- About Sias
- Research & Innovation
- Campus Life
- Work at Sias
- Alumni & Foundation
Sino-US relations are not a zero-sum game
Sino-US relations are not a zero-sum game: What does it look like by 2025?
Dr Richard Li-Hua, Professor of Strategic Management and Leadership
Kissinger, based upon his long standing diplomatic experiences and familiarity of US and China affairs, proposed the concept of a “US–China Pacific Community”. Meanwhile, in 2012, the Chairman of Chinese National Innovation and Development Strategy Research Association, Zheng Bijian, also put forward the strategic concept of “China’s peaceful rise”. China should build “common interests” and a “community of interest” with all relevant countries and regions so that Chinese society will be full of vitality, harmony, and stability.
Observers have commented that mutual strategic suspicion and mistrust between the USA and China is significant, and desperately needs to be addressed. The question of whether the two countries will step out of the box—the “adversary vicious circle” of No.1 and No. 2 - and create a new era of peaceful competition instead of tragic confrontation has become a major test for both countries, and even the rest of the world. Still, rather than seeking to build trust—a worthy but difficult and, at best, long-term goal—a more realistic objective would be to enhance the level of mutual confidence, predictability, and transparency. If successfully achieved, this will help both leaders and countries to interpret future developments more accurately, minimizing the risks of misunderstanding and facilitating their ability to communicate effectively.
Competition and game between China and the US is normal, but both should be aware of the bottom line of the game of the other side. Close to the bottom line that the other party has set will affect regional stability and world peace. In fact game between China and the US is the contest between "Chinese interests" and "American Standard ". The primary aim of this paper is to set up the context of the research into Sino-US Economics and Peace index undertaken by Sino-US Strategy and Innovation Center at Sias International University, China. Firstly this conceptual paper is to examine aspects of strategic thinking, major concerns between the two; Secondly it provides strategic analyses on the endeavors and efforts from both sides; And finally it provides the strategic perspectives on what Sino-US relation look like in the next 10 years of time. It strives towards the realization of the strategic and constructive dialouges and building mutual trust among business executives, politicians, academics and researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs between China and US so as to minimize the misunderstanding, misinterpretation and miscalculation.
Key words: China-US Relation, Strategic Thinking, Global Governance, Thucydides’ Trap, West Meets East, Economics and Peace, a Global World Order
1. The similarities of China and USA but representation of different civilizations
Kissinger expressed that in his writing “Avoiding a US-China cold war”, conflict is not inherent in a nation’s rise. He cited an example of the US in the 20th century achieving the eminence without conflict with the then – dominant countries, such as UK. However, he further pointed out that neither the United States nor China has experiences in such a great task of dealing with the potential conflicts. In many respects, because of the different civilization, culture, history and values, etc. US and China think and act differently. America’s exceptionalism believes it natural to condition its conduct towards other societies if they accept the American value while most Chinese with a middle kingdom mentality see their country’s rise not as a challenge to America but as a natural restoring to the normal state of affairs when China was pre-eminent.
Furthermore, the way of thinking and the outlook towards the world and the world affairs are different. America has found most problems are soluble, so America has a problem-solving approach. However, China with a long history came to believe that few problems have ultimate solutions, so they are comfortable managing or “embracing contradiction” without assuming they are resolvable. Kissinger, based upon his decades of diplomatic experiences, further elaborated that interestingly American diplomacy pursues specific outcomes with single-minded determination while Chinese negotiators are more likely to view the negotiation process as complicated combining political, economic and strategic elements and it has to outcome via an extended process. American always represents a society that has never suffered national catastrophe – except the Civil War. Chinese always cannot forget the century of humiliation of foreign armies took fortune from a prostrate China. American negotiators become restless and impatient with deadlocks while Chinese negotiators consider them the inevitable mechanism of negotiation.
2. Go Beyond Thucydides’ Trap and Build Strategic Relation
Martin Jacques summarized the similar features of the global economic hegemonies between the USA and China while outlining the difference of the models:
The rise of China represents at least as profound a change in the nature of capitalism as did the arrival of modern America capitalism in the 19th century. What are the key distinguishing characteristics of the Chinese model compared with those… associated with United States? The Chinese market is far larger than that of the US, thereby enabling now forms of production and marketing….Chinese capitalism is shaped by the fact that China is primarily a civilized-state; one of the most fundamental expressions of this is the nature of the Chinese state—ubiquitous, omnipresent, directive, strategic and highly competent. As such, it could hardly be more different from the American model[AU: Please give the page number/s of the quoted material from Jacques (2009).].
However, the competition between China and United States and between the Spartan- Athenian conflicts are not comparable at all. We could collect data and evidences that demonstrate the dissimilarities in these two cases. In many respects, such as, bilateral economy and trade, anti-terrorism, climate change and so on, China and US are very much inter-related and connected. At the time of writing, one can read many headlines that the two sides are getting ready for the first state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to the United States in September, 2015. President Xi and President Obama will discuss a wide range of issues, including climate change, Iran’s nuclear program and China’s currency policy. They have been trying to ease tension over everything from trade and human rights to exchanges of accusations of hacking and Internet theft.
Not surprisingly then, both the Chinese and American sides have emphasized that the meeting’s real goal was to further building a personal relationship between the two leaders in the hope that it would create momentum for addressing issues and problems in US–China strategic relations in the 21st century. But rarely does statecraft work this way, especially when the disputes between the two countries are not ones of misunderstanding but are, instead, rooted in fundamental differences in history, political systems, and the norms that should guide the international system.
3. Endeavors of The Leaders and The Current Efforts – Avoiding A US-China Cold War
In fact, leaders from both China and US have make efforts in avoiding a Cold War. Since the birth of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, successive generations both from China and the United States have sought to make significant endeavors in building the strategic relation. The Chinese leaders have maintained a series of foreign policies, the basics of which are the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence proclaimed in 1954 – namely mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-aggression, non-interference of internal affairs, peaceful coexistence, equality and mutual benefit.
One of the important legacies of Richard Nixon was that the foreign policy he pursued allowed him to visit Beijing and meet with Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai in 1972, setting in motion normalization of relation with China. It marked the first time a US President has visited the PRC and the visit ended 25 years of separation between the two sides. The US government regularly issues statements on “The National Security Strategy of the US and “US Security Security Strategy for the East Asia-Pacific Region. It is obvious that these statements profess support for global spread of political freedoms and democracy, including in China, however, none of them treat China as hostile power and to the contrary, treat China as “an essential partner in building a good world order. In August, 1991, when George H.W. Bush was the President, the statement stressed the importance of “building the links with China in the developing situation of the collapse of the Cold War order”. In late 1993, Bill Clinton stressed the significance of securing China’s cooperation on various issues, “The United States has a big stake in bringing China into the global community … more cooperations on problems like North Korea” when meeting with President Jiang Zemin.
In was in 1974 when China returned the United Nation and started to embrace the international order and norms based on the UN Charter. Deng Xiaoping highlighted the importance for developing countries to gain political independence while addressing the UN General Assembly in April 1974. Deng Xiaoping gave the new meaning to Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence that in determining relationship between two countries, “each party should pursue his country’s strategic interest … and at the same time respect the interest of the other” when meeting President Richard Nixon in October, 1989.
The new leaders from China and US also have been making tremendous efforts in building strategic relations. The two-day Summit between President Xi and President Obama in Sunnyland estate in California in 2013 and 2014 seem effective and efficient approach for the two leaders not only to address the global issues but also to build personal relation.
It has been noticed that neither China nor the USA question the importance of Sino–American relations for their own economic, political, and security interests. However, what is still in question is whether the “new type of major power relationship” to which both leaders are nominally committed can be infused with meaningful substance. After China’s succeeding Japan as the second largest economy in 2010, Sino–US strategic relations are at a “new historical starting point” and the meetings will be an “opportunity to outline a blueprint for building a new great powers relationship” that is not based on confrontation between an established power and a rising power.
4. West Meets East – An Inclusive “Global Order” for The 21st Century
Eastern and Western strategic thinking exist as two distinct and separate sources of information and communication, seldom communicating with each other. Western strategists build upon the strengths of previous Western strategists; Eastern strategists similarly reinforce each other. Neither builds on the strength of the other. It seems like a pair of “chopsticks” but always in a parallel situation. However, in the twenty-first century, in particular, while dealing with US–China strategic relations, we should enable the chopsticks have a “cross” maneuvered with great wisdom and strategy between West and East. The West meets East paradigm will provide strategic insight and philosophical thinking on the integration of Western management with Eastern philosophy in international relation-building in international affairs, international business, global higher education, international technology transfer, science and technology exchange between West and East in the twenty-first century.
A New Model of China-US relation
The twenty-first century is an era of rethinking and an era that calls for great wisdom and great strategy, inclusiveness, the seeking of common ground, and the embracing of contradiction in order to have an open mind and be forward thinking. The ancient Chinese philosophy of embracing contradiction has underpinned China’s legacy in the last 35 years. In the meantime, the gist of ancient Chinese philosophy—embracing contradiction—powers the innovation of Chinese management. “Embracing contradiction” paradigm stimulates innovation at two levels: the strategic level for top-level design and the operational level for the economic base. Embracing contradiction not only stimulates the innovation of management concept, but also the innovation of technology and business management. In particular, when China exceeded Japan in 2010 as the second largest economy, China is playing a more active role in the global affairs in these days. However, China prefers “International Order” from “World Order”. In June, 2014, Chinese Foreign Minister wang Yi expressed at the World Peace Forum held in Beijing that China was directly involved in designing and building the international order and the system with the United Nation as the centerpiece. And China will always be a participant, a facilitator and a contributor in the international order. In fact, China has grown into n active member of the United Nation agency and the international institutions. China has chosen to integrate itself into the international order as well international community and indeed has greatly benefited from being part of it.
Both China and US officials and pundits agreed that China and US came from different history and tradition, there is a concern on power fight really belonged to the 20th century. China does not subscribe to the logic of the power politics. Chinese often feel perplexed when the US talks about how China challenges the existing order and the US leadership. With a cautious optimist realist, we do not think that China and US are at loggerheads about how the order should evolve. Clearly China and US share much in common in their views for the world and the global issues. For example, both sides have strong intention for the pursuit for world peace and prosperity and the hope for strengthening and improving the UN system. Also the United States insists that it has no intention to contain or blockade China. In reality, China and US are at the center of the change. The world can get nowhere in the important process of establishing the international order if the two countries continue to try to exclude each other in political, security or economic fields. They need to be aware of the risks and avoid irritating or pointing fingers at each other.
Following his Cold War warning, Henry Kissinger ended in his book on World Order with a question mark? He argued that a reconstruction of the international system is the ultimate challenge to statesmanship in the 21st century. He also stressed that in the modern world there is a need for “a global world order” and the leaders of the major countries need to rise about the urgency of day-to-day events and think about big issues bearing on the future world order.
Chinese President Xi Jinping called for “a new model of major – country relations benefiting the 21st century” when he visited the US in February 2012. Fast forward to June 2013, President Xi set out in details that China’s proposal to build a new model of major-country relation with the US, featuring no conflicts, or confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation.
It has been observed that Chinese and US leaders are engaging and pursuing extensive and constructive dialogues with unprecedented depth and width since 2010. The strategic and friendly well-arranged dialogue and activities, including “eight hours in face-to-face dialogue” in Sunnyland Summit in June, 2013 and “spending ten hours together over two half-days” in Zhongnanhai Compound in November, 2014, have indeed helped in building this vital relationship, which is positive, amicable, cooperative, constructive and predictable. Both sides characterized the conversation as constructive, candid, sincere, in-depth and productive. President Obama expressed that the visit gave him “the most comprehensive, in-depth understanding of the history of the Chinese Communist Party and its idea of governance and a better understanding of why Chinese people cherish national unity and stability”. He sounded a positive note at a joint press conference with Xi and said, “the truth is that we have made important progress today for the benefit of both of our nations and for the benefit of the world. The truth is that even more progress is possible as we continue to develop this important relationship. I am confident that we will be able to do so.”
Based upon the premises of this conceptual paper, examination of the global issues and the continuous efforts of the leaders and pundits from both from China and US, we are optimistic to believe that the China-US relation is not zero-sun game and that the rise of a strong and prosperous China does not mean the strategic failure of the USA. China has championed a more inclusive approach for maintaining peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed that the Pacific Ocean is big enough for the two nations. China and US should strive to avoid conflicts and confrontation, show mutual respect and pursue win-win cooperation.
Let’s start engage in more extensive dialogues, use wisdom, innovative and strategic thinking at all levels and the mistakes led to conflicts in the 20th century will not be repeated.
Friday, July 22 – After three intense days of sessions, the 2016 Summer Conference came to a productive end on ...
Wednesday, July 13 – On the 12th of July, Sias International University signed a cooperation agreement with the...
Wednesday, July 13 – To allow school students to experience a university campus and help them develop a...