Holding early dialogue essential to avoid tensions, conflict in China-US ties

Source:Xinhua Published: 2017/1/24 13:44:13

Despite speculations that the US-China relationship could fall into uncertainties and instability under the Trump administration, experts say the two powers could avoid the case by holding an early dialogue to establish "rules of the road."

As newly-inaugurated US President Donald Trump is poised to take a tougher stance toward China on a range of issues, the experts hope the two countries could find a new "modus vivendi" through talks in a one-or-two-year timespan.


On his year-long campaign trail, Trump, a brash billionaire, kept hammering China for the US trade deficit and losses of jobs. He has threatened to designate China as a "currency manipulator" and impose high tariffs on Chinese goods, regardless of the potential damage to both sides, as the two economies are deeply interwound.

Trump even claimed that everything, including the one-China policy that has always been upheld by his predecessors, is negotiable. This stands as a typical epitome that the new president would employ every bargaining chips in talks with China, which he believes, would serve American's national interest.

Bonnie Glaser, a sinologist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Xinhua that she expects "a lot of frictions" in the US-China relationship in the first year of the Trump administration.

Glaser said the Taiwan issue could have the most harmful impact on the bilateral relationship, if the new US government has a fundamental policy shift, as Beijing considers the one-China policy as the political foundation of the relationship.

Under the three joint communiques governing China-US ties, the United States is obliged to abide by the one-China policy, which recognizes that Taiwan is part of China and Beijing is the sole legal representative of China.

Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow of the Brookings Institution, told Xinhua that tensions in the US-China ties are expected under the Trump administration, citing tough comments made by Rex Tillerson, Trump's nominee for secretary of state, at a recent Senate hearing.

Tillerson demanded a complete halt of China's construction activities in the South China Sea waters while vowing to deny China's access to the islands, which China regards as integral parts of its territory.

The issues of dealing with the nuclear weapons program by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and cyber security could also invite miscalculations that will test the US-China relationship, according to Dan Mahaffee, vice president and director of policy of the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress.


Despite the likelihood of uprising US-China frictions, the experts downplayed the possibility that China and the US are headed for a military conflict.

"I doubt there will be a military conflict. Perhaps after the first year or so, the two countries will find a new modus vivendi," Glaser said.

Douglas Paal, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Xinhua that "tensions are something we can live with...I doubt there is an appetite for conflict on either side," adding that his prediction is likely to be tested in the coming months.


The experts agree that conflicts would be detrimental to both China and the United States, while highlighting the importance of holding early talks by the two sides to establish "rules of the road."

"It will be important for the officials on both sides ... (to) maintain a constant dialogue to steer the negotiations and discussions -- be it diplomacy or bargaining -- away from conflict," Mahaffee said.

He added that establishing "rules of the road" through emphasizing the shared interests are important for the two sides.

O'Hanlon, for his part, called on Washington to adopt a more realistic goal and exercise "substantial restraint" on handling the South China Sea issue. ,

In Glaser's opinion, holding an early dialogue by the two nations is essential to avoiding tensions or conflict.

"Set out clearly what are each other's bottom lines, and see where compromise is possible. Early in-depth dialogue is essential," she said.


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