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Relations can be reset for the better: China Daily editorial | Updated: 2020-11-08 19:43
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US essential oil maker doTERRA's product is exhibited at the third China International Import Expo in Shanghai on Nov 8, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

Ties between China and the United States have suffered devastating blows in the past few years and there are fears they are on a hopeless downward spiral with no end in sight.

There are plenty of things waiting to be straightened out between Beijing and Washington, but the US administration's present way of dealing with them has been counterproductive.

As the dust is now settling on the US presidential election, the obvious question is how the two sides will approach their damaged bilateral relations.

Given the repeated show of bipartisan unanimity when it comes to congressional legislative and policy initiatives involving China, few would be so optimistic as to anticipate an abrupt reversal in US China policies. That kind of congressional consensus is an unmistakable sign that there are serious differences between the two countries.

But allowing ties to continue their free fall will put the two countries on a collision course that serves neither side's interests.

Improving ties with China may not be a policy option for US politicians of either party at this point. Nor is it a priority consideration. But managing it certainly should be a prime concern.

The question then is where to start. The answer appears to be obvious: trade. Reviving the trade talks is critical to restore some understanding and trust in China-US relations.

Despite the popular assumption that trade no longer functions as the "ballast" for China-US relations as it has over the past decades, it is one of the last threads linking the two sides. It is notable that neither Beijing nor Washington has ventured to scrap the hard-earned so-called phase one deal they negotiated.

If there is to be a resetting of relations, the trade deal is clearly the point to start from.

One precondition, though, is things don't get out of control before any meaningful new negotiations get underway.

In his keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the third China International Import Expo on Wednesday, President Xi Jinping reaffirmed China's sincere desire to expand all-round opening-up and make the Chinese market a market for the world, a market shared by all, and a market accessible to all — that in no way excludes the US.

The past 41 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties have not all been smooth sailing for China-US relations. There have been ups and downs and even major setbacks. But by viewing their relationship from a historical perspective and keeping the bigger picture in mind, the two sides have always been able to manage their differences and disagreements and properly handle sensitive issues.

By adhering to this approach and strengthening the ballast of their trade ties, the two countries can regain the generally positive momentum that has characterized their relations over the past four decades.

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