World / Reporter's Journal

Can conflict between US, China be avoided?

By Chang Jun (China Daily USA) Updated: 2015-10-27 05:49

Despite the consistent yet somehow distorted media portrayal of the China-US relationship — which seems to overemphasize cyber espionage, climate change disputes and military conflicts — scholars urge China and the US to continue seeking common ground while reserving differences and aiming at constructing win-win cooperation across a variety of sectors.

"I want to emphasize that what unites us exceeds what divides us when we touch upon the topic of Sino-US relationship," said Zhang Weiwei, director of the Centre for China Development Model Research at Fudan University in Shanghai, at a seminar held at the Commonwealth Club on Oct 22 titled "China and the US: Can conflict be avoided?"

Can conflict between US, China be avoided?

Chinese culture has never endorsed the philosophy of achieving prosperity through war or military means, said Zhang, a scholar who writes extensively in English and Chinese on China’s economic and political reform, and a world renowned advocate for China’s development model and politics.

"It (war lust) is not in the blood of Chinese civilization," said Zhang. "We Chinese people have a strong belief in peaceful coexistence between a new rising power and the remaining power, and we believe China and the US must uphold the right direction of building a new model of major-country relations and have no choice but to seek win-win cooperation."

Sponsored by the Committee of 100, a national organization of prominent Chinese Americans with the dual mission of ensuring full inclusion in America and advancing US-China relations, the seminar also featured retired US Navy Admiral Gary Roughead, commander of both the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets, an Annenberg Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution (2011-13) and now an active player in many engaged dialogues with China.

Both Zhang and Roughead criticized the role media have been playing in bad-mouthing China-US relations. Media, especially the Western media by their nature, tend to write sensationalistic stories, said Zhang. The general public might perceive from media coverage that there are lots of issues and problems between China and the US and the two nations are on the brink of war.

"However, if you ask people from business, education, local governments, the Boeing Company, for example, I doubt anyone would like to see the two countries get stuck in wars or conflicts of any kind," said Zhang.

Citing US-China military cooperation as an example, Roughead said the exchanges and cooperation continue to take place although disagreements persist regarding issues in the South China Sea and Internet security.

"It’s important that we don’t lock ourselves into emotional stories but look at things from a positive perspective," he said. "When there are problems, it also means there are opportunities and solutions."

Scholars and policy makers in both countries should act beyond the media, understand more deeply the situations and backgrounds when coping with challenges and difficult issues, both speakers agreed.

In response to widely-held public doubts about whether China will change the global governance system, Zhang reassured the audience that China, as main beneficiary of the world order established after WWII, intends to refine and reform the current global governance mechanism.

"China is a reformer, not a revolutionary figure," Zhang emphasized.

Reform is about "laying down rules for international order and international mechanisms" and "deciding in which direction the world will head," President Xi Jinping said at a study session of the political bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee on Oct 13.

"It is not simply a case of competing for the high ground of economic development, but what roles and functions nations will play in the long-term systemic arrangement of the international order," Xi said.

Comparing the recent state visit Xi made to the US and his state visit to the UK which concluded last week, Zhang and Roughead agreed that Xi’s UK visit was "more exclusive than his US one."

The closest ally of the US, the UK, under its current government, the Cameron cabinet, has made a bold, courageous and strategic decision that China and the UK should upgrade their bilateral relationship to a much higher level, said Zhang, adding the so-called "Golden Era" is significant.

"It might be enlightening for the US," Zhang said.

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