Dialogue may lead to better ties if Trump can ignore US media criticism

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/6/24 0:03:39

China and the US held a high-level dialogue on diplomatic and security issues on Wednesday. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson later said at a joint press conference he had a day of very "productive meetings" with State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Chief of the Joint Staff Department of the PLA Fang Fenghui. 

President Donald Trump began a diplomatic reshuffle after he took office in January. Many US allies feel uncomfortable about this and have complained loudly.

High-level officials from both China and the US have over the past six months managed to upgrade the two nations' dialogue mechanism, which has brought them together to the dialogue table to discuss issues of common interest. This is hugely significant.  

This dialogue shows that high-level officials from the two countries have managed to unfetter themselves from specific differences and conflicts closely watched by the public to sit together and talk. This is absolutely correct. Dialogue means mutual communication and seeking common consensus, not the other way around.

That two countries which have different political systems, different ideologies and different cultures can sit down to clarify issues, explain their positions and restrain their differences truly underscores the foresight and sagacity of the countries' leaders. This dialogue is meant to lay down the right track for the China-US relationship and to some extent lay the foundations for the steady development of the 21st century.

However, this progress may not yet have been acknowledged by public opinion in the US. The position held by some US media outlets and experts may create an illusion of public opinion which can mislead political decision-making. In China, public opinion has already broken away from the old mind-set and set its eyes on the goal of developing a new type of major power relationship between China and the US. But public opinion in the US seems to be still mired in the old mind-set and tends to see the dialogue mechanism as a boxing ring where China is considered a challenger to the "champ."

Generally speaking, public opinion tends to amplify differences and in this case the government has the duty to help seek consensus. Media outlets and experts who work to magnify differences can always easily attract publicity and steal the limelight. In contrast, those who seek consensus must have the patience and stamina to endure misunderstandings. Since public opinion in the US is more open than that in China, extreme forces that attempt to drag China-US relations off the right track will always be able to make noise.     

What has changed since Trump assumed office is that the media outlets that dislike him have gotten used to criticizing him on every topic, including some important foreign relations such as China-US ties. Once the relationship moves one step forward, they may claim that Trump is bowing to China. If problems arise, they might urge Trump to be tougher on China. Wednesday's dialogue was not initially well received either. The New York Times ran an article on Wednesday titled "China's Trump Honeymoon: Unexpected, and at Risk of Ending."

Public opinion is certainly important in pushing ahead the China-US relationship. But the development of relations should not be dictated by a tense atmosphere that has been deliberately created. The China-US relationship could head in many directions, including enlarging differences or seeking common interest and expanding consensus. But generally the US needs a steady China-US relationship, which requires the US authorities to be determined to fight against extreme public opinion. 

The center of attention in Wednesday's dialogue was the North Korea nuclear issue, which has ignited radical voices in the US. Media outlets that are always keen on playing up conflicts have even helped aggravate the paranoia. Some US experts claimed that Trump's tweets acted to mitigate pressure on China regarding the issue. These noises are interfering with the White House's decision-making.

It is perhaps high time for the Trump administration to show leadership, determination, rationality and foresight. The White House needs to remain unaffected by this noise in order to have better cards to play especially at the time when the mainstream media is seeking to act against the White House.   

The development of the China-US relationship calls for continuous achievements in order to boost mutual trust but it should not proceed with undue haste. Dialogue does not mean one party should passively listen to the other party's speeches, nor does it mean one party should follow the other's rhythm to move ahead. The key to a fruitful relationship lies in patiently listening to each other, seeking consensus, controlling conflicts and laying down the right track.  

Posted in: EDITORIAL

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