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Continuing Sino-US engagement stressed

By MAY ZHOU | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-08-17 23:57


Continuing engagement between the United States and China is needed to avoid decoupling and isolationism and to manage conflict and competition, according to panelists in an online discussion.

In the discussion on Tuesday night, which was organized by the US Heartland China Association and the University of Missouri-St. Louis, Ed Monser, former president at Emerson Electric, said the US government should listen to businesspeople when it comes to bilateral relations.

"The US-China Business Council has reached out to both the US and Chinese governments to promote policies for cooperation so we can compete with each other on a level playing field," he said. "The Chinese government responded by saying please come to Beijing and meet with our senior leaders to discuss what needs to be done."

The US government responded that Washington would take care of the relationship, and businesspeople don't have a part to play, he said.

Monser said that because he is retired from a major business executive position, he can be blunt.

"Many of our business leaders were told directly by our government to be quiet, not to complain, and let the government do what is necessary. I am uncomfortable with that," he said. "I am very suspicious of that. I don't think it's wise. I think the collective open market leads to better answers than a contrived secret plan in Washington."

Business can help manage the risk between the US and China, he said.

"One tool to help develop world peace is economic interdependence. Economic interdependence makes people think before they start dropping bombs on each other; those are Henry Kissinger's words," said Monser.

He said he is concerned about US politicians going after US businesses for being in China. "We were invited there by the US government in many cases, then they want to break the interdependency because they think war is a better answer. And that makes the world much more dangerous,'' he said.

Joel Glassman, retired director of the Center for International Studies at UMSL, said that he disagrees with the current popular notion that the relationship between the US and China is highly problematic and has been unsuccessful in the past 30 to 40 years.

Rather, "it's been a highly successful and mutually beneficial relationship" despite current issues and problems, said Glassman. "The challenge is to find a way to manage conflict and competition, rather than exacerbating the conflict."

Citing the two world wars and the Cold War as examples, Glassman said there is nothing new about a rising power and an established power confronting each other. However, such conflict could be resolved either by war, as in the case of Germany's rise to power in Europe, or in a peaceful manner, like the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union.

"We need to accept the reality of mutual deterrence," he said. "We did coexist with the Soviet Union for 40-plus years even without enjoying the significant economic, trade and investment relationship as we have with China."

Glassman said people shouldn't succumb to the inevitability of war.

"As an American, I don't find that desirable. Speaking on behalf of the Chinese people, I don't think Chinese people have an interest in that as an outcome."

Glassman said that the US should avoid "opposition to anything China says and does. Anything China says and does isn't always contrary to US interests", and the relationship can continue to be mutually beneficial.

He said that US domestic politics are harming the relationship, as the two major political parties compete for power using China in their strategies.

"Probably one of the most difficult challenges facing the Biden administration right now is the race to be the political party that's the toughest on China," Glassman said. "That effort for both parties to outdo each other is not helpful for the US."

The political parties need to leave China out of their competition for domestic political power, he said. The US needs to cultivate exchanges and cooperation with China to manage the risks.

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