China-US relations can survive storm

Source:Global Times Published: 2019/6/19 21:03:40

Photo: IC

Editor's Note: 

On June 12, the George H. W. Bush Foundation for US-China Relations bestowed its inaugural George H. W. Bush Award for Statesmanship in US-China Relations on former US president Jimmy Carter. During the event, the Global Times (GT) interviewed Neil Bush (Bush), founder and chairman of the George H. W. Bush Foundation for US-China Relations. Neil Bush believes that the hegemonic mentality of some politicians in the US is the root cause of the current stalemate in US-China relations. 

GT: How do you see the bilateral ties since the establishment of China-US diplomatic relations? Are we currently facing a very challenging time?

Bush: We're definitely entering a difficult time, and it's confounding to me. It's confusing to me because for the past 40 years, the US has been a clear beneficiary of this bilateral relationship. 

We've been winning in so many ways. Our GDP, because of globalization and because of specifically our relationship with China, has grown dramatically in the last 40 years. China has benefited too. The US-China relations have clearly helped to lift China from very low performing economy to the second largest economy in the world. And so in my judgment, there is no doubt that the past 40 years of our bilateral ties have been hugely beneficial to both sides. 

We are facing a very challenging time right now. Maybe because China has risen to be the second largest economy in the world, there are people in political power who have an America supremacy type mentality that we have to be the biggest and the best. And maybe those kinds of people are feeling threatened by China's rise.

My father and I formed George H.W. Bush foundation for US-China relations in 2017. We rejected the idea that China's rise represented a threat to our economy or to our national security. And I will work as chairman of this organization to help Americans understand the truth about China and the benefits mutually gained from our bilateral relationship. 

GT: How do you feel about trade protectionism?

Bush: I will answer this question in the context of political party. I was a Republican. My brother was a Republican too. I believe in what the old Republican principles were, among the core values of the Republican Party is free trade. It is competition, less regulation, market influence. Our leader is putting trade barriers on as a political weapon to bully countries into doing what he is demanding. He is subsidizing agriculture with up to $28 billion of federal money. He's picking winners and losers. I'm very discouraged that our Republican Party has lost its philosophical and moral compass. 

GT: The US has currently set up many barriers to block China-US cultural exchanges. Some believe this is a sign of the start of a new cold war. Are you concerned a cold war might happen again?

Bush: First of all, I hope there's not going to be a decoupling. I hope there's not going to be a cold war. It makes no sense because our two countries have more in common than what divides us. So for people to use that kind of rhetoric is just so harmful and so negative. And it unfortunately serves to brainwash people in the US to have them accept the underlying thesis that China is a problem for us. 

I think there are real problems that need to be addressed. But I also think there's a wave of skepticism that is being infiltrated into the US population because of misinformation about China.

My advice to leaders is that we address those issues the way my father would have done, that we do it through a respectful lens, that we do it in a way where we can express our concerns and have detailed back and forth discussions so that we can extract concessions. You do that through diplomatic channels, not the way we're doing it now with a jackhammer hitting China over the head. 

I think it's a small probability that at the end of the day it will get to a Cold War status. That is highly unlikely to me. 

That is because I think the roots of our relations, the connectivity that we already have in place are so deep and widespread no matter how the winds flow during this typhoon the relationship will survive in this storm. 

I say that because there are so many students from China that have come here, more and more students from the US going there. Those kinds of exchanges and there are lots of cultural exchanges, exchanges of leaders like mayors and different kinds of things. There are states and cities becoming connected through sister city relationships, through investments that are made between cities and that kind of thing. The more sustainable our relationship is, the easier it will be to assist you withstand these terrible political pressures which exist today. 

GT: Trump is wielding the tariff jackhammer. Do you think it will solve the China-US trade dispute? How do you see the future of bilateral trade talks?

Bush: There's one argument that says Donald Trump will need to have a victory because he's running for re-election and he was always saying I'm the best negotiator and get better deals, all the other people made terrible deals. You know interestingly the economy of China and the economy of the US seem not to be doing well. So I'm not sure what bad deals he was talking about. 

He may want a victory so badly that at the end of the day he'll make a deal which won't infringe on Chinese internal affairs. If the President wants a victory, he will sign a deal. The Chinese obviously are not going to sign a bad deal. And if that happens that will be great for both China and the US. 

The other argument is President Trump didn't want a deal because he has hawks in his administration, who are determined to see China go down, they want China to fail. There's another argument that Trump will continue to push for these tough terms, even if they may be unacceptable terms for China. He will say the Chinese side must backdown, I'm protecting America and making America great. He could make it sound like he stood up to China and didn't sign a bad deal.

I don't know how the politics will really play out. I'm hoping he's going to be motivated to make a deal, because I think a deal, if it's satisfactory to China and obviously would be for the US, then it's going to benefit both sides greatly. I really believe the deeper and more connected our economies are, the freer the trade we have, the more access we have in your markets, the more access you have to our markets, the people of both countries are going to benefit for many years from that kind of deal.

GT: You have said that your father was the best president in US history. What contribution did he make to China-US relations? 

Bush: First of all, I'm a very proud son, but I try to look at his presidency through an unbiased lens. And if you look at the four years he served, the challenges he faced, including when Kuwait was invaded, that he built a coalition to liberate Kuwait. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the Cold War ended and the Berlin Wall came down, he navigated through those difficult times so that there wasn't conflict that followed. 

My dad had just been inaugurated president in January, 1989. And it was a challenging time. The US-China relations probably would have been put off the rails so that they would have taken a lot longer to recover. But my dad was very diplomatic and very sensitive to wanting this relationship to stay on track. He did the right thing behind the scenes diplomatically. He sent letters to Deng Xiaoping and sent then national security advisor Brent Scowcroft and a delegation to China quietly.


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