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Sincerity is starting point for healthy Sino-US relationship

By Jason Lee | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-02-07 09:06
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Chinese and US flags flutter outside the building of an American company in Beijing, Jan 21, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

Last month, Vice-Premier Liu He met with United States Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in Zurich, Switzerland. The meeting, which attracted worldwide attention, was supposed to be followed by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's planned visit to China this month.

However, Blinken revealed his insincerity in the pursuit of a healthy relationship with China by postponing his visit under the excuse of a meteorological balloon that accidentally drifted into US airspace.

The US hyped up the unmanned civilian airship, which was shot down by the US military on Saturday, as a massive surveillance balloon and inflamed public political animosity toward China. While hawks in the US saw the incident as a gift allowing them to smear China for what they characterized as aggression, Blinken, to appease voters, exploited the incident and made it a timely and, to some extent, convenient excuse for postponing his plan to visit China.

Should Blinken be a man of his word, he would take action, rather than paying lip service, to "maintain contact and communication at all levels", as agreed to by US President Joe Biden in November during his meeting with President Xi Jinping in Bali, Indonesia. Since then, it was very clear that the two countries tried to make concerted efforts to resolve disputes and rebuild trust. However, to materialize good intentions, the US must restore sincerity, which is both the premise and the foundation of relations.

When then US president Richard Nixon visited Beijing in 1972 to start a healthy relationship with China, he also faced tremendous political pressure domestically. But thanks to resolute statesmen of both sides, the US made the right moves, prioritizing the interests of the two nations, the two peoples and the whole world. For two adversaries to become friends was built purely on sincerity.

In December, the World Trade Organization rejected a decision by the US government to mark Hong Kong products with the label "Made in China". The breach was made under former president Donald Trump's administration after the Hong Kong National Security Law was enacted.

The ruling demonstrated that the world's top intergovernmental trade regulator thought the facts were clear that the US infringed on global trade rules, which are respected by over 160 member countries and regions. The country failed its role as a global superpower and a leader in the international trade ecosystem.

Why did the US do this? Was it to avoid misunderstanding? Of course not. Though not everyone understands "one country, two systems", there has been no reported complaint about the labeling difference whatsoever. The US market does not have a need to change this long-lasting, globally recognized norm. Was it to facilitate trade? Also, a clear no. Actually, the US imports very few made-in-Hong Kong products each year, and there is no trade dispute between the two economies over the issue.

The US government gave the reason at that time. It thought that with the implementation of the national security law, Hong Kong became just another Chinese city and should be treated accordingly. But when did the enactment of a national security law become a reason not to acknowledge the true origin of products?

And is Hong Kong really "just another Chinese city"? The US government officials should read more about the "one country, two systems" principle and the Basic Law, the city's constitutional document.

The reason that this global superpower staged such a challenge to a WTO rule, risking its own reputation, against a city like Hong Kong is very clear: The US was trying to play up any issue to discredit Hong Kong and the whole of China by smearing "one country, two systems". And apparently it failed.

However, the Office of the US Trade Representative said after the ruling that the country would ignore it. The WTO treats all members equally. Such a unilateral move as that of the US is abusive and disrespectful and constitutes bullying.

In this case, Hong Kong people must fight back. The fight is not about which label would attract more buyers, but the global recognition that Hong Kong has gained in past years. We as a people have to protect our legacy.

The people of Hong Kong built up the "Hong Kong brand" with constant hard work and professionalism for over 100 years. This is the city's pride and culture. Throughout the years, the world accumulated its confidence and trust in our city, our social system and our way of doing things. We have to hold it, cherish it and build it up further.

As a member of the city's business sector, I urge the US to come back to rationality and reverse its preposterous decision. Fair trade, one of the most equal and multibeneficial instruments created by human beings, must be respected.

We would like to believe the US really hopes to resolve disputes and rebuild trust with China, and more frequent high-level meetings between the two sides can reduce tensions and bring more cooperation. But sincerity must be shown before any reconciliation can proceed. The US should stop smearing and stop its political stunts. That is the starting point for healthy China-US relations.

The author is a member of the Hunan Provincial Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and executive vice-chairman of the Hong Kong CPPCC Youth Association.

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