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US urged to focus on long-term interests

By ZHAO HUANXIN in Washington | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-07-27 07:04
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Experts believe pragmatic ways to work together will serve best interests of both countries

Despite pointed rhetoric from the US administration declaring its engagement with China a dismal failure, serious China watchers in Washington and beyond have said they still believed pragmatic ways to work together will better serve the interests of both countries.

Speaking on Thursday in Southern California at the family home of Richard Nixon-the 37th United States president whose 1972 China visit ushered in a historic thaw in relations-US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo used what US media called "dramatic Cold War language" to blast decades of formal relations with China, advocating an end to "blind engagement" with China, and vowing, "We must not return to it."

His view of the past was in contrast with that of Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who said on July 7 that "some say that China-US relations will not be able to return to its past, but that should not mean ignoring the history altogether and starting all over again, let alone impractical decoupling."

Eric Heikkila, a University of Southern California professor who also directed the USC Price School of Public Policy’s global engagement efforts for 15 years, said that US-China relations are in a rough patch, but Pompeo's remarks belie the fact that no one would seriously advocate for "blind engagement".

"China's presence in the world as a major power is simply a fact, and it is in our mutual interest to find pragmatic ways to work together constructively, wherever that is feasible," said Heikkila, author of a forthcoming book, China from a US Policy Perspective.

"China, in turn, needs to demonstrate good faith on its part as well. For the US to wantonly demonize China, however, says as much about us as it does about China," he said.

Before Pompeo's speech and the abrupt US order to close a Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas, Beijing had signaled its willingness to steer onto the right track of China-US relations, which were faced with the most severe challenge since the two countries forged diplomatic ties in 1979.

Last weekend, Chinese Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai said China is willing to work for a more stable and stronger relationship with the Trump administration, which the envoy said has to make a "fundamental choice" about whether it is ready to live peacefully with a country different from the US.

Earlier this month, Foreign Minister Wang said China is ready to grow "one of the most consequential bilateral relationships in the world" with goodwill and sincerity. He even suggested drawing lists to identify areas where the two countries can cooperate, disputes that could be resolved and ones that cannot.

Ryan Hass, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, said he remained "confident" that, over time, both countries' actions will be guided by their identification of their long-term interests.

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