The China-US vice-ministerial-level trade talks started in Beijing on Monday as the two sides recently signaled their wish to end the bitter trade war. The talks’ possible progress will be in line with the pressing needs of the bilateral relationship and international politics.
On the same day, Western media outlets reported that a US guided-missile destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of China’s Xisha Islands in the South China Sea. It is hard to determine if the US is trying to use this provocation as a bargaining chip to gain a diplomatic advantage in trade talks. If that is the case, the US’ strong willingness to reach an agreement is abundantly clear.
The trade war involves the great interests of both countries, which can hardly be affected by a US warship touring in Chinese waters.
The fundamental reason for the extensive and bitter trade war lies in China’s rise, which has shaken the US-led global power structure. Stirring up all kinds of uneasiness and impulsiveness, the trade war has resulted in a rather negative tendency for China-US relations, bringing more uncertainties and anxiety.
No matter how hard, the only choice for both countries is to explore peaceful coexistence while avoiding mutual strategic exhaustion.
A win-win result for China and the US seems to deviate from the orthodoxy of games between major powers, but the zero-sum game is even tougher to play.
Will the US lose the game? The US is still the world’s greatest power with unapproachable scientific and military strengths. Its huge global alliance system is also nearly impossible for China to catch up on. China cannot overthrow the US simply with strength.
Will China lose? China has the world’s most complete industrial system and potential far greater than that of the US to be a mega market. China is also a nuclear power.
China’s periphery is gradually being stabilized. Beijing has developed more stable and sophisticated measures to handle relations with its neighboring countries. It will be increasingly difficult for the US to find any Asian country that would stand by Washington to fight against Beijing. Playing the game alone means more risk for the US.
China has been keeping a low profile facing China-US disputes, but it shouldn’t be taken for granted that Beijing is incapable of counterstriking fiercely.
It is an unprecedented challenge and test to develop future ties between the two countries. All humanity’s past experience of relations between great powers are outdated and limited. Beijing and Washington have to explore a new path.
The process will be very sensitive. It may even run into short-term and regional excitement. However, both sides do not want to strategically collide with each other, so they must know when to stop before going too far.
Even if the US regards China as its No.1 competitor, it needs to plan more carefully how to safely pressure China rather than implement a trade war as if fighting a close encounter. The world needs more certainties in 2019 and so does the US. Beijing and Washington are capable of presenting the world with certainty, which will benefit themselves and others. We look forward to ongoing China-US negotiations achieving success.