On Dec. 4, Chinese Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai said that he would remain highly vigilant, as current trade disputes are complex and difficult to resolve, and destructive forces are attempting to take advantage of the situation. Extremist language such as “decoupling,” “a new cold war,” and “clash of civilizations” has entered the scene. Ambassador Cui also said that some Americans have pointed an accusatory finger at China’s ruling party and China’s system of governance. In doing so, they are trying to rebuild a Berlin Wall of economics, technology and ideology between China and the United States, spread animosity between the people of these two countries and even provoke conflict between them.
China-U.S. relations are indeed facing an unprecedented crossroads, and some Americans have shown that they intend to completely destroy the productive China-U.S. relationship. It is very difficult for China to persuade those people to change their tune. How can China single-handedly influence the future pattern of interaction between these two nations to prevent the rise of forces that want to lead the United States and China to a new cold war? This has become a challenging topic.
We believe it is necessary to first understand the context and actual intensity of the China-U.S. conflict. By far, the most intense U.S. attacks to date have occurred in the economic and ideological arenas. The economy is tied up in trade wars, and there is a clear trend toward decoupling the high-tech sector from economic issues. The U.S. is particularly aggressive in the field of ideology, and its methods of attack are simple and crude.
As for the military arena, the first thing the U.S. has done is to accelerate the development and deployment of high-tech equipment. The second thing the U.S. has done is to strengthen its network of military bases built around China, and the third thing is to increase the frequency of navigation trips through China’s offshore waters, with the intention of provoking China.
Together, these actions have dramatically altered the face of China-U.S. relations, which has permitted an atmosphere of tension between the two countries to grow stronger. At the same time, we must also see that the actions of the United States carry even greater significance. There is a general consensus among the American elite to be tough on China, but the goal of these tough policies is still vague. Whether or not the trade war will lead to material gain or strategically overwhelm China, the United States still has some concerns.
It must be noted that the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union did not break out overnight, but instead was the result of increasingly fierce interactions between the two sides, the consequences of which eventually became irreversible. Because the current relationship between China and the United States is fundamentally different from that of the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, it is still possible that the two countries will avoid falling into a spiral of ruthless struggle.
We believe that the situation in the United States is currently unstable, and that some political elites who hold power are somewhat incompetent. However, we must maintain a firm conviction that these elites cannot lead China and the U.S. to a confrontation like the one between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. So long as China adopts a proper strategy for mitigating U.S. provocations, it will be able to resolutely safeguard our country’s core interests, and will be able to foil those who are plotting a new cold war with China.
This goal requires China to demonstrate sufficient strategic stability, maintain confidence in the face of harassment and provocations from the U.S, and accurately assess the extent of the damage that that harassment can actually cause. China must respond resolutely to the U.S. provocation, and must discuss the issues on an ongoing basis. We must not purposely escalate the conflict or allow individual events to impact the overall situation.
China must continue, unswervingly, to expand opening up to the outside world, including the United States. We should coordinate this process with countermeasures that mitigate U.S. provocation and disregard the rest. We must believe that China’s opening-up strategy will deflect the effects of radical U.S. policies in the long term, and we must wait patiently for this to be proven over time.
We do not need to maintain a tough posture toward the United States. Instead, we should surpass the Americans in tenacity and flexibility, and outperform it in terms of strategy and maneuverability. This should be a point of pride for Chinese and American society. Let the new cold war, which some of the American elite promote, fail, and let China’s development continue in the face of this vile American attitude. If we move forward vigorously, we will have the last laugh.
The future of China-U.S. relations must not follow the path drawn by the radical American elite. We must behave outstandingly in order to allow China-U.S. relations to break away from this script, and for the first time, enable a relationship between great powers to escape the “Thucydides Trap.”* That would be a great accomplishment for China, and a joint achievement for China and the United States. With this, the rise of China in the 21st century will benefit the entire human race.
*Editor’s note: The “Thucydides Trap” is a theory propounded by the American political scientist Graham Allison that when one great power threatens to displace another, war almost always results.
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