By Ding Gang Source: Global Times Published: 2016-9-28
The confrontation between China and the US over the South China Sea issue has constrained bilateral ties from deepening. But the issue is far from the entire Sino-US relationship. At a broader global and regional level, there are plenty of opportunities for the two to boost ties.
Looking for new fields of cooperation may be more important than trying to seek an upper hand in the current confrontation. Beyond economy and trade, bilateral cooperation has extended to politics and security, and this is an inevitable trend.
During a symposium about China-US relations organized by the Global Times and the Carter Center, Liu Yawei, director of the China Program of the Carter Center, informed me of China-US cooperation in Africa.
Despite being at the initial stage, this has been unprecedented in terms of cooperation of two major countries in a third country or in another region. The experience will boost bilateral cooperation in other global and regional issues.
According to Liu, a tripartite talk on maritime security in the capital of Lome in Togo in July brought together Africa, China and the US to discuss cooperation among the three parties in cracking down on pirates in the Gulf of Guinea. Experts from the Carter Center were present at the meeting.
Why did they choose Togo? Because activities by pirates in the waters near Togo have been rampant, which have not only affected international shipping including China and the US, but also put the China-invested construction of ports at risk.
Such cooperation in a third region concerns the interests of both countries and matters to regional security. It is the due obligation China and the US should shoulder and is within expectations of the international community. More importantly, the cooperation will generate more mutual trust between the two.
This cooperation mechanism may also serve as a model for the two to cooperate in other areas such as Southeast Asia. If ramped up, the cooperation will help ease the tension brought about by the South China Sea issue.
Currently, China and the US have assistance schemes in East Timor, but not in other countries in Southeast Asia. It is somewhat difficult to boost cooperation between the two in a traditional US sphere, but it does not mean there is no chance at all.
Liu mentioned Myanmar as a starting point. This is a sensitive agenda for China. China and the US can take the first step by coordinating in non-political and non-security issues and working on pushing forward the peace process in Myanmar.
I have suggested setting up a peace fund, which will especially be used to help Myanmar`s ethnic minority armed forces give up their weapons and the local economy realize transformation.
China may invite the US to join this kind of fund. Through trilateral negotiation among China, the US and Myanmar and establishing principles, it will consolidate the peace process in this Southeast Asian country.
China can take the initiative to invite the US to cooperate in more aspects in the region, such as the protection of the maritime environment and the investigation of rare species.
Some may point out that this concerns sovereignty and we should not let Washington intervene. But such cooperation has already begun in China and has achieved progress.
Of course, the US has its own strategic considerations on whether it should join or not. When China proposed the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the US refused to take part in it, which has drawn domestic criticism.
More importantly, when the notion of peace and cooperation goes deep, we are leading and building up a regional order.
The author is a senior fellow with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.