But to me, what happened was not strange at all. The Chinese and US presidents both emphasized during a phone call on the eve of the Chinese New Year that the most pressing task for both sides was to avoid confrontation and conflict. To achieve that, I think the key is for both sides to not miscalculate.
For the Chinese side, they expressed their views, stated their stance and reaffirmed their position, and offered a lesson. The purpose of this is very clear, which is to ensure that the US would not misjudge from the start. This lesson offered by the Chinese side was so impassioned and satisfactory due to three characteristics.
First, it was very timely and vivid. The Chinese side seized on the opportunity when the media was still there to talk about a wide range of issues from China-US engagement to anti-epidemic efforts, from economic development to democracy and human rights, and from unilateral buying to the UN Charter. It was crystal clear which side was right and which side was in the wrong.
The most confident sentence was that the Communist Party of China has the wholehearted support of 1.4 billion Chinese people. The underlying message here is that: can the US side achieve that?
Second, the lesson was delivered with great competence and skill. The most outstanding aspect this time was the complete change from some past negotiations where anger was not expressed openly and slander was not responded. Everyone kept smiles in public and consultations over issues were kept behind doors. The problem with such a case is that it causes the other side to misjudge that the Chinese side was weak and can be easily bullied. But those days of being beaten down without striking back are over.
Indeed, international negotiations must be based on equality between the two sides. It is not about one side claiming the role as the headmaster and lecturing the other side at will. In front of the international media, the Chinese side offered a lesson to not just the Americans but also US allies and the entire world.
Certainly, the ultimate technique of negotiations is to fight but not break down. It’s not wrong that the parties have differences during the negotiations. As long as both sides are sincere, resolutions can already be found. The key is to have a sincere stance and use appropriate language. This was on perfect display in this exchange with the US establishment and it paved the way for further negotiations in the future.
Finally, the significance of this lesson has exceeded that of the dialogue itself. This was a grand show of China’s strength, indicating to the US that China’s development and growth cannot be stopped. China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are main issues of principle.
The US should not underestimate China’s resolve to safeguard its sovereignty, security and development interests. It should not underestimate the will of the Chinese people in safeguarding their national dignity and legitimate rights and interests.
The author is a former Chinese vice minister of commerce and executive deputy director of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges.