On March 18, China and the United States will restart the high-level consultations that have been interrupted and suspended. The composition of the high-level consultation is unprecedented, with the Chinese side consisting of Politburo members and State Councilors, and the U.S. side being paired with the Secretary of State and the Assistant for Security Affairs. Although the initiative for the meeting was taken by the U.S. side, the U.S. side has indicated that the consultations will be difficult and that it wants to put pressure on China. While China agrees with the high-level consultations between the U.S. and China, it will never swallow the bitter pill of sacrifice of its core interests.
China and the United States have moved beyond the era of simple cooperation, and the form of cooperation between the two countries will be different than before; China cannot and will not cooperate for the sake of cooperation. If the U.S. uses cooperation as bait and cooperation as a means to exert various kinds of pressure on China, still makes suppression of China its fundamental purpose, does not change its previous practice of cooperating with China in order to continue to weaken China in another way, or simply sees such cooperation as an expedient, stopgap measure, treating the purpose of cooperation as a cover for vicious competition, then there is little point in such cooperation. China cannot accept cooperation that is based on strength over weakness and comes with unequal conditions.
The United States has been accustomed to pressuring China over the past years. Although the U.S. also has a huge need for cooperation with China, the U.S. has always believed that China’s willingness to cooperate with the U.S. is greater than the U.S.’s willingness to cooperate with China, and that China has more to ask of the U.S. So the U.S. has used this willingness gap to pressure China, using cooperation to impose all kinds of unreasonable or even harsh conditions attached to it, such as demanding that China change its development model, governance model or even institutional model. If China does not agree, it makes a big trade war, engages in decoupling, or breaks cultural and people to people ties. The United States has discovered that all this it has done to China is a double-edged sword, and that its previous approach to China has heavily harmed its own interests too. Today, it wants to change, to minimize the cost to the United States while continuing to suppress China, and, at the same time, to base itself on a long-term, ganged-up approach to competing with China.
Therefore, it is necessary to maintain the necessary vigilance at a time when U.S. cooperation credibility and international credibility have plummeted. Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has done many things that have gone back on its word. For example, globalization was initiated by the United States and other developed countries, but the United States later became anti-globalization and engaged in trade protectionism. The United Nations was also jointly initiated by the United States and the Soviet Union after World War II, but the United States became a non-paying or delinquent contributor. All these reflect the attitude of the United States toward all international mechanisms or international organizations: in the view of the United States, multilateral mechanisms and international cooperation platforms serve the interests of the United States and are used for the hegemony of the United States. All countries are equal and non-interference in internal affairs is the purpose of the UN Charter, but the US can blatantly trample on it. We can never have unrealistic illusions about cooperation with the United States.
Future U.S.-China cooperation must be equal, mutually beneficial, and voluntary for both sides, as well as interactive, not premised on one side simply demanding changes from the other side, not accompanied by any terms and requirements that may hurt the other side’s core interests, not changing the basic attributes of win-win cooperation, and not changing the scope and conditions of cooperation at will. If the basic requirement of win-win cooperation is lost, U.S.-China cooperation will only be reduced to a tabletop ornament that can be discarded at any time.
Cooperation between China and the United States is not an end in itself, and future cooperation must be based on win-win situations. China will not cooperate with the United States for the sake of mere cooperation, for the sake of a form of cooperation. Nor will we act grateful because the United States is willing to cooperate with us in certain areas, much less regard the resumption of U.S.-China cooperation as a great gift from the United States to China.
(The author is vice president of the Foreign Affairs Institute)
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