It’s a mistake to see China as a U.S. adversary

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Zhao Jian

In recent years, the China-U.S. relationship has experienced its most difficult strains since the establishment of diplomatic ties and now stands at a critical juncture. Some people in the U.S. have cast China as a strategic adversary or even an enemy. This is a serious strategic misjudgment detrimental not only to Chinese and American interests but also to world peace and development.

Some in the U.S. have pushed for economic blockade and sanctions against China, or “decoupling” from China. But the truth is our two economies are closely intertwined and one’s success constitutes an opportunity rather than a threat to the other.

The U.S. trade deficit with China arises from differences in the two countries’ economic structures and the simple fact that the U.S. consumes more than it produces. A study by U.S.-China Business Council and AmCham China found that trade with China has promoted U.S. economic growth, employment, and international competitiveness, and most of the American businesses in China plan to increase investment in the country.

The trade war, however, has cost the U.S. economy 250,000 jobs and $108 billion in lost GDP, and cost each American household $675. There is no winner in a trade war, and decoupling will only make both sides losers.

Some have been playing up the so-called “China threat,” accusing China of challenging the international order. This does not square with the facts.

China always maintains that global affairs be handled by all countries together through consultation and that state-to-state disputes be settled through dialogue and negotiation.

Since the founding of the People’s Republic, China has never provoked a single war or occupied a single inch of foreign territory. Nor has it ever sailed warships or flown warplanes to others’ doorsteps for the so-called “freedom of navigation.” China has no intention to displace anyone or to compete with any country for supremacy. It never means to be the U.S. enemy, and has no “grand strategy” to weaken or displace the U.S. Nor has it ever eaten the American lunch.

Since its accession to the WTO in 2001, China has actively promoted international trade liberalization and facilitation and made great contributions to the global recovery from the 2008financial crisis.

China firmly supported the U.S. fight against terrorism.

The two countries, working together, brought epidemics like Ebola under control, and helped conclude the Paris agreement on climate change.

China contributed over 30% of global growth in the past decade. And China’s Belt and Road Initiative is projected to help at least 40 million people in the world get out of poverty in the next decade.

China is a builder of world peace, a contributor to global growth, and a defender of international order. Why should China challenge or undermine the international order that it has helped build and uphold?

Some others labeled China as “authoritarian.” This is a fundamental misconception about China.

The Chinese government has, since Day One, made it its mission to meet the people’s aspiration for a better life. It has turned China into the world’s second-largest economy, lifted more than 800 million people out of poverty, created the world’s largest middle-income group and largest social security net. All this has been realized through the hard work of the Chinese people, not by invasion or colonization. This is the biggest contribution to world peace and development and the best success story of democracy and human rights. Surveys by Harvard University over several years have found a 93% approval rating for the Chinese government.

Whether a country’s system is good or not, whether human rights are truly well protected, it is the people that have the final say. To force a country to change the course that has been proven successful and supported by its people is in itself a grave violation of democracy and human rights.

In this globalized world where countries are increasingly interconnected and traditional and nontraditional issues interwoven, we are more than ever like passengers in the same boat, with a shared destiny and future. Taking China as an adversary and enemy will not in any way help America solve its own problems or “make America great again.” It will only wreak havoc in both countries and beyond.

As Harvard Prof. Joseph Nye noted, America must avoid exaggerated fears that can lead to overreaction. It is hoped that the Cold War mentality and ideological bias against China will be dropped, rational voices are heard and the right choice is made.

The writer is Consul General of the People’s Republic of China, based in Chicago.

This article was first published here and here 

**Views expressed in this article are that of the author and does necessarily reflects the position of this magazine

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