The relationship between China and the U.S. appears complicated and dire, but its problems can be summed up as nothing more than a simple misconception problem on the part of the United States. The way forward for the U.S.-China relationship lies in the United States making the right strategic choice.
The United States’ misconceptions arise from its adherence to outdated geopolitical theory and win-lose, zero-sum, Cold War-era thinking in its approach to Chinese-U.S. and international relations, as well as its view of China as a major strategic competitor, and not as a strategic cooperative partner. It also creates problems by engendering conflicts for the two countries and by taking extreme measures to suppress, strategically constrain and blockade China. The results of these efforts have been less than successful.
Under the strong leadership of the Chinese Communist Party in the span of just over 40 years, China has achieved long-term rapid economic development and long-term social stability, two miraculous achievements. It has also successfully passed a major checkpoint in its battle against poverty on schedule, helping one-fifth of the world’s population rise out of abject poverty. In 2020, China was the first to bring the pandemic under control and to achieve a 2.3% growth in gross domestic product and a 1.9% growth in international trade, gaining worldwide attention.
Since 2008, China has contributed around 30% to the growth of the world economy every year. Just think: If China had not adopted a policy of reform and opening up and rapid development, perhaps many of the factories in developed countries would have closed and there would be even greater numbers of unemployed workers.
Chinese civilization has continued uninterrupted for 5,000 years and has made significant contributions to human progress, all by virtue of its central principle: an unwavering commitment to peace and improving the world. For many years, China has achieved rapid growth. The secret to its success is its persistent commitment to peaceful development, not reliance on foreign invasion or colonialism and plundering. To date, China has never colonized, plundered or dominated; these misdeeds aren’t in China’s DNA.
Since the beginning of the 21st century, the U.S. has engaged in fomenting popular uprisings, and has restricted and blockaded China; it has employed endless strategies and tricks. It has never ceased and it has never succeeded. In recent years, the Donald Trump administration stooped even lower. It ignored the law, placed extreme pressure on China, and instigated a trade war and technological, financial and cultural decoupling between the two countries.
Mike Pompeo made every effort to provoke America’s Western allies into constraining China; however, in the end, 140 countries and 30 international organizations signed agreements with China to cooperate in the creation of the Belt and Road Initiative. Not long before, 15 Asian countries signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, and talks on the China-EU investment deal reached a close. These events all involved allies of the United States. Last year, direct foreign investment in China amounted to $163 billion, the highest level in the world. The world is banking on China.
This is the world’s response to attempts by the United States to hold China in check. It should be well understood that politics and economics have always been two sides of the same coin; only by achieving economic growth can the lives of the people be improved, and only then can a government gain the votes it needs to continue to govern.
President Xi Jinping has pointed out that promoting the healthy and stable growth of the U.S.-China relationship is not only in the best interests of the people of both countries, but it is also an expectation shared by the international community. I hope that both sides can maintain a spirit of mutual respect and cooperation, rather than conflict and hostility, and that they can focus on partnership, manage division, and promote the healthy and stable development of the U.S.-China relationship, working with the international community to advance the lofty cause of world peace and progress.
Two strategic options lie before the United States: The first is the well-worn path of win-lose, zero-sum games, and the second is a new path of cooperation and shared development. If it takes the old path, it will face endless conflict and both sides will lose; if it walks the new path, it will find cooperation, shared growth and a win-win outcome. Americans of all persuasions should change their view of China quickly, and make the correct strategic choice.
The author, Lin Songtian, is the president of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries