OPINION / VIEWPOINT
Sherman visit shows US' condescending attitude does not work on China
Published: Jul 26, 2021 10:53 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng, who is in charge of China-US relations at the Chinese Foreign Ministry, held talks with visiting US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman on Monday in North China's Tianjin Municipality.

Generally speaking, the strategic game between China and the US is intensifying, with Washington increasing pressure on Beijing. Mutual trust between the two sides has yet to be restored. Before Sherman's visit, Washington put out further obstacles in China-US relations. These included the US' sanctions on Chinese officials over Hong Kong, and the landing of military aircraft on the island of Taiwan. In addition, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price outlined that Sherman would be traveling to China "from a position of strength." China has responded with reciprocal sanctions against the US.

But at the micro level, Sherman's visit is still a constructive one for China-US relations. Since the two countries have decided to sit down and talk, there must be strategic communication over their common concerns, including pandemic prevention and control efforts, economic and financial cooperation, and coordination on climate change. 

Although there are many differences and contradictions between the two major countries, it is a positive signal that China and the US are at least willing to sit down and try to ease tensions and cooperate through dialogue. This is an improvement over the Trump era.

US officials said they hope Sherman's meetings in Tianjin will lead to "frank and open discussion." In fact, at this stage, being frank and open is a basic requirement for both China and the US. Throughout the game in the past few years, both sides have developed a clearer understanding of each other's strategic intentions, a more pragmatic and realistic expectation of China-US relations, and a more rational judgment of each other's responses and policies.

China will not make any concession whatsoever when its national interests are involved. It is hoped that both countries can openly discuss possibilities and ways to cooperate in areas where momentum of collaboration can be restored.

But currently, an important crux is that the US is unwilling to accept China's rise and China's attitude to treat the US on equal footing. Washington is used to being arrogant and looking down on other countries. But that certainly won't work on China. Therefore, the US needs a process of psychological adaptation and adjustment. Several rounds of contests may be needed before the US can frankly face up to the reality that China is different from the past. They will need to know that the China-US relationship is different from the past, and the US itself is no longer what it was historically.

Xie pointed out that the Chinese people can see that the US-claimed "competition, cooperation, and confrontation" policies are nothing but cover-ups for exerting pressure on China. "They see the competitive, collaborative and adversarial rhetoric as a thinly veiled attempt to contain and suppress China. They feel that the real emphasis is on the adversarial aspect, the collaborative aspect is just an expediency, and the competitive aspect is a narrative trap," Xie said.  

As a matter of fact, it is hard to see a clear boundary between what the US calls "competition" and "confrontation." This kind of competition in many cases is carried out though confrontational measures and means. Washington thinks Beijing should cooperate unconditionally where the US' interests are concerned, but this is obviously unrealistic. Moreover, it has suppressed China in all aspects where Washington thinks its interests are touched - which it labels as "competition." But China won't roll with the punches. Instead, it will engage in a tit-for-tat struggle to defend its own interests.

Now, in terms of the Taiwan question, South China Sea issue, Xinjiang and Hong Kong affairs, other issues concerning China's territorial integrity and domestic security, as well as the competition in high-tech fields, the flash-points between the two countries have not been reduced or weakened than they were in the Trump era. On the contrary, they are on the verge of further escalation.

If Washington is determined to ride roughshod and engage in unscrupulous suppression campaign against China regardless of China's interests, then any small point could cause further deterioration of China-US relations. Over the Taiwan question and the South China Sea issue, for example, there is always the risk that a military conflict could flare up. Being ignorant of such potential dangers and risks, Washington is being irresponsible to its people and the international community.

The author is deputy director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn
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