Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

US' misconception hinders cooperation

By Chen Dongxiao (China Daily) Updated: 2014-11-20 07:52

US President Barack Obama was in Beijing from Nov 10 to 12 to attend the 22nd APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting followed by a second state visit to China. The Chinese and the US governments made intense and full preparations for the visit to ensure it provided a substantial boost to the health and stability of bilateral ties in general and the building of a new model of major-country relations in particular.

It should be acknowledged that the China-US relationship is now at a crucial juncture when both sides face the consequential choice between cooperation or confrontation. With heightened awareness of history and the accountability to the future, the Chinese government initiated the formulation of a new type of major-country relations for China and the United States based on three principles: no conflict and confrontation, mutual trust, and win-win cooperation. The Obama administration, after a few rounds of internal assessment, also put forward the US' vision for a new type of relationship sustained by the two pillars of "practical cooperation" and "constructively managing disagreements and disputes".

China's three principles and the US' two pillars share something in common but they also differ in many aspects. Given the growing regional and global impact of their relations, both China and the US emphasize the importance of strengthening cooperation on major economic and security issues at the bilateral, regional, and global levels. And despite the conflicting interests and conceptual divergence between the two on bilateral and international issues, the US' "constructive management of disagreements and disputes" and China's "no conflict and confrontation" coincide.

On the other hand, it is also obvious that China and the US differ on specific approaches to build their new type of major-country relationship. The most noticeable difference is in the principle and approach by which to handle disputes. China prescribes "mutual respect" as the underlying principle for the new type of relations and the guiding principle for managing disputes. This means respect for each other's choice of development methods, political and social institutions, respect for each other's core interests and major concerns, and refraining from doing anything detrimental to the other's core interests. The US has said differently on the grounds that it cannot identify with China's core interests and major concerns, and instead emphasized that both sides should talk less about core interests and more about their common interests. This seemingly practical proposition is specious and exposes some major blind spots in the US' understanding of the new type of major-country relationship.

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