History Cannot Go Backward: US-China Relations Must Turn a New Page

With Joe Biden taking control of the U.S. government, new people and policies have brought about many changes. Within the first 10 days, in fact, he used executive orders to cancel many of the Donald Trump administration’s programs and reestablish administrative systems that were set up under former President Barack Obama but forcefully abolished by Trump.

Still, both in the U.S. and abroad, many international political observers and media commentators continue to base their views on the impact created by policies implemented when Trump was in charge. In particular, the tough actions taken to deal strongly with Beijing are widely believed to have rippling repercussions. Trump’s influence certainly cannot be done away with by adjusting policies. Ultimately, most people have come to the pessimistic conclusion, “Relations between Washington and Beijing can never return to what they once were!”

Certainly, this viewpoint sounds reasonable. However, when it is examined closely, there are errors in the logic and fallacy in the thinking. Unfortunately, almost all media and online groups have jumped to accept this viewpoint without question. Echoed by their followers, these kinds of views have become mainstream, so that now, no one can feel optimistic about future interactions between Beijing and Washington. Some people even sense an impending storm but don’t know what drama will unfold.

History, in fact, has always been dynamically developing, and objective circumstances and actual conditions constantly change; history cannot stop and linger at any one point. Similarly, hoping that any interactions between international societies return to a previous state is entirely unrealistic.

First of all, those in charge on the political stage are constantly changing. Even if a previous cast of characters makes a comeback, they cannot turn back history to a previous time. Because the objective conditions change the situation, no matter how strong the subjective desires of those in charge, they cannot affect great change through desire alone. All things change according to their own will.

In fact, when you observe the political teams of any country, from when they first come to power all the way until they hand it over to the next team, all of the policies are dynamically shifting. After all, people are alive and the world is constantly turning. Thus, no matter whether circumstances are favorable or adverse, as long as history progresses, no one can return to the past. This is life’s cruelest fact.

The relationship between the U.S. and China will inevitably follow this type of historical rule. No matter how the ruling party on either side changes, the relationship between the two cannot return to what it once was. This doesn’t mean, however, that relations will deteriorate, nor does it mean they will improve. The conflict between Beijing and Washington is certainly not like replaying a single scene over and over again. Whether we like it or not, we must turn to a new page in history, and both sides need to begin a new chapter.

In the face of change, no matter what tactics the other party uses, even if they intend to cling to old ideas, the entire situation will dynamically develop and continue moving forward. Why can some countries take advantage of new situations to come up with good plans for governance, while other regimes are left behind by history and knocked out of the competition by reality? In fact, it is due to the ability to accurately perceive in which direction the times are changing, instead of clinging obstinately to old habits and creeds and preferring to preserve old ways instead of being willing to face reality.

History cannot go backward. Similarly, history waits kindly for no one. The opportunity to act is now. If both sides rely on using political rhetoric to address cross-strait relations, acknowledging historical facts yet being unwilling to calmly accept the political foundation both sides originally built — that will be the real reason the relationship between China and the U.S. cannot be as it once was! Moreover, even if both sides are now willing to humble themselves, their respective strength ebbs and flows. Assuming they even want their relationship to be what it once was, unfortunately, that is now an unrealistic expectation!

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