Not long ago, U.S. Vice President Burns made a very unfriendly aggressive and negative speech on Sino-U.S. relations. For a while, domestic public opinion was uproared, and some people were worried about whether there would be a "new cold war" between China and the United States. The author believes that understanding the trend of Sino-US relations depends not only on Sino-US relations themselves, but also on the changing world order.
Policy review in the past 30 years
Nearly 40 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the United States, there have been twists and turns. From the original "quasi alliance" nature relations, gradually to normal relations between countries. Nowadays, it is too early to judge the future trend of Sino US relations, but a new turning point is a fact. Sino US relations are entering a new stage.
For most of the years from the establishment of diplomatic relations to the 1980s, China and the United States were factual alliances because of a common security threat (the Soviet Union). But with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the cold war, the relationship between China and the United States ended abruptly. Great adjustment will inevitably bring about great upheaval in Sino US relations. Therefore, in the early 1990s, the United States, with its victory over the Cold War, was confident of transforming China, linking economic relations with human rights, and making it difficult for China to deal with human rights issues every year, making the Chinese unhappy. Adhering to the "conceit", China finally brought Sino US relations into normal inter state relations.
As Burns told us in his speech, the United States was angry at its failure to change China's system and its way. In the past few years, there has been a great debate on China policy in the United States. The two parties agreed that the U.S. policy toward China failed in the past. This so-called "consensus" was conveyed in Burns'speech. Since the policies of the past 30 years have failed, there is no doubt that a new strategy will be adopted for China. It is in this sense that Sino-US relations will inevitably enter a "new stage" since the establishment of diplomatic relations.
In this new stage, the United States does not necessarily have to abandon the "contact" policy in many areas, but the "strategic siege" component increased, such as the recently concluded "US-Mexican trade agreement" against China's "poison pill clause". Similar "blockade" designs are not expected to be a case, with more Chinese investment projects banned by the so-called Investment Security Review Commission.
Even if the United States sees China as a "competitor" and begins to "encircle" China, the change in attitudes among the American elite has not changed the American public's view of China. According to the Chicago Council on External Relations in 2018, the proportion of Americans who saw China as a threat reached 57% in 1994-2002, and then began to fall back in 2012. -2014 was around 41%, while 2015-2018 was 39%. It can be seen that, although public opinion can mobilize and undergo major changes, the current basis of American public opinion does not support the policy of regarding China as an "enemy". However, it is an indisputable fact that the American elite has changed their attitude towards China and the resulting policy transformation.
Anxiety heightened by the US crisis
Considering that the world order is undergoing a major change, it is not impossible for the United States to adopt policies to further deteriorate Sino-US relations. The most serious possibility is to engage in military adventurism in specific regions, such as the South China Sea. The so-called "free world order" established by the United States itself after World War II is in deep crisis. The United States began to design new international mechanisms to replace the United Nations in the 1990s; the IMF, subject to American domestic law, could not keep pace with the times, forced China to start a new "Asian investment bank"; the Trump administration withdrew from one multilateral mechanism after another and put domestic law ahead of the WTO. Up. That is to say, after the Second World War, several major international regimes led by the United States have been in a comprehensive crisis.
What is more serious is that the crisis of the "free world order" is caused by the crisis of liberal democracy as a "universal value". The United States has declared that it is no longer pursuing values diplomacy because not only values diplomacy has led to a series of failures, such as Ukraine's secession and civil war, the evolution of the Arab Spring into the Arab Winter, and the invalid governance of a large number of countries in transition, even within the United States and in Europe, because of the so-called "universal" "Value" is difficult.
From the crisis in the United States to the crisis in the "free world order", the "core state" in this order is in anxiety. In times of crisis, China, once poor and backward, has quietly risen up, so China's normal defense of its national interests, such as the South China Sea reef construction is falsely called a "status quo" revisionist behavior. Americans believe that China is threatening the so-called "free world order". This is the Western-led world political structure with the core of Christian civilization established after centuries of "the rise of the West". The rise of China as an Oriental power is regarded as a conflict between Confucian civilization and Christian civilization. Obviously, the crisis of world order aggravated the sense of insecurity and anxiety in the United States. Anxiety leads to irrational behavior, just as Burns'speech distorts many historical facts and negatively appraises China.
Prepare for "new things"
Compared with the one in the early 1990s, this major adjustment in Sino-US relations has a completely different meaning. The former is just after the end of the cold war, the confidence of the United States burst; and China has just opened up for ten years, weak national strength, the United States is confident that it can control the direction of Sino-US relations. But this time, the United States is in a period of anxiety caused by the crisis, and China is far from China 30 years ago. Great changes in the balance of power mean that the anxiety and behavior that surrounds eagerness but is powerless may make American behavior more unpredictable.
As far as China is concerned, we have more capabilities and tools to deal with new challenges. At this time, what we need most is rationality and patience, and we need to have the strategic determination of "responding to changes with unchanged changes". At the same time, we should get used to some "new things". In the past few decades, Sino-US relations have been dominated by cooperation. In the future, we may have to get used to the new relationship of "replacing cooperation with confrontation" so that we can fight without breaking it. Even so, it must be recognized that for a considerable period of time to come, until a stable "new stage" is formed, the uncertainty in Sino-US relations brought about by "new things" has greatly increased. (the writer is dean of University of International Relations, Renmin University of China)
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