Innovative policies can help develop new type of major power relations

Source:Global Times Published: 2014-12-18 21:18:02

Editor's Note:

Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed that China and the US should develop a new type of major power relationship, but the US so far hasn't responded actively and the two countries still lack strategic mutual trust. What role can think tanks play in Washington's policymaking? How should the proposal be viewed? At a sub-session of a recent seminar about China-US relations co-organized by the China Overseas Exchange Association, the Committee of 100 and Global Forum of Chinese Political Scientists, several experts shared their opinions.

Zhao Quansheng, director of School of International Service at American University

Think tanks play important roles in Washington's policymaking process.

The US "pivot to Asia" has been taking shape since the 1990s and in this process think tanks played a troika role. A strong case in point is the development of the US-Japan alliance.

At that time, the US-Japan relationship deteriorated due to frictions in economic and trade sectors and Japan-bashing became popular. Also troubled by other Asian issues, Washington then sought a transition of its policy toward Asia and think tanks played their roles as policy architects, expert consultants and policy executors. On this list were experts like Joseph Nye, Henry Kissinger and Ezra Vogel. As a result, the US-Japan alliance was consolidated and the transition laid a foundation for today's development.

To make a think tank work requires many qualities. Its members have to be broadly visionary and well-trained, insightful to detect a new tendency and brave enough to make innovation and stand against the trend on some occasions. An environment for policy debate is also needed.

Shi Yinhong, professor of international relations at Renmin University of China

The two key words in Xi-proposed relationship between China and the US, namely "new" and "major power," are closely connected but meanwhile independent.

First, the two have to respect each other's rights and interests as a major power without confrontation, expand common interests and cooperate on specific areas. Second, the "new" tie has to escape the Thucydides trap and confrontational power transition.

In the recent period, a major concern for China is that its relationships with the US and neighbors, which are the most important in its foreign relations, are confined to maritime disputes. If no improvement is made, China's strategic competitions will be focused on coastal waters, in particular the West Pacific. In other words, the Thucydides trap would first appear at sea.

So far, the US hasn't actively responded to the idea of the new type of major power relationship since it perceived the concept as China's intention to pursue the status of a major power. The real bottleneck of the bilateral relationship lies at sharing power.

Recently, China has been optimizing its foreign strategies and a series of steps have been taken to gradually enhance its influence in the West Pacific, which will definitely eclipse American dominance in the region.

In the near future, China's strategic relationship with US partners in Asia and West Pacific regions will be deeper and less intense. China should push ahead its strategic economy in an extensive, robust, careful and prudent manner.

Meanwhile, it will moderately tone down the alleged "assertiveness" in dealing with neighbors in terms of intensity and frequency to relatively decrease their apprehension so as to prevent the US from forming a united front against China. The US will find it harder to deal with China's strategic economy.

Zhang Baohui, director of the Center for Asian Pacific Studies at Hong Kong-based Lingnan University

As for the lack of mutual trust between China and the US, it comes not from different cultures and ideologies, but a lack of order in the world which prompts the two countries to plan for the worst.

To build up trust, both countries have taken some steps such as being nice, yet the results are not desirable.

With a narrowing gap in national strength between China and the US, just showing niceness on the Chinese side is not useful enough to eliminate the US distrust since distrust is a normal state between powers.

But I'm not very pessimistic about the prospects of bilateral relations since there are no direct territorial issue between the two. Despite strategic competition between China and the US, there are fewer difficulties lying between them than China's ties with Japan and India.

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