Charting better China-US relations

By Zhang Liying
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, August 9, 2017
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"We should not expect a full-blown trade war between the U.S. and China," and "China's 'win-win' diplomacy will prove the stronger historic force and all-out war will be avoided." These are the predictions of Ms. Jude Woodward, advisor to the Mayor of London from 2000 to 2008.
Such optimism comes at a time of uncertainty over the most important bilateral relationship of this century caused by President Donald Trump and his policies.
Trade war - unlikely; Trump's "deceit and tricks" - definitely

The cover page of Ms. Woodward's new book "The US vs China: Asia's new Cold War?"

Imposing tough import tariffs, labeling China as a currency manipulator – thus have Trump's trade policies prompted concerns about a possible trade war.

However, Ms. Woodward argues that a trade war is hardly likely, because it "would inflict just as much – probably more – damage on the American economy as on China."

In a globalized economy, countries with different levels of development offer different competitive products. "Attempting to protect globally-uncompetitive American industries" would only result in a rise of domestic prices and the drainage of resources from other sectors capable of delivering a "greater number of jobs and more competitive outputs."

According to Ms. Woodward, whose new book "The US vs China: Asia's new Cold War?" was published recently, American living standards are greatly aided by the import of price-competitive products from China, while many American jobs depend on exports to China.

If the Trump administration did seek to a trade war with China, the inevitable Chinese countermeasures would lead to difficulties for major American business sections and higher prices that the American public would surely complain about.

The author says the Trump administration is facing a "Catch 22" situation. Waging a trade war with China would result in strong domestic opposition. However, doing nothing makes the "promises of Trump's election campaign look more and more hollow, which will also undermine his support."

Foreign policies: America First vs. peaceful rise

Although the U.S. and China are major countries, they "set out entirely different frameworks for foreign policy," observes this experienced writer and lecturer on China.

The Trump administration pursues "America First," a foreign policy focused on American interests and national security.

The goal of the policy is simple, as Trump advisers set out in the Wall Street Journal: "America First signals the restoration of American leadership and our government's traditional role overseas; to use the nation's diplomatic, economic and military resources to enhance American security, promote American prosperity, and extend American influence around the world."

In contrast, China is firmly committed to the path of peaceful development, "seeking to both gain from and contribute to human development through 'win-win' initiatives."

China has no intention of seeking "world domination," insists Ms. Woodward, whereas the U.S. claims its preordained right to global leadership.

She views the Belt and Road initiative as a prime example of how China practices its win-win foreign policy. It "will be a boost to China's own economy, but the recipients will also benefit economically from it."

As to alleged Chinese self-aggrandizement, she insists, "there are no grounds for opposing the successful development of the Belt and Road Initiative."

Although success would increase China's prestige, "it would take the form of greater regional 'soft power', not a coercive influence backed by military powerof the type that was characteristic of 19th century imperialism or the so-called 'Pax Americana' of the last 70 years. On the evidence of its own actions the US claims no country can rise peacefully and without conquest; China is proving America wrong."

Thucydides Trap: Groundless but U.S. might create it

It is claimed that China and the U.S. could find themselves at war in the next decade. Ms. Woodward quotes President Xi Jinping as commenting on the frequent references to Thucydides: "There is no such thing as the so-called Thucydides Trap. However, should major countries time and again make the mistakes of strategic miscalculation, they might create such a trap for themselves."

According to the author, there are powerful objective factors reining in any drift towards war.

The balance of military and nuclear power would make an all-out war between the two countries globally destructive. Besides, America's own global position would probably be destroyed by such a horrifying adventure, let alone the damage to China.

However, the U.S. might "create such a trap for itself" through miscalculation, she notes. Instead of seeking to accelerate its own economy, which is wholly legitimate, the former hegemon is tending to avoid its decline by hindering or slowing down the development of other economies in Asia.

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