Competition should not be the leitmotif of China-U.S. ties

Li Jiayao
2023-02-18 20:43:44

by Xinhua writer Guo Yage

BEIJING, Feb. 17 (Xinhua) -- Five times did U.S. President Joe Biden name "China" in his second State of the Union address on Tuesday night, more than any other countries or regions beyond the United States.

That has indeed shed some light on how much weight Washington gives to its relationship with Beijing. Yet the way the U.S. leader tried to define U.S.-China ties, coupled with the U.S. administration's recent melodramatic handling of the Chinese weather balloon incident, has added to the world's worries about a much troubled bilateral relationship that bears heavily not only on both countries but the larger world as well.

"We seek competition," "to compete with China," "winning the competition" -- in such a pugnacious narrative, China seems to be put into a zero-sum game where the United States must and will come out as the only victor.

In recent years, the anxieties over an ever-stronger China in Washington are mounting -- in their eyes, a steadily growing China increasingly intolerable, and its global supremacy threatened.

Despite that the current U.S. administration has repeatedly pledged that the United States respects China's system, does not seek a new Cold War, does not seek to revitalize alliances against China, and that it has no intention to have a conflict with China or to contain China, what it has done is pointing the opposite way.

To contain China, Washington has exerted almost each and every element of its toolbox, be it smearing campaigns, sanctions or bloc politics. It peddled lies about China's human rights records, anti-pandemic fight and rightful development, and defamed its domestic and foreign policies, to fan the flames of hostility towards Beijing; it imposed unjustified bans on Chinese tech firms and individuals, to maintain cyber and economic hegemony; it is trying to tie other countries to its China-bashing chariot, and building up the so-called Indo-Pacific encirclement around China.

Guided by its own version of "America First" doctrine, the Biden administration signed into law the CHIPS and Science Act in last August.

The act is designed to "lower costs, create jobs, strengthen supply chains, and counter China," according to a fact sheet on the official website of the White House. Almost six months later, the administration moved further to halt U.S. exports to Chinese tech giant Huawei, ignoring the hazards the decision will inflict on global industrial and supply chains.

In an attempt to pressure Africa to counter so-called "China's influence," top U.S. officials peddled the "debt trap" conspiracy again during their Africa tour, giving no concern for the welfare of the continent.

In 1972, China and the United States issued the Shanghai Communique, acknowledging a key consensual willingness for the two sides to seek common ground while shelving their differences, and laying a political foundation for the development of bilateral ties. Over the years, big names from both sides have reiterated their calls for more and better bilateral cooperation.

Over the decades, cooperation in various sectors has generated great benefits for both the Chinese and American people. And despite bilateral tensions and decoupling rhetoric, goods trade between the two countries hit a record 690.6 billion U.S. dollars in 2022, according to newly released U.S. official data.

Unfortunately, Washington is drifting away from the broadly acknowledged consensus on cooperation. The sweetness of healthy competition has soured, and the word "competition" has become a synonym for confrontation.

As former U.S. trade official William Reinsch was quoted as saying by The Economist in its opinion published in mid-January, Washington has moved from a "run faster" to a "run faster and trip the other guy" policy, nothing of the sort a responsible major country would ever do.

China and the United States stand to gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation. Their respective success constitutes opportunities rather than challenges to each other, and the world is big enough for the two countries to develop themselves and prosper together.

For the benefit of all, Washington needs to acknowledge this truth about arguably the world's most important bilateral ties, dump the logic of a zero-sum game, and ditch its hostile China policy, be it on the pretext of "competition" or else.

It takes political wisdom and good judgment to see the bigger picture of China-U.S. relations, in which cooperation stands as the leitmotif.

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