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Experts' take on China-US relations

China Daily | Updated: 2023-05-15 07:22

To live and let live is best way forward

By Victor Zhikai Gao

With the Joe Biden administration saying that "competition, cooperation and confrontation" define US-China relations, many people in the US have taken for granted that China is a competitor of the United States.

Some in the US even say China is an "existential threat" to the US and China and the US are "destined for war". Before more people fall into the administration's trap, we need to ask a crucial question: Does China want to compete with the US?

Although the US and China are the world's two largest economies and their economies are intertwined, the two are completely different countries. While China is a country with more than 5,000 years of uninterrupted civilization, the United States is a young, dynamic superpower.

If China competes with the US in terms of, or threatens the US with, its political system, ideology, values and ways of doing things, most likely there will be no peace in the world. But since the fact is otherwise, the US is either misguided or has chosen to misinterpret the real goals of China. In both cases, the consequences could be dire.

A better way to define China-US relations is to think of Yao Ming and Elon Musk, one an outstanding basketball player, the other one of the most successful businessmen. It is ridiculous to suggest Yao would seek to compete with Musk.

There is nothing Yao and Musk can compete for. Yao can never achieve success in business like Musk, while Musk can never be as good a basketball player as Yao. So they would do better to cheer each other and marvel at each other's success in their respective fields.

Similarly, China and the US should not compete with each other in their respective fields of expertise. Instead, they should complement each other where they can for mutual benefit.

Some people in the US may take China's rapid economic development since the launch of reform and opening-up as a sign of China competing with the US. If Americans believe the Chinese economy should not overtake the US economy, they should come up with a valid legal and moral justification for their belief.

Washington is probably confused. If the US thinks that after the Chinese economy overtakes the US economy, China will impose its ideology, political system and way of life on the US, it is simply wrong. China believes that its continuous development is inevitable and no country can stop itand any attempt to do so and thus deprive 1.4 billion Chinese people of their right would be the biggest crime against humanity.

China wants to convince every country in the world, especially the US, that neither in the past when China was a much smaller economy did it try to impose its development model or political system on another country nor will it do so now when it is the second-largest economy or in the future when it overtakes the US as an economy (Musk has predicted that by the middle of this century, China's economy could be double the size of the US). Rather, China will treat all countries as equals, including and especially the US.

For China and the US, the best way forward is to live and let live.

The US administration has restricted the exports of semiconductor chips to Beijing in their bid to deny it access to advanced chips not only from the US but also from Japan, the Republic of Korea and the Taiwan island. There are at least two basic defects in the US' chip war strategy.

First, the strategy runs foul of the basic business imperative of dealing with your largest customer with care and long-term vision, and China has been the largest customer of the US semiconductor sector for many years. By prohibiting chip manufacturers from selling their products to their largest customer, the US may actually cause the decline of its chip-manufacturing sector, even destroy it. Paradoxically, the US chip war may prompt China to achieve self-sufficiency in chips.

Therefore, by weaponizing semiconductors in a Cold War-style, the US may either achieve a pyrrhic victory or, more likely, suffer a devastating defeat.

Washington has also been using the Taiwan question to raise tensions across the Taiwan Strait and the Asia-Pacific region. However, a careful reading of the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Proclamation, which make clear the unconditional surrender of fascist Japan in World War II, will tell you that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China. The United Nations, too, recognizes this fact.

No one in his or her right frame of mind would try to change the US' acknowledgement since 1979 that there is only one China and Taiwan is part of China, and the government of the People's Republic of China is the sole legitimate representative of China. Given the legitimacy of the one-China principle, China has made it amply clear that the US has no right to interfere in the Taiwan question, because it's China's internal matter.

It's time the US realized that Taiwan can never be an independent state because the separatists on the island will never be allowed to secede the island from the motherland.

Rather than being misguided by the China and US "destined for war" fallacy and creating trouble in the region, the US should devote time to putting Sino-US ties back on the right track, and restoring peace and promoting development across the world, so the two countries can coexist peacefully.

The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

The author is chair professor at Soochow University and vice-president of the Center for China and Globalization.

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