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Cooperation should be the focus of China-US ties

By Kacee Ting Wong | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-07-31 09:09

Remarks during a recent conference in Poland titled Power Politics in the Indo-Pacific Region raised questions rather than solving any.

At the conference, John Mearsheimer, a professor at the University of Chicago and an expert on international relations, said that "China is more likely to become a counterweight to the US, who will not allow a new rival to emerge. Hence, it is trying every means to contain China's rise.

"The US has defeated its rivals time and time again in the past," Mearsheimer said. "This time it is China's turn. China will also be defeated by the US."

But at the end of the day, it boils down to one central question among others: "Is it necessary to contain China?"

The rise of the United States from a former British colony into a supreme power was propelled by its profiteering from both warring sides in world wars, joining the Allies in the later period of World War II, and orchestrating disintegration of the former Soviet Union in the early 1990s.

In those decades, China was too poor to warrant any attention until earlier this century. The US no longer saw China as a source of cheap labor for American multinationals but a potential threat to future US hegemony. It seems to have developed a covert China containment policy since about 2005, which had two aspects: multifrontal containment and internal transformation.

Unlike European powers often rising on the ruins of another, the Chinese nation has stayed away from hegemony despite its economic preponderance for millennia.

In traditional Chinese culture, the quest for harmony-or at times only the simple appearance of harmony-is constant. It refers to a balanced relationship between men and society, between mankind and nature, and among men.

The Western world uses a number of ways to resolve problems, but most of them are bipolar and allow for confrontation, differing interests or points of view. Westerners are not necessarily aware of what they have in common because there are degrees of nuance between a "cards on the table" confrontation and a well-conducted negotiation.

In contrast, the Chinese views go beyond black and white, since yin and yang are dependent on each other instead of one replacing the other. This also gives rise to today's win-win proposals from China.

[Photo/IC]

The Chinese, by a great majority, are the Han ethnic group. Han ancestors are the agricultural tribes emerging from Central and Eastern Asia and enjoyed the abundance of land and rich resources. Because of this self-sufficiency and availability of unlimited resources, the Han were very contented and never needed to invade or conquer. On the contrary, nomads often invaded the Hans from all other directions greedy for their richness, forcing the ancient Han into self-defense battles against invasion.

In fact, China has always been a peace-loving nation. The best proof may be the invention and use of gunpowder. As early as in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), there was a gunpowder formula recorded in the book Tai Shang Sheng Zu Jin Dan Secret. Chinese invented gunpowder by chance in the pursuit of immortality.

Ironically, it is the West that used gunpowder as a weapon against the Chinese who discovered it thousands of years ago but had never thought to use it to hurt people. The East used gunpowder to further develop fireworks, whereas the West used gunpowder to make weapons.

Today's China regards itself as a member of the international community and aims to build a harmonious world of durable peace and common prosperity and work with other countries on international relations and foreign policies, as clarified in a white paper in September 2011.

For instance, China respects the right of the people of other countries to independently choose their own social system and path of development, and does not interfere in other countries' internal affairs. Chinese leaders have emphasized time and again that no matter how strong its economy grows, China will never seek hegemony, expansion or sphere of influence.

The "China threat" theory has long been circulated but to no avail. China has been taking a path of peaceful development, upholding national sovereignty and territorial integrity while avoiding the enhancement of national interests through aggression.

Skeptics such as Mearsheimer work on suspicion and not facts. They rely on speculation rather than analysis. They have little understanding of the Han ethnic culture but wrongly base self-claimed conclusions upon a belligerent and confrontational Western way of thinking.

Instead of containing China, cooperation should be the main thrust of China-US relations.

The author is a barrister in Hong Kong and vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Legal Exchange Foundation. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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