Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

China, US should eye the larger picture

By Cui Liru (China Daily) Updated: 2015-01-16 08:14

China, US should eye the larger picture

Zheng Zeguang, (left), assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs takes photos with an participant before the openning ceremony of the Committee of 100 symposium commemorating the 35th anniversary of the establishment of China-US diplomtatic relations held in Beijing.

One, if not the most, critical factor in understanding the current state of the China-US relationship and where it is heading is the ability to see the larger picture. The relationship has been an intrinsically complex one from the very beginning and it is even more so in this time of major change. It presents both opportunities and challenges, featuring contradictory trends and competing interests.

As far as the global political structure or strategic order is concerned, the international system with the United States at the center is already unraveling, even though it remains the sole superpower. It is anyone's guess at the moment what the future order will look like. Some say it will be a multipolar world or a nonpolar world, while others believe that with China on track to become a new superpower, a bipolar world is on the horizon.

People tend to believe that since China became the world's second-largest economy, the competition between the United States, an established power, and China, a rising power, has grown fierce. But opinion is divided as to where this competition will lead. By definition, a rising power is on the up, whereas an established power tries to avoid a decline. In this sense, China apparently has more reason for confidence and optimism. But although the US is in a relative decline, it is still way ahead of China in terms of strength and influence.

Although the world is changing, the current international system is still dominated by the US. The nature of the shift from a US-centric post-Cold War unipolar order to a multipolar one is a process of decentralization. Needless to say, despite its effect on other countries, the biggest impact of that shift will be upon the US. For China, the shift is generally in its favor. The US has a much bigger stake in the unipolar system.

Throughout the decades since the two countries resumed engagement, the relationship between China and the US has been moving in the right direction on the whole, even though their aims do not always align. Admittedly, there have been frictions, tensions and even clashes, but the two countries are neither on a collision course nor moving in opposite directions. And it is the overall direction that matters most in the China-US relationship.

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