By Wang Wen Source: Global Times Published: 2019-9-10
I received a special gift for the Mid-Autumn Festival this year: three boxes of mooncakes from the US Embassy in China. I shared the delicious dessert with my colleagues, and I appreciated the generosity of the senior US diplomat who sent me the gift. Over the past few months, we used to have heated arguments, but it was what that made us friends.
Our argument started this spring when the US embassy cancelled my visa to the US without giving an explanation. I had paid tens of visits to the US, had been to more than 20 US states and have been responsible for a major project on China-US people-to-people exchanges. But none of this justifies the cancellation of my visa.
In the past year, the US abruptly canceled visas of at least 30 Chinese scholars who actively engage in China-US academic exchanges. The New York Times and many other US media reported this in detail in April, interpreting it as a China-US academic war, meaning that the two governments attack each other by cancelling active scholars' visas.
I disagree with such an interpretation. During the half year I was blocked from visiting the US, I proposed many times, at internal consultations and in public articles, that China should not cancel US scholars' visas to China. On the contrary, China should make it easier for US scholars to visit the country. Of course, on many occasions, I also criticize the Donald Trump administration's China policy and the US embassy's cancelling my visa.
My personal efforts worked. Many US diplomats in Beijing came to visit me. We also organized internal seminars and invited several well-known Chinese scholars to have face-to-face communication with US diplomats. We had different opinions and sought to defend our own national interests. But we did not have a tiff. Instead, we all expected the next conversation.
It is better to have communication than not. This is the consensus and bottom line of both sides. It reflects the new changes in China-US relations in the new era.
I agree with former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, who once said that "China-US relations will never return to where they were." China and the US have been major global powers whose strength matches. Both countries have their own advantages. The US is stronger, but China is not weak.
I am more optimistic than Kissinger. I believe that China-US relations will never degrade into a state of the Cold War. There are US hawks who try to launch a new Cold War on China, but the Chinese generally do not want to fight a new Cold War with the US. Neither is the decoupling possible. There are too many interests and people that cannot be separated. President Trump's trade war against China and all attempts to suppress China are completely wrong. But he has also acted in a restrained matter.
An important piece of evidence is that although Trump has been criticizing China, he has also been stressing that Chinese President Xi Jinping is a "great leader" and a "friend." Trump also treats Chinese trade negotiating teams politely. I believe that Trump must have left some leeway for his family to plan for the Trump Organization's business in China after his presidency.
To deal with such a US president, China will not give up defending its core interests. Unlike the past, a strong China is better at fighting, and more daring to fight. Meanwhile, China is better at cooperation and more daring to cooperate.
China-US relations should not be focused too much on trade disputes.
In fact, the two countries still have much to cooperate on the North Korea nuclear issue and management of the fentanyl issue. China and the US hold joint military exercises in recent years. There are over 300 flights between China and the US every week and we do not see a single one being cancelled. Thus, if there are disputes, so be it. Cooperation should continue.
Indeed, amid fraught China-US relations, the coexistence of competition and cooperation will be normal in the future. Everyone has the responsibility to prevent risks from aggravating.
Thinking of this, I have decided to return a Mid-Autumn Festival gift to the senior US diplomat: my new book Great Power's Long March Road. The book narrates the preparations and difficulties of the rise of China. It should help Americans better understand China in the new era.
The author is professor and executive dean of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China and executive director of China-US People-to-People Exchange Research Center. His book Great Power's Long March Road was launched recently.