past administration espoused a logic that U.S.-China relations were "zero-sum," that is one party gained wholeheartedly at the expense of the other, and, worse, that the presence of a rising and successful China undermined the United States.

They claimed that engagement with China, or stable productive ties, ultimately did not serve American interests. Therefore, as the thinking went, America ought to detach itself from Beijing and push its national interests by force, achieving a decoupling and attempting to isolate China from the global economy.

Mike Pompeo took direct aim at China's government throughout 2020 and symbolically derided the opening up of U.S.-China ties, based on Richard Nixon's visit to China in 1972, as a failure.

This is wrong, because it fails to comprehend a realistic and pragmatic vision for the world. America will have its differences with China in many capacities and under Biden these aren't about to go away.

The claim that the U.S. merely did everything China wanted before Trump is false, the diplomatic relationship between these two countries has never been based on absolute agreement, but it has been based on a "bottom line" of stability, an idea that even if the two parties disagree, they are nonetheless both major global stakeholders and differences have to be conducted on a premise of respect and cooperation.

When two teams play a football game, they are competing against each other. Both teams want to win and push to achieve that. However, both teams also cooperate under a common set of rules and procedures used to guarantee the safety and fairness of the game.

The teams might consider themselves rivals, but they are not supposed to consider themselves mortal enemies who ought to literally fight, as opposed to compete. Therefore, to play properly, there is a basic cooperative and sportsmanlike spirit needing to be employed.

Otherwise, how can the fans and stakeholders of the teams benefit? Likewise, it is so with America, China and the world. Trump's policies did not advance America's interests as much as they were absolutely destructive for everyone involved.

It is time to step away from this. The United States and China can co-exist, and it is time to work towards that. Claims advanced by China hawks that Beijing is hell bent on seeking hegemony and has global ambitions are inherently false and hysterical.

Thus, with a new administration in place, it is time to come back to the negotiating table. It is time for the U.S. and China to talk about their differences and propose ways in which they can be managed and better organized. The daily vilifying rhetoric from Pompeo served no purpose or proved  productive whatsoever, to America or its allies.

China's foreign policy is pragmatic and adaptable. Whilst it does not compromise on core interests such as national sovereignty or territorial integrity, it will be prepared to make room for America's position and accommodate accordingly, providing reciprocity is offered.

It is prepared to hear Biden out, to make recommendations, adjustments and advance mutual dialogue. It is prepared to cooperate on major issues such as climate change, nuclear non-proliferation, the global recovery and more. Whether we like it or not, we cannot feasibly imagine a world where the United States and China do not work together.

Trump pushed division, hatred, chaos, recklessness, but what is sought now is stability, common sense, caution and reason. Thus, the U.S.-China relationship needs to start from scratch, a point of difference does not have to be a point of contention.

Tom Fowdy is a British political and international relations analyst and a graduate of Durham and Oxford universities. He writes on topics pertaining to China, the DPRK, Britain and the U.S. For more information please visit: 


Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of China.org.cn.

If you would like to contribute, please contact us at opinion@china.org.cn.

Follow China.org.cn on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
ChinaNews App Download
Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from China.org.cnMobileRSSNewsletter