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Letter to exert positive impact but unlikely to be taken seriously by White House

2019-07-05

Source: Global Times    Published: 2019-7-5


An open letter to US President Donald Trump signed by scores of Asia specialists including former US diplomats and military officers has revealed that rational voices are emerging to challenge paranoid ideas, Chinese experts noted on Thursday.


Published in The Washington Post on July 3, the open letter "China is not an enemy" was jointly composed by prominent scholarly, diplomatic, military and business experts with Asia expertise, mostly from the US.


The letter urges the Trump administration to reconsider its China policy and warns the current government approach could backfire and harm US interests.


At a Thursday briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang praised the letter, saying that a rational, objective and tolerant voice triumphs over paranoid and extreme ideas. China is confident about Sino-US relations, Geng said.


Chinese observers interviewed by the Global Times said the letter, coming amid turbulent relations between the two countries over a raft of issues, represented the rational side of public opinion in the US by stating the obvious truth that the current approach of largely seeking to contain China was not what US society wants.


The letter listed seven propositions that represented the signatories' collective views on China, the problems of the US government approach to China and the basic elements of a more effective US policy.


The US academics claimed that the White House's approach to China's recent "troubling behavior," including "increased state control over private firms" and "more aggressive foreign policy," was fundamentally counterproductive, according to the letter content.


Washington's adversarial stance toward Beijing weakened a "moderate, pragmatic and genuinely cooperative approach with the West" advocated by some Chinese.


The US spending resources to contain China was only detrimental to its own interests, Jia Qingguo, director of the Institute for China-US People-to-People Exchange at Peking University, told the Global Times on Thursday.


The difference between the ideas expressed in the letter and the Trump administration approach toward China is that the former takes China as a competitor and the latter views China as a pure enemy, Xin Qiang, deputy director of the Center for US Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, told the Global Times on Thursday.


"The former advocates a legal and rational way to compete, but the later just uses reckless, sometimes even illegal methods, to contain China's development," Xin said.


Reckless containment has been repeatedly proven to be ineffective, and cooperation was the best choice, he said.


The role that China plays on the international stage is determined in an interactive process between the country and the rest of the world, Wu Xinbo, director of Fudan University's Center for American Studies, told the Global Times on Thursday.


If China's growth path could be welcomed and acknowledged by countries, especially the US, then voices for international cooperation would sound louder in China, Wu believed. Containment was more likely to make China take a tougher stance, he noted.


Jia also admitted that discrepancies do exist between the two countries, but those should be addressed through negotiation and management, not confrontation. More clampdowns on China will only inspire countermeasures, he warned.


The letter also maintained that the fear was "exaggerated" of Beijing's pursuit of replacement of the US as a global leader, and encouraged the US to work with its allies and partners to create a more open and prosperous world where China is offered an opportunity to participate.


China was interested in building a cooperative and equal international order where everyone can win, said Fudan University Professor Wu.


Wu pointed out that the current international order is neither equal nor open for all, which is more in accordance with US and Western interests.


Talk of world leadership was outmoded as no one in the world is interested in being the global leader anymore, asserted Wang Yiwei, director of Renmin University of China's Institute of International Affairs.


On the other hand, US confrontation with China and embracing unilateralism only lends China more weight on the international arena, Wang said.


For example, China is now playing a critical role in leading global actions to tackle climate change, after the US withdrawal from the Paris deal in 2017.


China is promoting multilaterism and globalization via international cooperation mechanisms such as its Belt and Road Initiative. Meanwhile, the US is exiting international or regional organizations such as the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.


Some joke that China is embracing 2050 while the US is moving back to 1950, Wang said. The US needs to be more open about cooperation, he suggested, not build walls and lock itself in.


Talking about the trade war, Chinese experts praised the US specialists' opinion that decoupling China from the global economy would damage the US reputation and interests.


In the past, extremist views regarding trade outweighed other opinions in the US, Su Hao, founding director of the Center for Strategic and Peace Studies at China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing, told the Global Times.


After some time, the US government has come to realize that exerting pressure and slapping tariffs on China is not solving Sino-US disputes.


That was why leaders from the two countries met at this year's G20 summit and made remarks on restarting trade talks, Su said.


Beijing remains committed to the promotion of trade and investment liberalization, said Li Haidong, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University's Institute of International Relations, and drafters of the letter had noted that the clampdown had not much affected China's economy.


The letter would exert a certain positive influence on Sino-US trade talks and the US side will probably handle the talks in a more rational way, Chinese observers speculated, but warned Beijing was not counting on any letter fundamentally altering negotiations.


The open letter also touched up China's rising military strength.


Beijing "faces immense hurdles to operating as a globally dominant military power" and China's "growing military capabilities have already eroded the US long-standing military preeminence in the Western Pacific," the letter said, and urged the US to work with allies to counter attacks on the US or allied territory.


China's national policy remains defensive, said Renmin University of China's Wang, although its military was increasingly stepping out onto the global stage to safeguard the country's overseas interests.


As for criticizing China for eroding US military "preeminence in the Western Pacific," Wang said such claims revealed US anxiety.


Ni Feng, deputy director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of American Studies, noted it was China's obligation to protect its overseas interests.


In fact, with the growth of China's national interests, its national security was more vulnerable to terrorism, piracy, natural disasters and epidemics, Ni noted.


With the development of Belt and Road Initiative, it was only natural that China has expanded its construction projects in relevant countries and regions, said Ni.


Such projects affected US attempts at regional dominance and so China's activities, be they commercial or military, easily invited US criticism, Ni believed.  


The letter was still filled with prejudice against China and support for US hegemony, Chinese observers agreed but showed rationality to some extent.


It would prove of great value if the White House thought twice about its dangerous China policy and rising antagonism between the world's two largest economies, observers said.


The letter was unlikely to be taken seriously by the White House, they warned.


The Trump administration doesn't value expert opinion, and Chinese people should not delude themselves, Li with the China Foreign Affairs University's Institute of International Relations in Beijing, told the Global Times.


"But we also need to encourage rational ideas to expand their influence in the US," said Li. "They cast a spotlight on stabilizing and rebuilding healthy Sino-US ties."


Wang Yiwei is a senior fellow of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.

Key Words: China   US   trade   Wang Yiwei  

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