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Relations haven't reached 'tipping point' despite ongoing trade friction

By Zhao Huanxin | China Daily USA | Updated: 2018-09-08 03:03

The blistering trade friction between the United States and China does not mean a tipping point for the Sino-US relationship, which is the "most consequential" in the world, experts have said.

Following the conclusion of weeklong hearings in Washington on the US administration's proposed 25 percent duties on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports, a few US researchers and a top Chinese envoy have highlighted cooperation and consultation for resolving the problems between the two countries.

"I would say we're nowhere near a tipping point," David Dollar, senior fellow of John L. Thornton China Center, Brookings Institution, said when asked if the world's top two economies, locked in trade tensions, are approaching a critical juncture, as some critics suggested.

The two countries have already slapped tariffs on billions of dollars worth of each other's goods.

"Let's not forget, there's still a tremendous amount of trade between the US and China, there're 400,000 Chinese students in the US, and there's American tourists going to China. ... So a little bit of friction does not necessarily mean a turning point.

"Hopefully this will be rather temporary, and we'll get back to healthy development of our relationship," he said.

Dollar, a former US Treasury economic and financial emissary to China, made the comments on the sidelines of a dialogue on Aug 30 at the Brookings Institution, which was attended by US think tank researchers and a Chinese delegation of researchers and former government officials.

"I've been opposed to these US tariffs right from the start. I don't think these are good instruments," Dollar said. "So for me, a happy solution is China opens up the economy more, and the US pulls back from this trade war."

Speaking on the same day at a working lunch at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Chinese Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai said China is always ready to engage in "serious, substantive and pragmatic" negotiations and consultations to address the economic and trade issues.

"This has to be a process of goodwill for goodwill and good faith for good faith. If we can reach an agreement through this approach, I don't think the current economic and trade issues would be that difficult," the ambassador said.

John Allen, president of the Brookings Institution, said he believed the US-China relationship is the most consequential relationship that the United States enjoys today and the most consequential relationship for the 21st century.

Such a "consequential relationship" features four C's, namely, cooperation, competition, confrontation and conflict, Allen, a retired United States Marine Corps four-star general, said before the off-record discussions at the Brookings.

Allen said Americans and Chinese could look for ways to cooperate and there is much they can do together for the good of all human kind.

"We should expect that the two great nations in the world will compete. But if we're wise, we should see in that competition, opportunities, because we're better for the constructive competition over time," he said.

On occasion when confrontation occurs, the two sides must manage it and have to prevent conflict between the United States and China, Allen said.

Richard Bush, a senior fellow at the John L. Thornton China Center at Brookings, said he had "a certain amount of sympathy" with the Chinese government in dealing with a "disorganized" administration like "the one we have".

He said China needs to be clear on what its own policies are and "take measured actions in response to unreasonable things that Trump administration does".

Nicholas Lardy, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and an expert on the Chinese economy, said that US President Donald Trump seems "very reluctant" to give any ground.

"I think until we see more evidence of the cost of his approach on American consumers and American businessmen and American farmers, he's not going to change course," Lardy said after the CSIS roundtable on Aug 30.

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